Of all the mistletoe facts one could cite, no doubt the best known is that it is the "kissing plant." Not that there's any dearth of fascinating mistletoe trivia, mind you, ranging from the plant's parasitic nature to its influence upon the history of literature. But bookworms aside, such obscure mistletoe facts just don't arouse the same interest in folks as does its kiss-inducing powers.
Even this most fascinating -- and fun -- of mistletoe facts, however, carries with it a historical pedigree that will turn the head of any self-respecting scholar. The tradition of kissing under mistletoe derives, ultimately, from the Norse myth of Baldur. There isn't room here to tell the whole story; you can read about it in my full article on mistletoe facts. I'll limit myself here to whetting your appetite.
Baldur's mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When Baldur was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal and inanimate object promise not to harm Baldur. But Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant -- and the mischievous god of the Norse myths, Loki, took advantage of this oversight. Ever the prankster, Loki tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with a spear fashioned from mistletoe....
You mythology buffs out there will recognize a similarity between Baldur and the Greek hero, Achilles, for whom the plant, Achillea (yarrow) is named. Both lost out on invulnerability due to an oversight. Achilles' mother, Thetis, dipped him in the river Styx as an infant, knowing that all body parts that came into contact with its waters would be rendered invulnerable. Problem was, during the dipping process, she held him by the heel, which thereby failed to come into contact with those magic waters. Achilles later died from an arrow shot to (you guessed it) the heel -- his "Achilles heel," literally!
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