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~* Folk Law behind a Kiss xx*~

Yule as regards the folk law of these practices, it is well known that, in the
religion of the Druids, the mistletoe was regarded with the utmost veneration,
though the reverence which they paid to it seems to have been restricted to the
plant when found growing on the oak—the favorite tree of their divinity Tutanes—
who appears to have been the same as the Phenician god Baal, or the sun, worshiped
under so many different names by the various pagan nations of antiquity. At the
period of the winter-solstice, a great festival was celebrated in his honour, as
will be found more largely commented on under our notice of Christmas Day. When
the sacred anniversary arrived, the ancient Britons, accompanied by their priests,
the Druids, sallied forth with great pomp and rejoicings to gather the mystic
parasite, which, in addition to the religious reverence with which it was
regarded, was believed to possess wondrous curative powers. When the oak was
reached on which the mistletoe grew, two white bulls were bound to the tree, and
the chief Druid, clothed in white (the emblem of purity), ascended, and, with a
golden knife, cut the sacred plant, which was caught by another priest in the
folds of his robe.

The bulls, and often also human victims, were then sacrificed, and various
festivities followed. The mistletoe thus gathered, was divided into small
portions, and distributed among the people, who hung up the sprays over the
entrances to their dwellings, as a propitiation and shelter to the sylvan deities
during the season of frost and cold. These rites in connection with the mistletoe,
were retained throughout the Roman dominion in Britain, and also for a long period
under the sovereignty of the Jutes, Saxons, and Angles.

The following legend regarding the mistletoe, from the Scandinavian mythology,

Balder, the god of poetry and eloquence, and second son of Odin and Friga,
communicated one day to his mother a dream which he had had, intimating that he
should die. She (Friga), to protect her son from such a contingency, invoked all
the powers of nature—fire, air, earth, and water, as well as animals and plants—
and obtained an oath from them that they should do Balder no hurt.

The latter then went and took his place amid the combats of the gods, and fought
without fear in the midst of showers of arrows. Loake, his enemy, resolved to
discover the secret of Balder's invulnerability, and, accordingly, disguising
himself as an old woman, he addressed himself to Friga with complimentary remarks
on the valour and good-fortune of her son.

The goddess replied that no substance could injure him, as all the productions of
nature had bound themselves by an oath to refrain from doing him any harm. She
added, however, with that awkward simplicity which appears so often to
characterise mythical personages, that there was one plant which, from its
insignificance, she did not think of conjuring, as it was impossible that it could
inflict any hurt on her son.

Loake inquired the name of the plant in question, and was informed that it was a
feeble little shoot, growing on the bark of the oak, with scarcely any soil. Then
the treacherous Loake ran and procured the mistletoe, and, having entered the
assembly of the gods, said to the blind Heda: 'Why do you not contend with the
arrows of Balder?

'Heda replied: I am blind, and have no arms.'

Loake then presented him with an arrow formed from the mistletoe, and said:
'Balder is before thee.'

Heda shot, and Balder fell pierced and slain.

The mistletoe, which has thus so many mystic associations connected with it, is
believed to be propagated in its natural state by the misselthrush, which feeds
upon its berries. It was long thought impossible to propagate it artificially, but
this object has been attained by bruising the berries, and by means of their
viscidity, causing them to adhere to the bark of fruit-trees, where they readily
germinate and take root. The growth of the mistletoe on the oak is now of
extremely rare occurrence, but in the orchards of the west-midland counties of
England, such as the shires of Gloucester and Worcester, the plant flourishes in
great frequency and luxuriance on the apple-trees.

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.

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.

Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with )the Greek festival of
Saturnalia) and later with primitive marriage rites. 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.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies
could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up.

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.

Large quantities are annually cut at the Christmas season, and dispatched to
London and other places, where they are extensively used for the decoration of
houses and shops. The special custom connected with the mistletoe on Christmas
Eve, and an indubitable relic of the days of Druidism, handed down through a long
course of centuries,. A branch of the mystic plant is suspended from the wall or
ceiling, and any one of the fair sex, who, either from inadvertence, or, as
possibly may be insinuated, on purpose, passes beneath the sacred spray, incurs
the penalty of being then and there kissed by any lord of the creation who chooses
to avail himself of the privilege.