Symbolic Mistletoe Meaning - More Than Christmas Decorations
When I was a kid, my mom took the Christmas song, "Deck the Halls" to its zenith. She falalalala'ed her way throughout the house, plastering every nook and cranny with some kind of Christmas decoration. When she was finished with her hall-decking, the place was a magical wonderland. As a kid, I was enchanted by the transformation from plain old house, into a sparkling Christmas spectacle. In a way, mom transformed the family with her holiday cheer and decorative zeal.
It was also fun to see old Christmas decorations hauled out from previous years. Almost like greeting old friends who only make their appearance once a year. Crystal reindeers, cute little elves, cheery snowmen...they all came on the scene as if to say "Howdy! Happy to see you again!".
One of these perennial Christmas decorations was mistletoe. I have no idea where mom got it, but it was a holiday tradition for years and years. The piece was made of plastic. Green leaves with little white berries with a red bow on top. That would have been cute enough...but what really made the thing magical was Santa and Mrs. Claus sitting atop the bunch of mistletoe poised in the gesture of a sweet kiss. It seemed Mr. and Mrs. Clause were frozen in time, their lips puckered, expectant for that Christmas smooch. Ah, memories.
Today, my journey on the symbolic path has lead me to a broader understanding of mistletoe meaning. Granted, I still remember that plastic mistletoe Christmas decoration mom put out every year - but its meaning is so much deeper now that I know the etymology of mistletoe. I'll get into the origins of mistletoe as a Christmas symbol, but first, a few basic mistletoe meanings...
That's a long list of symbolic mistletoe meanings, eh? Yep. Mistletoe is replete with powerful meaning and metaphor. We can thank ancient Europeans for a lot of mistletoe's legacy...including the love-blessing granted whilst smooching under this viridian gem.
Perhaps the most familiar origins of mistletoe's legend comes from the Celts - the ancient Druids to be specific. Druids were the peace-makers, judges, teachers and wisdom-keepers for the Celts. They possessed a unique perspective about the realm of Nature. And when they spied something that tickled their psychic senses, it was big juju amongst the Celtic clan.
So it goes with mistletoe. Druids observed a lot about this seemingly innocuous plant. They knew mistletoe shared a symbiotic relationship with deciduous trees. Herein lies the first symbolic tenet of mistletoe. When a deciduous tree loses its leaves, it's symbolic of death, dormancy, rest, withdrawal. But, the evergreen mistletoe clings to these dormant trees, and even thrives with life in the midst of arboreal hibernation. This is symbolic of life in the midst of 'death'. This is where we get the concept of rebirth connected to symbolic mistletoe meaning.
That idea of rebirth is continued by Natures creatures. The Druids knew mistletoe was a source of nourishment and shelter for both bird and woodland creatures. Birds made nests in the green boughs. They also ate the berries, which caused the plant to spread. Not only that, but when birds hung out in mistletoe lodged in juniper trees, Druids noticed the juniper population flourished in those areas. It's because mistletoe attracted the birds, they ate juniper berries, and thus insured the cycle of life for these trees by spreading their seed. This galvanized the symbolism of the ever-continuing cycle of life, rebirth and regeneration.
Mistletoe in oak trees is an unusual thing - very uncommon. An anomaly in Nature is a very big deal in the Druid mind. So, when mistletoe was sighted in the mighty oak, it was something to pay attention to. To explain, the oak was considered a chieftain in the Celtic Ogham. It's a powerful king-tree, the 'lightning bringer', symbolic of big stuff like: Strength, Endurance, Immortality. Coupled with the life-giving mistletoe meant a dynamic duo of power. (Learn more about the Oak here).
Oak and mistletoe played a strong role in fertility rituals in Druidic times. Why? Because the oak is considered male, and mistletoe female. Together, these two represent a perfect coupling. Thus, mistletoe was often incorporated into blessing rituals for new unions between man and woman. In short, mistletoe was thought to protect new marriages. When an expression of love or friendship is done within the presence of mistletoe, it is blessed. That union is under the powerful protection of some of Nature's strongest forces.
To this day, kissing under the mistletoe holds a magical enchantment...a tingly promise of connection with another person. And it isn't just for couples. Everybody knows Celts were a robust bunch, and never flinched an eye at the prospect of war with a goal to protect themselves or gain leverage for their kind. But that warring ground to a halt when Celts encountered mistletoe snuggled in a towering oak. Swords were dropped, and shields were lowered because the presence of oak and mistletoe signaled divine union, friendship, and harbored a promise of peace. So kiss your sweethearts, friends and family under the mistletoe - your smooches seal the deal of union, friendship and harmony!
Symbolic mistletoe meaning of love-bonding continues in Norse legend. The concept of immortality enters into the Norse myth too. Apparently, Baldur, Nordic god of light (son of Odin), was impaled by a spear made of mistletoe. The strike was fatal, and Baldur passed into the underworld. Unable to bear the death of their son, Frigga and Odin resurrected Baldur. After bringing him back to life, the gods made mistletoe a sacred plant, and a symbol of love. It stood as an expression of their adoration for their son. They solidified this by making mistletoe a symbol for Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and fertility. It's not too far of a stretch to connect this Norse tale with the ritual of kissing under the mistletoe. At its core, the myth reveals a theme of everlasting life...specifically the endurance of love well beyond the afterlife.
I hope this article on symbolic mistletoe meaning has offered enlightenment. Mostly, I hope the history behind this plant explains why mistletoe holds far more meaning that just a Christmas decoration. Granted, I still love that plastic bunch of mistletoe showcasing a lip-puckered Mr. and Mrs. Claus...but the true meaning behind mistletoe and love is far more spell-binding for me these days.
If this article got your creative juices flowing...don't stop here! Keep researching the deep-reaching meanings of mistletoe. You're going to find a lot more fascinating details about this glorious greenie. I trust all your findings will point you to the powerful symbolism indwelling this gift of good tiding.
As always, thanks for reading!
Merry mistletoe, and may all your kisses be blessed :),
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!