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M. Henri Day
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Postby M. Henri Day » Fri Apr 22, 2005 11:56 am

Not a «new topic» and hardly mine, but rather one of Doctor Goodword's that, presumably as a result of too much Christmas cheer, never made it to the Agora :
• mistletoe •

Pronunciation: mi-sêl-to • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: A parasitic shrub with thick evergreen stems and leaves, and waxy white berries, that grows in dead or dying sections of trees.

Notes: Over the year, mistletoe accumulates the magical power to grant anyone the right to kiss anyone else standing beneath it. How it does that, scientists have yet been able to determine. In England you are obliged to pluck a berry from the twig each time you take advantage of this power, thereby exhausting the twig bit by bit. In the US, we leave the berries up and indulge ourselves until there is no one left we haven’t offended.

In Play: Although it began as a symbol of good luck, mistletoe today is ineluctably associated with holiday kissing: "This grapefruit makes me pucker more than a tree full of mistletoe." Unfortunately, its magical powers are non-selective, so you might hear something like this: "I would sooner eat the mistletoe than kiss him." Of course, you want to watch you language around the holidays. Avoid crude insults like, "Kiss my . . . whatever" in favor of more gentile suggestions like, "As I walk away, kindly note the mistletoe on my coattail."

Word History: This good word in Old English was mistiltán "mistletoe twig" from mistil, mistel "mistletoe" + tán "twig". The Old English word for mistletoe, 'mistel,’ was probably a dimuntive of 'mist’, a word it clearly is related to. It may also be related to missel of the missel thrush, a bird known to propagate mistletoe. "Toe" is clearly by folk etymology after the loss of tan in English—don’t those little white berries look just like a baby’s toes? The Celtic and Norse peoples considered mistletoe powerful magic. They hung sprigs over doors and elsewhere to protect themselves from evil and bring good fortune. If warring parties met in the forest and noticed mistletoe growing in a tree, according to tradition, they were sorely pressed to lay down their arms (though not kiss and make up).

My apologies for being somewhat out of season and for that I was unable to reproduce the illustration found in the original version....

Last edited by M. Henri Day on Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Stargzer » Fri Apr 22, 2005 3:10 pm

Since the Space Shuttle is set for launch soon, I have to pull out the old joke:
If athlete's get athlete's foot, what to astronauts get?


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M. Henri Day
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sat Apr 23, 2005 1:39 pm

Your joy at that Golden Oldie obviously played havoc with your proofreading, Larry ! But it was worth it....


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Postby KatyBr » Sat Apr 23, 2005 6:51 pm

---History---Mistletoe was held in great reverence by the Druids. They went forth clad in white robes to search for the sacred plant, and when it was discovered, one of the Druids ascended the tree and gathered it with great ceremony, separating it from the Oak with a golden knife. The Mistletoe was always cut at a particular age of the moon, at the beginning of the year, and it was only sought for when the Druids declared they had visions directing them to seek it. When a great length of time elapsed without this happening, or if the Mistletoe chanced to fall to the ground, it was considered as an omen that some misfortune would befall the nation. The Druids held that the Mistletoe protected its possessor from all evil, and that the oaks on which it was seen growing were to be respected because of the wonderful cures which the priests were able to effect with it. They sent round their attendant youth with branches of the Mistletoe to announce the entrance of the new year. It is probable that the custom of including it in the decoration of our homes at Christmas, giving it a special place of honour, is a survival of this old custom.

The curious basket of garland with which 'Jack-in-the-Green' is even now occasionally invested on May-day is said to be a relic of a similar garb assumed by the Druids for the ceremony of the Mistletoe. When they had found it they danced round the oak to the tune of 'Hey derry down, down, down derry!' which literally signified, 'In a circle move we round the oak. ' Some oakwoods in Herefordshire are still called 'the derry'; and the following line from Ovid refers to the Druids' songs beneath the oak:
'---Ad viscum Druidce cantare solebant---.'
Shakespeare calls it 'the baleful Mistletoe,' an allusion to the Scandinavian legend that Balder, the god of Peace, was slain with an arrow made of Mistletoe. He was restored to life at the request of the other gods and goddesses, and Mistletoe was afterwards given into the keeping of the goddess of Love, and it was ordained that everyone who passed under it should receive a kiss, to show that the branch had become an emblem of love, and not of hate.

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