The Joy and Sorrow of Mistletoe

I’m a huge fan of folklore and the history behind traditions. Here’s what I dug up on Mistletoe, everyone’s favorite kissing plant.

It turns out that Avengers fans will recognize their favorite villain in the mistletoe story. Yes, Loki is responsible for more mischief. But, we’re ahead of ourselves. First let’s go the the number two power in the Norse universe (and one that seems to be absent in the Marvel films): Frigga. Like Odin, she could also see the future, but was less doom and gloom about it.

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“Frigga Spinning the Clouds” by John Charles Dollman

She gave birth to her son, Balder, on the winter solstice. He, being the god of light and truth, fits the season well as the days slowly grow longer leading up to the summer solstice. However, she also received a dream that her son would die. She asked all manner of things in the world to swear an oath to never hurt Balder. This was easy because he was the popular type, with a sunny disposition. (Yes I know, you can hate me now.)

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The Marvel version of Balder

The one she passed up was mistletoe. Accounts vary. Some say that mistletoe was too young and immature. Another version says that is was too small and inconsequential. Needless to say, this turned into Balder’s Achilles Heel.

The gods, being the ones to push things to the limit, decided to test Balder’s invulnerability. They hurled all sorts of weapons at him, including Thor’s axes. None harmed him. Loki sidled up to Hod, the blind god of darkness. Loki had fashioned a dart (some versions say an arrow, but mistletoe is tiny, so I buy the dart version). He helped Hod aim and shot it toward Balder, striking the god right in heart.

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Balder being Killed by Hod and Loki

At this point the story splits into a happy ending and a sad one. Let’s do the sad one first.

Balder died and went to Niflheim. The goddess Hel promised to return Balder to life if every living thing shed a tear for him. Loki again twisted the knife by assuming the form of the giantess Thok. In this form, he refused to cry, dooming Balder to remain in Niflheim forever.

The gods saw through Loki’s deception. The trickster transformed to a salmon to escape. And he almost slipped away. Except his brother, Thor, nabbed him. Loki was then bound in a cave with venom dripping on his chest until Ragnarok.

Now the happy ending.

After being struck by the mistletoe dart, Frigga cried over her fallen son. She cried so much, that mistletoe took pity and formed milky white berries to represent her tears. Her crying also restored Balder to life. Frigga made the plant a symbol for love and she promised to bestow a kiss on any who passed under it.

You pick the ending. Either way, there’s a lot more to this tiny plant than a seasonal amusement.

Tim Kane

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Scare the Bejezes Out of Your Kids This Christmas

I’m all for a little scare to the little ones, but when I learned of Krampusnacht, even I needed to temper it a bit. Turns out there’s a Germanic myth surrounding St. Nicholas. (I have German heritage, so I feel obligated to give it a go). Turns out that St. Nicolas would visit houses on the eve of his sainthood, December 6th (read, his death). So we’re off to a morbid start.

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In anticipation of this visit, the household would leave out their shoes. If the children in question were good, then St. Nicholas (and I suppose the angel) would slip some candies in the shoes.

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This is all good. Kids get to mack out on treats. Everyone’s happy. Oh, did we forget the devil being led by chains behind the angel. Well, he has a purpose. If the kids were naughty, then he would chase them around (and possibly torture them) until they promised to be good.

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Apparently, if you refused to repent, then he’d stuff you in a basket and take you to hell (no confirmation if this is the origin of “hell in a handbasket”).

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St. Nicolas seems fine with all this. In fact, the Krampus serves as his personal chauffeur.

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This is an amazing print by Phineas X. Jones for the Krampus.

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“Krampus” by Phineas X. Jones. 12″ x 12″ 6-color Screenprint. Ed of 34 S/N. $25

I’ll leave you with a “cute” postcard of the Krampus sailing off into the sky with some (I’m hoping naughty) babies.

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Tim Kane

Santa Goes to the Cloud

This holiday season, Santa Clause has upgraded to OS Kringle 5, which supports cloud services. How will this affect you this season?

For starters, Santa won’t have to make that personal appearance to every household, so hold on the milk and cookies. Kringle 5 now delivers Christmas gifts as digital downloads. When the big morning arrives, instead of rushing to the tree, fire up the computer and check your email. You’ll find codes for downloading your gifts. (Or eCoal.)
Some of you might miss that personal visit from the jolly old fella, but for those of us without chimneys, we won’t have to leave the doors unlocked. Plus, think of the money you’ll save in roofing (no reindeer hoof prints on the shingles).

Santa is beta testing a gift subscription service. Just sign up to be a Kringle Prime customer and you can download one gift (toy, action figure, doll, etc) per month for free. That’s a gift that you can appreciate all year long.

Additionally, Santa is skipping the mall visits and letters this year. Check his website for available facetime slots. Remember, sign up early or Santa will have to guess about your gifts!

You can still give Santa cookies and milk. Only now, be sure to purchase eCookies and eMilk on Facebook. Also, click over and like Santa’s page. He’s looking to reach a million by the 25th.

Merry Christmas.

Tim Kane