The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Ms Faith

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Holly King and the Oak King - an ancient tale

 Season's Greetings,

Tonight we'll discuss an ancient Celtic mythology. For the record, Celtic is pronounced with a K sounds. As in keltic. The only known pronunciation with the Sssss sound is the professional basketball team.

Like our discussion last night of Ceres and Proserpina, the Greco/Roman mythology explaining summer and winter to ancient man, This ancient mythology I will tell you about is the often referred to as the battle of the trees. The battle between summer and winter, between  the Oak king and the Holly king. This is a story that is fabled to come from the ancient Druids and their teachings.

The tale goes,  every mid-winter and again mid-summer, the Oak king and Holly king, rivals, battle for supremacy in the forest, in nature.  Back during mid-summer, which occurs around June 21, our festival of Litha, the Oak king battles the Holly king and in the struggle the Holly King wins. It's hard to see the winner of the battle as it is overshadowed by the great leafy Oak, but the sun starts to diminish and even though the Oak was in full strength, the Holly took over and by the fall and then winter the green and red of the holly shines and comes to stand out amongst the startling white of the winter landscape.

Now that we come to mid-winter, our winter solstice of Yule, the battle rages forth again.  The Oak king now stripped of its leaves and appearing weak and defenseless nonetheless overtakes the Holly king and after the solstice the sun starts to return, growing slowly but steadily stronger and brighter until next mid-summer.  The Oak king defeats the Holly king next Tuesday and slowly regains its full, majestic splendor by the time mid-summer is here again. 

This ancient tale of summer battling winter was thought to be the lessons, the stories told by the Druids to help the people understand what was going on around them in nature. That battles are waged, and fought and won. Yet, for a time, an equal time, each side wins and is recognized the victor.  For each side has much to offer and contribute.

There are stories suggesting that Santa Claus is a modern adaptation of the ancient Holly King, wearing his red and greens of the Holly bush. The Holly and the Oak were both sacred to the Druids as well as the mistletoe which grew upon the Oak, also a symbol of this season. The Druids drew heavily on the lessons of the natural world to explain the mysteries found in the world of man. This myth is thought to be an attempt to explain the two halves of the year. The light half and the dark half of the year, they only considered two seasons. Summer and Winter. 

The Oak relies on the Holly to nurture its roots and create the underbrush that sustains the life and heart of the forest. The Holly relies on the Oak to shade it and make the undergrowth cool and fertile, without which the Holly could not sustain.  Like all life on this planet we live in relationship to all other life, not in spite of it.

If only humans could learn a lesson from the trees. Then maybe there really could be peace on earth, for everyone. 

Peace and Happiness




© 2010 Enchantments, LLC Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see www.enchantmentsschool.com or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website.

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