The mistletoe is an evergreen shrub which grows high up in the branches of trees; a hemi-parasite. It is easy to see in wintertime when the trees have lost their leaves. The white berries are highly poisonous. Someone once used this very same poison to kill his brother. Listen to this Greek tragedy:
A long long time ago trickery and deception, envy and murder were not uncommon among the gods. There was one handsome young god though who was held in great affection by everyone. His name was Baldur, the god of light. In his youth Baldur was troubled by recurring nightmares in which he was murdered. His mother saw them as a prediction. She was so scared of losing her son that she forced all those beings and forces of nature who might murder Baldur to take an oath promising not to. Her endeavours to protect him encompassed poisonous plants, dangerous trees, rival jealous gods, wild animals, trolls, magicians, floods, storms and lightening. They all solemnly promised never to try to kill Baldur under any circumstances. When the mother goddess had extracted this oath from all possible sources of danger, she breathed a sigh of relief, certain that from now on her son would enjoy absolute immunity. Baldur could now grow up in a world free from care and become an amazingly handsome and beloved god.
He loved wrestling and fighting and because he was considered immune, friends often asked him to be their sparring partner when practising their fencing and archery. But in the course of her extensive search to secure Baldur’s immunity, her attention had lapsed for one instant. That was when the mother goddess overlooked an innocent-looking bush. An innocent-looking but highly poisonous bush which mostly grows high up in trees: the mistletoe. Now the god of evil who particularly loathed the handsome and popular Baldur had picked up this oversight on her part. From a piece of mistletoe he fashioned a single arrow with a sharp point which he then dipped in juice concocted from its poisonous berries. Without a shred of remorse, the god of evil tricked the blind brother of Baldur into firing the fatal arrow …
When Baldur’s mother realized that she had overlooked the mistletoe which had killed her son, she was inconsolable. To this very day her tears can still be seen in the shrub’s white berries.
The mistletoe is hemi-parasitic member of the European viscum family. It is a small shrub which takes root and grows on the branches of trees – and especially on poplars and fruit trees. In wintertime the evergreen shrub is easy to pick out among the bare branches. The white berries with their tough slimy pulp only ripen towards the end of the winter and are a real favourite with the thrushes. But when they have finished eating this delicacy and have scraped their beaks clean on the branch, they sometimes leave a few seeds behind in the sticky substance which again takes advantage of a new source of nourishment.
© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl