WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT FRENCH MISTLETOE?
What do you know about mistletoe ?
In French it’s called gui (m).
Viscous album or mistletoe is native to Europe and western and southern Asia.
It occurs as a parasite on various trees and shrubs, particularly fruit trees such as apple, and on lime, poplar and oak. There is an abundance of Mistletoe in my little corner of the French countryside.
This is an apple tree in a small plot of land, perhaps an old garden.
I've no idea what this tree is, but I pass it often and have wanted to photograph it for some time. Some of the mistletoe I gathered for my photos was lying on the ground around this tree.
In the language of flowers Mistletoe signifies:
"I surmount all difficulties" or "I climb to greatness" *,
an apt sentiment, I think, for the beginning of a New Year.
Mistletoe was a sacred plant for the Gauls and other Celtic peoples. It was believed to protect family and livestock. In the Morbihan region, in southern Brittany, it was hung over the doors of the stables and sheds to protect the livestock from disease.
I gathered some with berries and some with and set up this display in my courtyard garden.
Mistletoe attaches itself onto other trees to steal its host's water and nutrients.The seeds are dispersed by berry-eating birds, which allows the plant to grow on branches high above the shade, freeloading on other trees' sunlight.
In the Nièvre region, in the centre of France, country people, les paysans, would throw Mistletoe seeds from oak trees in the fire during a storm, to keep the lightening away !
Why do we kiss under the mistletoe?
The custom comes from an ancient Scandinavian tale about the Norse god Balder — second son of Odin, god of truth and light — who was so beloved by the other gods that they sought to protect him from all the dangers of the world.
His mother, the goddess Frigg,
"demanded an oath from fire and water, iron and all metals, stones and earth, from trees, sicknesses and poisons, and from all four-footed beasts, birds and creeping things, that they would not hurt Balder."
And thus the beautiful god was deemed invincible.
At a large gathering soon after, stones, arrows, and flame were all flung at Baldur to test his might. Nothing worked, and he walked away unscathed. Jealous of Baldur's new powers, the mischievous Loki set out to find the one thing on Earth that might be able to hurt him. He found that the goddess Frigg forgot to ask mistletoe — tiny and forgotten — not to harm her beloved son.
In the end, a dart fashioned from the little plant was used to murder Baldur in front of all the other gods who loved him so dearly.
Fridge, of course, was devastated and it is said that the tears of Balder's mother became the berries of the plant, and it was decreed that "mistletoe would never again be used as a weapon and that she would place a kiss on anyone who passed under it." *
I made this medallion by freezing the plants in a round plastic container.
*The Floral Offering by Henrietta Dumont, Forgotten Books. First published in 1853 in Philadelphia by H.C.Peck & Theo. Bliss.
* http://mentalfloss.com/article/31977/why-do-we-kiss-under-mistletoe by Chris Gayomali.
All photos © Henrietta Richer.
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Lovely post! I had no idea mistletoe could be so beautiful!
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Welcome to my blog:
My French Country Life.
I'm British born, but moved to France decades ago for love.
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