Mistletoe in Winter Trees

As I was driving to the hospital the other day I saw this

Mistletoe in winter trees

Those round things high up in the trees are not nests. That is mistletoe. You can understand why the Celts thought it had magical properties. It is part of the tree that is still green (sorry my photo does not show that so well) and so in the depth of winter  holds the promise of spring. That is the reason why it is used in Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Mistletoe is also a symbol of male fertility. The berries if you squeeze them give off a sticky white juice that looks similar to semen. This sticky juice is the mechanism that the plant uses to propagate itself. Mistletoe is a parasite. Its roots are not in the soil but the branches of its host tree. So unlike other plants (but like Onan), if its seed falls to the ground it is barren. The seeds can only germinate if they are attached to the branch of another tree.  Birds do this when they eat the berries.  They wipe their beaks clean on another branch and the sticky juice attaches any uneaten seeds to a new host.

Anyway, when I saw this out of my car window I was struck by the thought that mistletoe  is also a metaphor for catataxis. Mistletoe has its roots not in the ground but in the sky. As a parasite, it is a second order plant. A sky borne floating plant that belongs at a different level and follows different rules.

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