The other day I passed a pile of mistletoe bundles in a plant shop and was amazed by how humble this powerful bundle of leaves has become. In case you’ve never experienced the gesture of finding someone else under a bundle and going in for a kiss, the plant has found itself a primetime spot in christmas pop culture. The mistletoe beckons intimacy, but where does its kisstory come from? Let’s dive in.
Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that produces small, white berries. It grows almost exclusively in trees. As its seed begins to grow into a plant, it attaches itself to a host tree to have access to water and essential nutrients. The origins of the name itself are derived from two Anglo Saxon words “Mistel” meaning dung and “Tan” meaning stick or branch. Mistletoe also possess sticky white berries which explode, so this isn’t even a subtle likeness. In Pagan and Celtic mythology, the plant is explicitly linked with semen. The Greek name for it translates as “oak sperm”, and they used it to cure many ailments like menstrual cramps or spleen disorders, for epilepsy and ulcers. This plant has been believed to be a powerful species for a long time.
Consensus among experts is that the use of Mistletoe in ritual form started with the Celtic Druids (what is now Ireland and Scotland). The Mistletoe became a sacred symbol of vivacity and fertility to them after they observed it blooming on trees during the harsh winters. The Mistletoe would later become the central focus of the “Ritual of Oak and Mistletoe”, a ceremony which led the Romans to call the Druids “barbarians”.
In the Middle Ages, a custom began in Britain known as the “kissing bough”, which was a tree trimming positioned above a doorway where visitors could embrace. The modern Mistletoe is a close memory of this gesture, and albeit often a plastic version, but the idea remains the same.
Because the history of the Mistletoe has been so ambiguous to trace, we’re all about creating new rituals. Why not hang a Willy and invite your partner for something more?