Wednesday, December 7

Mistletoe

The little berries of the Mistletoe plant, renowned for their healing powers, became a Medieval symbol of God’s provision and grace. Even when the vast northern forests were buried in deep snows and the hardwood trees had lost all their foliage, the Mistletoe continued to bloom--to offer its medicine of hope to the afflicted and the needy.

Often, families would decorate their doorways with little sprigs of the plant as reminders of providential love. It became a happy ritual for lovers to kiss beneath the sprigs as a kind of covenantal affirmation or renewal of their fealty in the sight of God. A single berry was to be plucked from the sprig for each kiss. Often the bare sprigs were kept as testimony to the couples’ vows. Sometime in about the tenth century or so, the hanging of the Mistletoe became an Advent and Christmas tradition.

4 comments:

Pr. Scarecrow said...

I really enjoy the historical vignettes you provide in this blog. They would be great as a bulletin insert for our small congregation. May I reprint from the blog with proper attestation, of course?

George said...

William: Yes, of course.

Richard in Austin said...

Dr. Grant:

It was surprising to learn from you that Mistletoe berries were medicinal. I had always heard that they were poisonous and that the plant itself was a parasite. They can be seen all over the Texas Hill Country with Live Oak trees serving as their host. Do you know what ailments the Mistletoe berries were known to help? Inquiring minds want to know.

Iced-in down in Austin,

Rich

George said...

Rich: Well, you were at least partly right. The berries are not to be ingested! They are indeed poisonous. Instead, they were used as a salve for various rashes and skin inflamations. Mind you, I've never tried this! I pretty much stick with aloe vera. But, in the past mistletoe was indeed a useful medicinal.