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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is the common name for Viscum album  , obligate hemi-parasitic plants found in Europe. The tree or shrub host is called the haustorium. It has small broad shaped leaves and produces a cluster of six to seven waxy white berries.
 It is a poisonous plant that causes acute gastrointestinal problems.
In cultures across pre-christian Europe, mistletoe represented the divine male essence and thus romance, fertility and vitality. The berries were thought to look like and represent semen.
        There doesn't seem to be definitive information about the custom of kissing under the mistletoe until the 16th century in England where it became quite the fashion.
American Mistletoe  is from the plant family phoradendon serotinum. It has slightly broader leaves than the European mistletoe and its produces  longer clusters of ten or more berries.
    The American author Washington Irving described the custom of kissing under the mistletoe in his 1820 story, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon.  A young man could kiss the woman of his choosing under the mistletoe plucking a berry from the bush for the privilege. Once all the berries had been plucked the privilege stopped.
 In past European customs, mistletoe was one of the first Christmas greens hung and the last to be removed usually at Candlemas.
 Or it would be hung through the year to preserve the house from lightening and fire. The old would be taken down and new hung the following Christmas season.

Mistletoe leaves and young twigs are used by herbalists for treating circulatory and respiratory ailments particularly in Europe and Germany. Studies have been done using the extract for treating some cancers. The extract is sold under the name of Iscador, Helixor and other trade names.

Folk names: devil's fuge, thunderbesom, bird lime, all heal
Gender: Hot
Planet: Sun
Element: Air
Part used: The herb
Basic powers: Protection and love

2 comments:

Samantha Stephens said...

November, last year, I was drying some sage. It was in the breakfast room (near a heater vent - I was trying to speed up the drying process). Our neighbors saw it and commented on how clever I was to already have mistletoe up for Christmas. Thanks for the information.

Paulette said...

Samantha,
This gave me a giggle!
I too dry my sage, rosemary, lemon thyme and lemon balm along with other herbs,

I hope you just said Thanks to your guest,:)