Seeing a sprig of mistletoe hanging in a doorway can enlist feelings of excitement - and fear. Wanting to find out a bit more about this parasitic plant, we found a few interesting facts about this holiday staple.1. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, commonly found on Oak Trees. Often found growing on top of another mistletoe, it takes over five years to flower once it begins growing.
2. Perhaps it’s kept up high for more than just kissing purposes: mistletoe can be extremely hazardous to children and pets when ingested, so be sure to keep it out of reach.
3. Ancient Druids believed mistletoe could scare off evil spirits and keep the threat of witchcraft at bay. After sacrificing two white bulls, Druid priests would cut the plant with a golden knife and use it to make medicines and “life-saving” elixirs.
4. In Medieval England, women would strap mistletoe around their waists to promote fertility.
5. Scandinavian Norseman refused to fight battles if mistletoe was present and revered it so highly, they would call a truce until the following morning.
6. The sticky juice from mistletoe berries was once used as an adhesive to catch small animals and birds.
7. It is sometimes believed that if a woman burns a sprig of mistletoe, she can predict her relationship status for the next year. If it progressively burns, then the woman will have a healthy marriage. If the flame continuously flickers, she will be single for another year.
8. It is believed that the myth of kissing underneath the plant came from Frigga, the Norse Goddess of love. When her son Baldour was born, Frigga made every plant and animal promise not to harm him – forgetting about the mistletoe. When the evil deity Loki shot and killed Baldour with a mistletoe dart, her mourning caused the other Norse Gods to take pity on her and bring Baldour back to life. Frigga declared the plant would always be known to bring love into the world, and not death.
9. The proper ritual of mistletoe is that the kisser at the party must pluck one berry each time he/she steals a kiss under the plant. Once the berries are gone, the privilege ceases.
10. In 2001, Suzanne Somers caused a small media frenzy when she rejected chemotherapy for Iscador, a mistletoe extract, causing many doctors to publicly fight against advocating this homeopathic remedy.
• Modern Mistletoe on Apartment Therapy
• Order your own beautiful sprig of mistletoe just in time for the holidays: mistletoe.com
• How to Make a "Kissing Ball": marthastewart.com
Image: University of Kentucky College of Agriculture