Popular Pagan Holidays
Autumn: The Croning Time
Well, You Don’t Celebrate Christmas...
Daily Goddess Awareness
The Tale of the Holly King and the Oak King
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chri... Yuletide!
Samhain: A Time for Introspection---and Activism
Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time
Anti-Witch Bigotry: Still As Popular and Deadly As Ever
The Dark Half of the Year
The Halloween Witch: Sense of Humor or Sense of Ire
Ah...To Be A Witch...
Autumn Equinox: A Point of Balance on the Wheel of the Year
Winter Solstice By Any Other Name
Traditional Yule: Make your Own Homebrewed Mead
Winter Holiday Intentions and Food Magik
The Beltaine Storm
Spiritual Aspects of Yule
Lughnasa: Festival of the Harvest (A Druid's Perspective)
A Meditation on Samhain: How Lucky You Are.
Yule and the New Year
A Celtic View of Samhain
The Solstice Flame: A Yule Story
Alicia Meets Grandmother Autumn: A Children’s Story
Ostara: Enter the Light!
Witches Lost in Halloween
The Best Thing About Death
Winter: A Joyous Holiday Season
A Story For Autumn
Solstice of the Soul
Thanksgiving Memories of a Native American Witch
The Samhain Experience
The Holiday Season, The Constitution and What's REALLY Important
Imbolg - A Lesson of Positive Change
Unity During Samhain
The Sacredness of Halloween
Bealtine: Blessing the Summer In
A Yule Story for Children ~ The Tiniest Fairy ~
The Summer Solstice: A Time for Awakening
A Samhain Dance
Ghosts, Omens, and Fact-Finding: Wandering In Today's Eco-Interface
Samhain and the 'Witch Questions'
Yuletide Thoughts, Life and Death
Brighid's Healing Sword: Imbolc
The Blood is in the Land
At Samhain, Meet Bilé, God of the Dead of Ireland and the Danu, the All -Mother
Mabon - The Flash of the Setting Sun
Imbolc Musings: We're All Broken
Parting the Veils and Opening to Ancestral Wisdom
The Promise of the Harvest
"The Horn of Plenty": A Pathworking for Lammas
Lammas: The Sacrificial Harvest
Lascivious Lupercalia: Why Valentine's is a Vital Pagan Holy Day for the Modern World
The Call of the Crone
Opening to the Anima Mundi – The Gift of the Equinox
The Light Within the Shadow of the Winter Solstice
Symbology of Altar Decorations
The Serpent's Kiss: Beltane's Fire
The Wheel of the Year: A Journey of Eight Sabbats
Back to Basics: Imbolc
The Lover's Flame-Beltane
Samhain: the Sunbeam in the Twilight
Ode to Ostara
Gaia's Mantle:The Greening of the Earth
Beltane and Samhain: Reflections of Life and Death
The Maiden's Breath: The Vernal Equinox
Like Bread for Lughnasa: A Letter
Flashbrewing: Traditional Yule Ginger Beer/Ale
Ole Old-As-The-Hills (A Yule Story)
The Hermit's Light: Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox
The Gift of Yule: An Illuminated Wheel
The Light of the Harvest: Lammas
The Quickening Wheel: Imbolc
My Yule Views
Observations for a MidSummer's Eve
Mother's Flowering-The Summer Solstice
Thanksgiving Memories of a Native American
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
The Tale of the Holly King and the Oak King
Article ID: 14885
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,374
Times Read: 17,013
RSS Views: 18,863
Posted: December 18th. 2011
Times Viewed: 17,013
As I write this, we are approaching the holidays surrounding the winter solstice where we sing about decking the halls with boughs of Holly. Where does this come from? When we celebrate the summer around the solstice day, the celebrations of old consist of bonfires. Where does this come from? Please keep in mind this written from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. You folks down under will celebrate the opposite holidays.
As a Pagan or a rather Polytheist, I hear several stories surrounding the Oak King and the Holly King -- one is killed and reborn -- and I hate to say that so many of them are incorrect. Then again, people are allowed to believe what they wish but I would like to set the record straight. I am also an astrologer and one of the first things I noticed is there two sets of celebrations surrounding modern Paganism: the first is the Lunar cycles -- how we celebrate the moons of the year, thirteen full and thirteen new moons -- and the second set are what are labeled as the Sabbats, the eight solar celebrations. The eight are Ostara (Vernal Equinox) , Beltaine, Litha (Summer Solstice) , Lammas, Mabon (Autumn Equinox) , Samhain (Hallowe’en) , and Yule (Winter Solstice) or in other words, the solstices and equinoxes and the cross-quarter holidays.
We will examine the Sabbats with their relation to the Holly King and the Oak King. In order to understand the eight Sabbats, one must understand who the Oak King and Holly King are. They are none other than Light and Darkness.
Vernal Equinox (March 21st) : This is the celebration of Light and Dark being in harmony. The Darkness does not conquer Light, nor does the Light conquer Darkness. They are at equilibrium. This is when the “battle” between the two is at its strength. It is a time of high energy and of the concept of killing off the old and bringing in the new. Many ancient Pagan celebrations consisted of burning straw men at this time, when they took dried corn/wheat from last year’s harvest to burn at this time. The Christian myth of Jesus dying on the cross (of the year) and rising again came from these ancient rituals.
Beltaine (May 1st) : This is the time when the Holly King dies. Darkness dies in order to give way to Light. The Oak king defeats Holly king! This is why this time of year is a celebration of procreation and why the gods were mating along with the humans during this time. This is a time of sex, and the life bringing energies associated with it. In ancient times, people were not allowed to marry until June. If anyone is questioning why the Holly king or the Dark Lord, passes during this time think to the opposite holiday when it is the other way around during Samhain or Hallowe’en.
Litha or the Summer Solstice (June 23rd) : Hooray! The Oak king reigns supreme and we celebrate the Oak King or the Bright Lord with bonfires. Long live the King! Today is the longest day of the year. People in the Northern regions celebrate the light and brightness of summer. As we celebrate the light and creation, many Pagans forget that on this day the Dark Lord or the Holly King is reborn. Many do not honour what he can bring us on this day. One must think forward to Yule and keep this in mind when we discuss the Summer Solstice as a day of growth and fertility. One must look to the subsequent holiday to see what it brings to us.
Lammas (Aug 1st) : This is the day, which is opposite to Imbolc where we celebrate the anticipation of the Light. Here we celebrate the first harvest. What is this, other than the Holly King’s first victory by the killing off of the crops for the first harvest? The Holly King strikes his first blow to the Oak King’s reign. We take the crops of the season in this, what can be termed as, a mini-death. We still bask in the warmth of the Oak King’s summer but things must die and we feast on what has died!
Autumn Equinox (September 23rd) : This is the celebration of Light and Dark being in harmony once again. The Darkness does not conquer Light but the Darkness is getting stronger. This is a time of thanksgiving as the Light does start giving way to the darkness and we start reaping the rewards of a dying Earth. The Oak King’s light is starting to give way. He has trouble hanging on. We give thanks to the Oak King for all he has given us. How many of us give the Holly King or the Dark Lord thanks for the abundance he brings us through the Oak King’s flesh?
Samhain (October 31st) : the Final Harvest or Hallowe’en. Many people realize that this is the Oak King’s death. However, many celebrate his death and rebirth. This is not his rebirth. He is dead until the Winter Solstice! This is a time for darkness to reign. The days get shorter and the nights grow longer. This is at time for us to withdraw and hide in solitude. This is why the “holiday season” can be very difficult for many to endure as we start celebrations before the Winter Solstice. At this point the Oak King, and all light, is dead and we must retreat to the Holly King’s realm, underworld, to be reborn. How can a corpse decompose when someone is pumping embalming fluid into you during this time?
Winter Solstice (December 21st) : the rebirth of the Sun or the Oak King. On this day the light is reborn and we celebrate the renewal of the light of the year. Oops! Are we not forgetting someone? Why do we deck the halls with boughs of Holly? This day is the Holly King’s day - the Dark Lord reigns. He is the god of transformation and one who brings us to birth new ways. Why do you think we make “New Year’s Resolutions”? We want to shed our old ways and give way to the new! The Christians celebrate the birth of the Son who in more ancient times was the Sun or Son (Mithras, the Sun God, son of the good god, Ahuru-Mazda) as it was the same concept. This is a discussion on its own but nevertheless it is the same concept. Astrologically, Saturn rules this time. Saturn rules Capricorn, which is the sign that starts at the Winter solstice and where celebrations with food, gift exchanges happened during the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. The masters would serve the servants in a celebration of role reversals. Nevertheless, this was a celebration of abundance and renewal.
Imbolc (Feb 2nd) : This day has been secularised into “Groundhog Day” when the groundhog tells us when winter ends. Originally, it was the day of the Goddess Brigit, later Christianised into St. Brigit. This a time when Darkness still rules but the light is coming into power and it is celebrated by the celebration of candles, which was Christianised into Candlemas. The darkness or the Holly King still rules but the Oak King or light is growing in power. In Pagan, celebrations the sacramental wine is replaced with honey and milk.
As one can simply see, the struggle of the Oak and Holly King is that light and dark and the life and death is more solar than some arbitrary day. Many Christian holidays have come to be associated with more ancient Pagan holidays such as St. Brigit’s Day and St. John the Baptist day (Summer Solstice) but in the end they are no more than solar celebrations.
Light-Dark not Good-Evil: One concept that must be kept in mind is that the struggle of light versus dark is not one of good versus evil. In the Pagan mindset, the struggle of light and dark is of one of birth and regeneration. Like the harvest, one thing that grows will die and what dies will grow again. It is about how we choose to grow and die and how we choose to be reborn. As the sun is reborn on the Winter Solstice day, we too are reborn. As the darkness reborn on the Summer Solstice day, we too start to die on that day. It is cycle that we live from year to year. Death is not bad - it is just an opportunity to be reborn. Do we die forever? No! We are reborn with the light, in one way or another.
Copyright: Franco Minatel 2011
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Author's Profile: To learn more about Franco - Click HERE
Bio: Energy Worker, Astrologer, Tarot and Rune Reader, Numerologist, Bucket Reader. Professional Engineer. Runner. Musician...basically a Renaissance Man.
Other Articles: Franco has posted 3 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Franco... (Yes! I have opted to receive invites to Pagan events, groups, and commercial sales)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2018 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).