mistletoe

   The reputation of mistletoe was created by Pliny in his Natural History (AD 77). He wrote that in Gaul the *Druids thought it sacred if it grew on an oak (which it rarely does); they believed it protected against injury by fire or water, made farm animals and women fertile, was an antidote to poison, and cured epilepsy. Virtually every herbalist and folklorist to mention mistletoe, from the 16th century to the present, has repeated this information, assuming it to be equally true of Ancient Britons. Many also claim it as the 'origin' of the very different English custom of using mistletoe as *Christmas decoration.
   Yet it is not till 1648 that mistletoe is first listed (by *Herrick, in Hesperides, no. 893) among the many * evergreens decking churches and homes at Christmas, whereas *holly and *ivy are well attested in the Middle Ages. In 1656 William Coles noted in The Art of Simpling (p. 41) that it was 'carried many miles to set up in houses about Christmas time'. It became important in the late 18th century as part - soon, the most valued part - of the elaborate kissing boughs/bushes hung up in farmhouses and kitchens. There were rules as to when it must be taken down, which varied regionally; in some districts (e.g. Staffordshire and Warwickshire) it was given exceptional treatment, being kept till the following year to protect the house from lightning and fire (Drury, 1987: 195-6).
   Early antiquaries thought all types of Christmas foliage came from that used by ancient Romans at the Saturnalia; however, once mistletoe became especially popular, the more picturesque theory of Druidic origin gained ground. The very influential John
   * Brand claimed it was never used to decorate churches (Brand, 1849: i. 523-4), but recent research has shown he was wrong, at any rate for some regions such as Staffordshire, where churchwardens' accounts record repeated purchases of mistletoe (Hutton, 1996: 37; Drury, 1987: 195).
   ■ Susan Drury, Folklore 98 (1987), 194-9; Opie and Tatem, 1989: 253-6; Vickery, 1995: 240-3.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mistletoe — Mis tle*toe, n. [AS. mistelt[=a]n; mistel mistletoe + t[=a]n twig. AS. mistel is akin of D., G., Dan. & Sw. mistel, OHG. mistil, Icel. mistilteinn; and AS. t[=a]n to D. teen, OHG. zein, Icel. teinn, Goth. tains. Cf. {Missel}.] (Bot.) A parasitic… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mistletoe — [mis′əl tō΄] n. [OE misteltan (akin to ON mistilteinn) < mistel, mistletoe (prob. < Gmc * mista, dung: from being propagated by seeds in bird dung) + tan, a twig] 1. any of various evergreen plants (genera Phoradendron and Viscum) of the… …   English World dictionary

  • Mistletoe — est le premier single extrait de l album Under the Mistletoe de Justin Bieber. Le single est sorti le 17 octobre 2011. Portail de la musique Catégories : Œuvre musicale …   Wikipédia en Français

  • mistletoe — (n.) O.E. mistiltan, from mistel mistletoe (see MISSEL (Cf. missel)) + tan twig. Cf. O.N. mistilteinn, Norw. misteltein, Dan. mistelten. The second element is cognate with O.S., O.Fris. ten, O.N. teinn, Du. teen, O.H.G …   Etymology dictionary

  • mistletoe — ► NOUN ▪ an evergreen parasitic plant which grows on broadleaf trees and bears white berries in winter. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • Mistletoe — For other uses, see Mistletoe (disambiguation). European mistletoe attached to a silver birch Mistletoe is the common name for obligate hemi parasitic plants in several families in the order Santalales. The plants in question grow attached to and …   Wikipedia

  • mistletoe — /mis euhl toh /, n. 1. a European plant, Viscum album, having yellowish flowers and white berries, growing parasitically on various trees, used in Christmas decorations. 2. any of several other related, similar plants, as Phoradendron serotinum,… …   Universalium

  • mistletoe — noun Etymology: Middle English mistilto, from Old English misteltān, from mistel mistletoe + tān twig; akin to Old High German & Old Saxon mistil mistletoe and to Old High German zein twig Date: before 12th century a European semiparasitic green… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • mistletoe — [OE] Mistletoe is a mystery word. It means literally ‘mistletoe twig’, and comes from an Old English compound misteltān formed from mistel ‘mistletoe’ and tān ‘twig’. The origins of mistel, however (which has relatives in German mistil and Dutch… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • mistletoe — [OE] Mistletoe is a mystery word. It means literally ‘mistletoe twig’, and comes from an Old English compound misteltān formed from mistel ‘mistletoe’ and tān ‘twig’. The origins of mistel, however (which has relatives in German mistil and Dutch… …   Word origins

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