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  • lizberwick1980

Mistletoe

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

The talented Sarah Sutton created beautiful botanical images for the Wild Wisdom Journal, each plant carefully chosen to represent the season.


Winter's plant is Mistletoe


Mistletoe has traditionally represented peace, hope and prosperity, as well as being a potent fertility symbol.

With evergreen leaves, yellow flowers, and luminescent white berries, we can observe big living, leafy globes, high in the canopies of Apple trees, Poplars, Hawthorns, Maples and occasionally even Oaks.


Although it has a strong association with Christmastime kissing, in reality, the mistletoe plant is not very romantic: the plant is semi-paracitic, attaching to its host tree of choice and siphoning off water and nutrients for itself.


Mistletoe is most easily spotted in winter. Look for ball-shaped green masses on otherwise bare tree branches. To spread from tree to tree, mistletoe cleverly offers up its berries to birds. The seeds within the berries are coated in a sticky goo, so when the bird moves on, a seed or two is often left behind, glued in place. 

The seedlings initially rely on photosynthesis to grow and then burrow their makeshift roots into the bark of the tree and begin to sap nutrients and water from it using a specialised structure called a haustorium.

The name “mistletoe” actually means “dung twig”.
This may be a perfect name for a plant that springs out of the droppings from birds.


Once fully attached to its host, mistletoe lives its life out as any other plant would, flowering, fruiting, and spreading far and wide!



As the mistletoe grows high up on the tree, it was considered sacred. The mistletoe never grows on the ground.

It was thought that this plant preferred to be closer to the gods and heaven.


The symbolism of Mistletoe

Mistletoe has the very special energetic property of growing between Earth and Air, in that it grows on the solid foundation of its host tree and yet it does not come into direct contact with the earth.

Mistletoe represents the sacred life force, the divine male principle which is balanced by red berried plants such as Holly (representing the divine feminine).


If you examine a berry closely you’ll see four black semi circular marks around a central dot. The druids consider that these semicircles represent the mystical cities of Sidhe, (the fairy kingdom). In the North is Falias and in the South is Finias. In the East is Gorias, and in the West is Murias. The central dot represents the all encompassing etheric whole.


Lucy from Myrobalan Clinic says:

"I love how different spiritual traditions have this understanding of the cardinal directions associated with different qualities. Often the theme is around the four elements and then a fifth element which is ether or space which encompasses everything."


"When I had a close look at a Mistletoe berry, the crescents and the dot really reminded me of the Medicine Buddha mandala. In this beautiful herbal mandala there are four mountains at the cardinal directions which support different types of herbs and healing compounds. In the centre in the City of Tanaduk sits the Medicine Buddha, representing the space element (and much more). "


If we contemplate Mistletoe we can connect with something very deep. We are perhaps looking into our life’s path and understand our elemental connection with both the Earth and the Spirit. So often, it is this connection which needs to be ‘fixed’ in order for us to be truly well.



Kissing under the mistletoe

In other traditions, mistletoe represents the feminine counterpart to the Oak. Perhaps kissing beneath it may hold a hazy memory of the time when mistletoe promised fertility; another theory is that mistletoe represented freedom with its unusual habit of growth, thereby promoting an corresponding spirit of freedom from conventional behaviour. But why all the snogging?


According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, in old Norse legend, Frigga, the goddess of love, had a son named Balder who was the god of innocence and light. To protect him, Frigga demanded that all creatures—and even inanimate objects—swear an oath not to harm him, but she forgot to include mistletoe. Loki, god of evil and destruction, learned of this and made an arrow from a sprig of mistletoe. He then tricked Hoth, Balder's blind brother, into shooting the mistletoe arrow and guided it to kill Balder. The death of Balder meant the death of sunlight—explaining the long winter nights in the north.Frigga's tears fell onto the mistletoe and turned into white berries. She decreed that it should never cause harm again but should promote love and peace instead. From then on, anyone standing under mistletoe would get a kiss. Even mortal enemies meeting under mistletoe by accident had to put their weapons aside and exchange a kiss of peace, declaring a truce for the day. Known as "the healing plant," mistletoe was also used by the ancient Celts and was a big part of their winter solstice celebrations. The plant contains progesterone, the female sex hormone, and perhaps this is another why it became associated with kissing.



Mistletoe as a medicinal plant

European mistletoe has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for a variety of conditions, including seizures, headaches, and menopause symptoms. Today, European mistletoe is promoted as a treatment for cancer. Though the raw berries are toxic to humans, in the right hands mistletoe has been used for generations to heal. For more information on mistletoe as medicine click here.



Mistletoe as part of nature

Mistletoe is important to a wide range of wild species that depend on it for food. Studies have shown that areas where mistletoe has been cleared have a significant decrease in the populations of birds and other species.

Birds, such as mistle thrush and migratory blackcaps, eat the berries, a source of food in winter. Mistletoe is also key for the life cycle of the aptly named mistletoe marble moth. Mistletoe loves lime, poplar, hawthorn, and most of all, apple trees.


This dramatic and positive effect on the biodiversity surrounding Mistletoe has led to some species of mistletoe being recognised as an ecological keystone species - Vic Hill, Kent Wildlife Trust.

Species like this are noted for critically affecting many other organisms

in an ecosystem, playing a unique or crucial role in the way that ecosystem functions. 


Seasonal Flow

This year’s Wild Wisdom journal is far more nature-focussed with wonderful seasonal headers

Spring - Dandelions

Summer - Dog Rose

Autumn - Blackthorn

Winter - Mistletoe


Our seasonal diary helps us to pace ourselves in line with the seasonal flow of the year. To flow in line with nature and let her pace-set us.

Our seasonal pages help us to honour the seasons and the turning points in the year. More information on our website too!


Come and join us - we'd love to meet you!


Love Susanna & Liz xx


www.wildwisdomjournal.co.uk/shop









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