Plants and Folklore: Mistletoe

by Lilian Halstead

Most people know that when you meet someone under the mistletoe at Christmas time you have to give them a kiss, but like many evergreen plants it had a role in winter solstice customs before being incorporated into Christmas celebrations. In fact, it is often banned from Church decorations due to being considered a pagan plant, probably because it is believed to have been highly valued by the druids.

In Norse mythology the god Baldr was killed using a weapon made of mistletoe, it being the only thing his mother couldn’t get to swear never to harm him. In Greek myth Aeneas has to pick the golden bough in order to visit the underworld, it is speculated that the golden bough is mistletoe due to the fact it appears golden in winter.

However, the main role of mistletoe in British folklore is as a fertility symbol. In addition to being used as something to kiss under, mistletoe has been used also as a treatment for infertility and as a charm for women to help them find husbands.

And if that is not enough, it has also been used as a symbol of peace and good luck.