middle ages

Mistletoe symbol throughout time

*With this post I want to wish to all of you wonderful preparation for the upcoming holiday days. Wish you love, happiness, warm in your heart and joy.

Mistletoe

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Today, mistletoe is associated largely by the tradition of kissing modestly under it. However, back into the ancient times, there are many other practices as well relating to it.

For instance, in ancient Greece, the plant was sacred and rare to be found. According to the myth, once the Gods were offended by the plant, so they refused to look at it when women were being kissed under it.
The ancient druids had different specification of the plant, though they regarded it as a sacred and gave it their reverence. Interesting fact to reflect upon is that they considered the plant to consist the sperm of the God. Moreover, they used it with herbal function to cure almost everything, from witchcraft to antidote against poison. Nonetheless, one long standing tradition among the Druids was that after the sixth day of the winter solstice (‘Alban Arthan’), they used to cut the three, with a golden knife being extremely precautious the three not to touch the ground as it could lose its magic powers of protection, and divide its branches after distribution among the people. Those branches were hung in the doors of their homes in order to protect them from evil spirits and all devilish spirits.

In Norse Mythology, there is a legend explaining the origin of the mistletoe. Everything began with the norse god Balder, who was the most beloved one by all, but mostly by his mother , Frigga. She wanted to protect her son from all the evil in the world, that’s why she went far and wide into the world collecting promises from everything which contained the four elements – fire, water, air and earth. However , she chose Loki to find her the loophole, which was the mistletoe. Not only did he find it, but he made arrow from the wood of the plant. Unfortunately, Loki was not filled with good intentions, he gave the arrow to Balder ‘s brother, who was blind, dictating every move of the latter, the arrow pointed Balder’s heart and he died. As a consequences, Frigga’s tears turned into the mistletoe ‘s berries.

During the Romans’ times , the practice of kissing under a branch of this plant, could be traced back into the festive celebration of Saturnalia, a festival which brought into a daylight all kind of indulgence, such as conspicuous consumption of drinks, food and practicing sexual activities . The day on which all of that took place was 17th December, after that it was chosen someone who pleased himself more than the other, he/she was sacrificed in order all evil influence in people’s hearts to be exterminated by this ritual.

Back into the medieval times, many people hung branches of the plant in front of their doors or home’s ceiling, they believed that the plant could extinguish fire and make the evil spirits go away. As we could see the promotion of the idea of the mistletoe as a symbol of the good, harmony and protection preserved despite the fact that so different group of societies used and adopted its meaning and origin.

The grand spectacle of the Middle Ages

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Let’s have a quick look to the ghostly and spooky Middle Ages,shall we?

When someone said to you middle ages ,what possible connection appear in your mind?Do you imagine a singer with a harp or lute with his gracious gestures, handsome face and voice like an angel? Or you might prefer something rather more sublime like millions of castles, a sound of trumpets before a battle, many knights riding across Europe defending the Christianity and seeking justice? Well, if you expect picture like that, I could assure you that you’ve chose the wrong article. This is not romantic glamorous image of some knighthood or kingship ,it is about the dark side of the medieval Europe.

It was time for changes , unevitable ones just like the season circle ,nobody could have escaped them especially if they were a fervent believer in Christianity. Rapid population swept out every European country, Paris would gain alone a population of 200,000 alone until the 16th century. Too much months to be feed and the urbanization and agriculture were not expected to develop easily and swiftly. When the demands were too high and men perished in obscurity without having a chance to leave their marks on the Earth. That was still a time of kings and queens ,of nobility and clergymen ,time of merciless and unfair hieratical order. Spooky and creepy time to live, indeed. Welcome to the darkest ages of them all.

Imagine yourself living in Germany around 16th century. It might have been a good living ,if you were dependent on mining a raw materials,but not on agriculture. Since the agriculture was developed and flourished only around the biggest cities and towns. As a whole it was far behind the agriculture’s development in England or France. So, you were a farmer in Germany, haplessly unlucky, you and your family were on the verge of starvation while you were trying to pay your taxes and kept your heads above the water. But what choice you had at all? The imperial power was not certain in its own position,out of sudden a new class emerged calling themselves princes and they had all rights to impose new taxes and their authority only in relation with their own interest and desires. While those princes collected their taxes, not surprisingly they were under no obligations to pay taxes at all, they were recruiting more and more people for their armies with such recklessness and enthusiastic joy as if they had been playing with solder toys. In that hectic time when the justice was often denied or it was subject of bribery, the grievance and wrath of the peasants were absolutely unavoidable, if not at least necessary. And it did happen, the German Peasants War took place between 1524 and 1525. Unsuccessful it might have been, resulting in massive slaughter of around 300,000 farmers and peasants, but at least it gave its warning.

However , as if the situation couldn’t have deteriorated more ,the God granted Europe with the Bubonic Plague, and the chances of survival to put it mildly were slim. The first attack took place between 1348 and 1351, estimating in 30 to 60% of killing European citizens .The second stroke occurred in 16th century and the most victims of the Death were in England , especially those who lived in London or its outskirts. The unpredictability and sudden attack of the disease were its strength and the improbability of finding a cure were the main reasons for that bloody massacre of people. As a matter of fact , hand in hand with the widespread belief that the disease was a divine punishment by God, some people fervently accepted the accusation that the Jews sent it in order to wipe out once and for all the Christians. (Strange and dark times , for sure,I have no doubts anymore.) It is not surprising or shocking the fact that around that time ,people’s consciousness arose and sought new answers for everything. The Church was on the verge of losing its grounds, facing the probability of being abandoned by many. While many perished in the streets from lack of suitable care and medicine ,or in the field reaching their limits due to starvation ,the Church gave only one answer that did not satisfy the warily minds.

The man sought justice and fairness, and he was at edge of desperation. Once the hands of desperation caught the man, there was no turning back. The vast majority of the people lived under the impression that the world was coming to its end and that everyone were helpless under the power of God’s wrath. Those people were unfortunate enough to be born in time when turbulent upheavals took place with such speed that they were unable to comprehend what was happening and more importantly WHY. At that time , when the Church expressed its cunning and malicious nature,not for the first time, as making the prosecution of the Jews unbearably real and morally wrongful act.

But for them ,more in the second part of the article…