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Valentine.gr  

December 2006

Did you know that Christmas decoration with Mistletoe is one of the Christmas traditions that is pagan with no Christian symbolism?

Mistletoe - Viscum album

Mistletoe - Viscum album

Viscum album is a species of mistletoe, the species originally so-named, and also known as European Mistletoe or Common Mistletoe to distinguish it from other related species. It is native to Europe, and western and southern Asia. It belongs to the Viscaceae or mistletoe family.  All members of the family are either parasitic or hemiparasitic.

Viscum album has stems 30-100 cm long with dichotomous branching. The leaves are in opposite pairs, strap-shaped, entire, leathery textured, 2-8 cm long and 0.8-2.5 cm broad, yellowish-green in colour. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellowish-green, 2-3 mm diameter. The fruit is a white or yellow berry containing several seeds embedded in the very sticky, glutinous fruit pulp. The fruits are eaten by birds and the seeds must pass through the intestines of the bird before they will germinate.

Viscum album is a hemi-parasitic plant, growing on the branches of several deciduous species of trees. Sometimes it is found on coniferous trees. Contrary to popular belief it is rarely found on oak trees. The host tree must be at least 20 years old. Although the host branch might eventually succumb, the host tree is seldom killed.

The Latin word viscus as well as the Greek word ixias refer to the spermal viscosity of itsberries. These words are connected with the words visand ischu, which mean strength. Some have suggested that this dispersal method led to the name mistletoe which is composed of two Old English words, "mistel" meaning dung and "tan" meaning twig. In actuality, the origin of the word mistel remains a mystery.

The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans. The magical tradtions - From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered a bestower of life and fertility; a protectant against poison; and an aphrodisiac. 

In Celtic mythology and in Druid rituals, it was considered an antidote to poison, but contact with its berries produces a rash similar to the poison ivy rash in people who are sensitive to it (as many are), so the whole plant came to be thought of as poisonous.

The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. 

Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the "soul" of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. (Mistletoe is still ceremonially plucked on mid-summer eve in some Celtic and Scandinavian countries.) 

In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. 

It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. 

In parts of England and Wales farmers would give the Christmas bunch of mistletoe to the first cow that calved in the New Year. This was thought to bring good luck to the entire herd. 

In Romanian traditions, mistletoe (vasc in romanian) is considered as a source of good fortune. The medical and the supposed magical properties of the plant are still used, especially in rural areas. This custom is inherited from Dacians.

Mistletoe was believed to have the power of bestowing fertility, and the dung from which the mistletoe was thought to arise was also said to have "life-giving" power. 

Mistletoe has sometimes been nick-named the "vampire plant" because it can probe beneath the tree bark to drain water and minerals, enabling it to survive during a drought (see vampirism). William Shakespeare gives it an unflattering reference in Titus Andronicus, Act II, Scene I:

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Mistletoe figured prominently in Norse mythology (whence the modern Western custom of kissing under bunches of it hung as holiday decorations). The god Baldur was killed with a weapon made of mistletoe. 

Nowadays, mistletoe is commonly used as a Christmas decoration. Viscum album is used in Europe whereas Phoradendron leucarpum is used in North America. According to a custom of Christmas cheer, any two people who meet under a hanging of mistletoe are obliged to kiss. The origin of this custom may be related to the story of Baldur coming back to life because of his mother Frigga (or Frigg), the goddess of love who removed the mistletoe's poison with her tears. When Baldur came back to life she kissed everyone who passed underneath the mistletoe out of happiness and gratitude and thus started the custom.

Roman sources mention that traditions of kissing under the mistletoe go back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia. They also mention that misletoe was used by the celts in some sort of fertility rite or charm making the practise of kissing under it even more intriguing. 

In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry. 

Mistletoe has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat seizures, headaches, and other conditions. The leaves and young twigs are the parts used by herbalists, and it is popular in Europe, especially in Germany, for treating circulatory and respiratory system problems as well as for tumors, even malignant ones. The leafy shoots and berries of mistletoe are used to make extracts that can be taken by mouth. In Europe, mistletoe extracts are prescription drugs that are given by injection. In the United States, mistletoe by injection is available only in clinical trials. Laboratory studies have found that mistletoe kills cancer cells and stimulates the immune system. 

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viscum_album
http://nccam.nih.gov/health/eurmistletoe/
http://www.gardenline.usask.ca/misc/mistleto.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mistletoe
http://www.valentine.gr/christmas3_en.htm

 

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Hookerís lips - Psychotria elata
Suicide Tree - Cerbera odollam
Konjac - Amorphophallus konjac
Madagascar ocotillo - Alluaudia procera
Water Banana - Typhonodorum lindleyanum
Salak - Salacca zalacca
Natal Plum - Carissa macrocarpa
Ashanti blood - Mussaenda erythrophylla
Duranta - Duranta erecta
Maqui - Aristotelia chilensis
Manuka - New Zealand Tea Tree - Leptospermum scoparium
Suriname cherry - Eugenia uniflora
Australian Finger Lime - Citrus australasica
Sacred Flower of the Incas - Cantua buxifolia
Job's tears - Coix Lacryma-jobi
Velvet Bean - Mucuna pruriens
Java Apple - Syzygium samarangense
Screwpine - Pandanus utilis
Marimo - Aegagropila linnaei
Achocha/Caigua - Inca cucumber - Cyclanthera pedata
Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis
Sugar cane - Saccharum officinarum
Sacha inchi - Plukenetia volubilis
Coffea - Coffee Tree - Coffea arabica
Liquorice - Licorice - Glycyrrhiza glabra
Mullein -Verbascum thapsus
Iceplant - Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Chayote - Sechium edule
Roselle - Hibiscus sabdariffa
Black Goji - Lycium ruthenicum Murray
Rose Cactus - Pereskia grandifolia
Durian - Durio zibethinus
Jackfruit tree - Artocarpus heterophyllus
Cassabanana - Sicana odorifera
Chilean myrtle - Arrayan - Luma apiculata
Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus
Rice-paper Plant -Tetrapanax papyrifer
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Harlequin Glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum
Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica
Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
Butterfly Pea - Clitoria ternatea
Honey Flower - Melianthus major
Ombu - Phytolacca dioica
Lion's Ear - Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonurus
Moringa - Miracle Tree - Moringa oleifera
Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
Spear Lily - Gymea - Doryanthes
Camphor tree - Cinnamomum camphora
Waterwheel - Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Flowering rush - Butomus umbellatus
Four o'clock - Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa
Dead Manís Fingers - Decaisnea
Bitter Melon - Momordica charantia
Shoapnuts Tree - Shoapberry - Sapindus
Acerola - Malpighia
Monkey Ladder - Sea Heart - Entada gigas
Cherimoya - Annona cherimola
Caper - Capparis spinosa
Lithops - Living Stones
Chaste Tree - Vitex agnus-castus
Chilean Lantern Tree - Crinodendron hookerianum
Parrot's Beak - Lotus berthelotii
Water Hyacinth - Eichhornia crassipes
Guaiac Tree - Guaiacum officinale - Lignum-vitae
Mickey Mouse bush - Ochna serrulata
Cow's Udder - Solanum mammosum
Miracle fruit - Synsepalum dulcificum
Akebia - Akebia quinata
Chilean Firebush - Embothrium coccineum
Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
Monarda - Bee balm - Bergamot
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Neomarica - Walking Iris
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Sikkim rhubarb - Rheum nobile
Reseda - Mignonette
Paulownia - Paulownia tomentosa
Belamcanda chinensis - Leopard lily
Blue Poppy - Meconopsis
Cannonball Tree - Couroupita guianensis
Tamarillo - Cyphomandra betacea
Goji - Wolfberry - Lycium barbarum
Vanilla - Vanilla Planifolia
Stevia - Stevia rebaudiana
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Clematis
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Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys
Sansevieria - Snake Plant
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Yareta - Azorella compacta
African tulip tree - Spathodea campanulata
Angel's Trumpets - Brugmansia
Achiote - Annato - Bixa orellana
Sausage Tree - Kigelia pinnata
Castor Oil Plant - Ricinus communis
Firewheel Tree - Stenocarpus sinuatus
Bat Flower - Tacca
Snake gourd - Trichosanthes cucumerina
Sedum
Hydnora - Hydnora africana
Pickerel Weed - Pontederia
Argan - Argania spinosa
Astilbe - False Goats Beard
Feijoa - Pineapple Guava - Acca sellowiana
Aquilegia - Columbine
Cassiope
Sweet Box - Sarcococca
Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera
Foxtail Lily - Eremurus
Rue - Ruta graveolens
Pittosporum
Ylang-Ylang - Cananga odorata
Rose of Jericho - Anastatica hierochuntica
Gunnera
Waterlily - Nymphaea
Calico Flower - Aristolochia
Daylily - Hemerocallis
Contorted hazel - Corylus avellana Contorta
Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
Mistletoe - Viscum album
Devil´s claw - Harpagophytum procumbens
Teasel - Dipsacus
Pampas grass - Gynerium argenteum - Cortaderia Selloanna
Purple coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Coral Tree - Erythrina crista-galli
Portulaca
Lobelia
Field Poppy - Papaver Rhoeas
Narcissus - Daffodil
Mimosa pudica - Sensitive Plant
Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens
Firethorn - Pyracantha
Star of Bethlehem - Ornithogalum
Cosmos
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Papyrus - Cyperus papyrus
Zinnia
Honeysuckle - Lonicera
Passiflora - Passion Flower
Calendula - Marigold
Lupine - Lupinus
Canna - Indian Shot
Witch Hazel - Hamamelis
Oak - Quercus
Brunsvigia - Candelabra Flower
Tree peony - Paeonia suffruticosa
Olive - Olea europaea
Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus
Desert rose - Adenium obesum
Oleander - Nerium Oleander
Abutilon
Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus
Chaenomeles - Flowering Quince
Forsythia
Amaryllis - Hippeastrum
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Bay Laurel - Laurus nobilis
Gloriosa
Bamboo
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Artichoke - Cynara scolymus
Clivia - Clivia Miniata
Dipladenia - Dipladenia sanderii
Date palm - Phoenix dactylifera
Peach - Prunus persica
Almond - Prunus amygdalus
Willow - Salix
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Protea cynaroides
Colchicum autumnale
Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia reginae
Cardon - Pachycereus pringlei
Wolffia arrhiza
Puya raimondii
Fuchsia
Asphodelus - Asphodel
Primula - Primerose
Dicentra spectabilis - Bleeding Heart
Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Zantedeschia - Calla Lily
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown imperial
Aster
Heliconia
Common Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
Bee Orchid - Orphys apifera
Convalaria majalis - Lily of the Valley - Muguet
Syringa Vurgaris - Lilac
Viola
Impantiens
Snowdrop - Galanthus
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima
Dionaea muscipula
Banksia
Sea anemone
Amorrhophallus titanum
Rafflesia arnoldi

 

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