Many of us have grown up with the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe, but I’m guessing most of us don’t have any idea about the plant or the origins behind its magical aura.
First, about the plant. Mistletoe is actually a predatory plant, which evolved and prospered by leeching nutrients from other plants. It’s considered a partial parasite, because it can grow on its own, but is more commonly found growing out of the branches and trunks of trees. You might not be aware that the pretty white berries found on mistletoe are poisonous. (Hmm, there’s plot potential there!) Mistletoe’s earliest ancestor is sandalwood, another predatory plant which has also been portrayed romantically in fiction. When I hear sandalwood I think ancient Egypt, mummies, and vampires. Like mistletoe, sandalwood is a parasitic plant, stealing other plants’ nutrients to live. Harsh though this history seems after all the romance, it does make sandalwood the perfect icon for a great vampire story!
Now for the magic. The ancient Druids prized Mistletoe as an agent of fertility, luck, and peace. They hung the plant over their doors and used it in ritual sacrifices to ensure prosperity. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe seems to have initiated in Greece, tied to the festival of Saturnalia, and originated under the belief that the plant harbored a life-giving force and had fertility and aphrodisiac powers. Scandinavian history gave mistletoe peace-enhancing properties. Often, warring factions would declare a truce under the mistletoe. Battling spouses also made up under it. In eighteenth century England, young girls standing under a ball of mistletoe at Christmas could not refuse a kiss, and if they were not kissed that night, it was considered a sign that they wouldn’t marry the following year. Kissing under the mistletoe was seen as a promise to marry as well as an assurance of a long and happy life.
Today, kissing under the mistletoe is a fun party game. It means little more than an excuse to kiss someone you favor. But it’s no less fun and interesting for this lack of a deeper meaning. Even if we don’t know the history behind the act, the reasons for doing it have persisted for centuries. The human animal seeks love and acceptance through any means necessary. Even by kissing someone we cherish under a parasitic plant with poisonous berries!
Whatever the tradition involving this unique and tenacious plant, one thing is clear, it has inspired many centuries of hope and fun, and no holiday season would be the same without it!
Have a great holiday season everybody!
Damian Noire is a Perdition Guide. He escorts people who die to their rightful spot in Hell. Business always seems to pick up around the Holidays and this Christmas is no exception. Damian’s assignment is to bring a beautiful young woman to Hell to stand before the judgment assembly, and then take her to her assigned circle of Hell. It sounds simple. But it’s about to become the hardest assignment he’s ever performed.
Amanda Wright might have been unjustly judged. She might not belong in Hell at all. Problem is, Damian really kind of likes her. He especially likes enjoying her lush, willing body under the mistletoe. If he gets her the judgment she truly deserves, he’s probably going to lose her forever. But if he doesn’t help her, an innocent may spend eternity in Hell. It appears to be a lose/lose situation on all fronts. Proving once again that holidays truly are hell!
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