Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Carpe Diem #324, Symbiotic (provided by Sam Edge)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today we have Symbiotic (provided by Sam Edge) to write haiku about. I am not familiar with this word, so I had to sought it out. I found the following meaning or synonyms: harmonious, interdependent and united. The first thing which came in mind was the Mistletoe and I thought to use that for this episode of Carpe Diem. So let me first tell you a bit more about the Mistletoe.

Mistletoe on Silver Birch

Mistletoe is the common name for obligate hemi-parasitic plants in several families in the order Santalales. These plants attach to and penetrate the branches of a tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they absorb water and nutrients from the host plant.

The word 'mistletoe' (Old English mistiltan) is of uncertain etymology; it may be related to German Mist, for dung and Tang for branch, since mistletoe can be spread in the droppings of birds moving from tree to tree. However, Old English mistel was also used for basil.
European mistletoe, Viscum album, figured prominently in Greek mythology, and is believed to be The Golden Bough of Aeneas, ancestor of the Romans.

Because of the scheming of Loki, according to the 13th century Prose Edda, the god Baldr is killed by his brother, the blind god Höðr, by way of a mistletoe projectile, despite the attempts of Baldr's mother, the goddess Frigg, to have all living things and inanimate objects swear an oath not to hurt Baldr after Baldr had troubling dreams of his death. Frigg was unable to get an oath from mistletoe, because "it seemed too young" to demand an oath from. In the Gesta Danorum version of the story, Baldr and Höðr are rival suitors, and Höðr kills Baldr with a sword named Mistilteinn (Old Norse "mistletoe"). In addition, a sword by the same name appears in various other Norse legends.

The Norse Legend as mentioned above

When Christianity became widespread in Europe after the 3rd century AD, the religious or mystical respect for the mistletoe plant was integrated to an extent into the new religion. In some way that is not presently understood, this may have led to the widespread custom of kissing under the mistletoe plant during the Christmas season. The earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe dates from 16th century England, a custom that was apparently very popular at that time.
Winston Graham reports a Cornish tradition that mistletoe was originally a fine tree from which the wood of the Cross was made, but afterwards it was condemned to live on only as a parasite.
Mistletoe is commonly used as a Christmas decoration, though such use was rarely alluded to until the 18th century. Viscum album is used in Europe whereas Phoradendron serotinum is used in North America. Both are commercially harvested. According to custom, the mistletoe must not touch the ground between its cutting and its removal as the last of Christmas greens at Candlemas; it may remain hanging through the year, often to preserve the house from lightning or fire, until it is replaced the following Christmas Eve.The tradition has spread throughout the English-speaking world but is largely unknown in the rest of Europe.

Mistletoe as it's commonly used as Christmas decoration

The type of Mistletoe used during Christmas celebrations is of the same type as that believed to be sacred by ancient druids, but, outside northern Europe, the plant used is not the same species. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration in North America (Phoradendron flavescens) grows as a parasite on trees in the west as also in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. In Europe, where the custom originates, the 'original' mistletoe, Viscum album, is still used. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous. Ancient druids considered the Viscum album plant holy, but had no knowledge of the Phoradendron flavescens. Modern druids focus on the parasitic habitat on oak (where it is very rarely found) as being the definer of a sacred mistletoe, and use Phoradendron flavescens as well as other mistletoe species.
According to ancient Christmas custom, a man and a woman who meet under a hanging of mistletoe were obliged to kiss. The custom may be of Scandinavian origin. It was described in 1820 by American author Washington Irving in his The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.:
The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases. (Source: Wikipedia)

between mistletoe and birch -
everlasting battle

everlasting battle
between interdependent species
Mistletoe and Birch

I hope you all did like this episode and I hope it will inspire you to write haiku. This prompt will stay on 'til October 18th 11.59 AM (CET) and I will post our new episode, Release (provided by Maggie Grace), later on today aroun 7.00 PM (CET).
!! Symbiotic is open for your submissions at 7.00 PM (CET) !!


  1. This is probably the most difficult prompt you have ever proposed to us!

    1. I think you have observed that very well. I myself had some difficulties to write about this prompt. At least the haiku wasn't easy to do.

  2. Very interesting take - and informative write-up. It seems a few things come from Pagan times that I didn't know before.

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  5. This was a very difficult prompt... the mistletoe.. a very interesting story that I of course knew by heart of Balder and the Mistletoe... There are some similarities between this myth and the heel of Achilles...

  6. Wonderful haiku... I loved the tradition behind mistletoe and how long back they go in history. :-)

  7. Wow that's such a fab prompt, I love all the inspiration it gives

  8. Tough and wonderful prompt.

    I linked and checked went right to my post. Hope it works for everyone.