The tale of the Oak King and Holly King from Celtic mythology
The Summer Solstice is here – Sunday, June 20, 11:31 PM Eastern Time.
Time to ruminate on the Oak King and Holly King, because they are all about the turning of the year.
And because the are the foundation of my new Project Snowcap (working title).
The Holly King and Oak King are personifications of the winter and summer in various folklore and mythological traditions. The two kings engage in endless “battle” reflecting the seasonal cycles of the year: not only solar light and dark, but also crop renewal and growth. During warm days of Midsummer the Oak King is at the height of his strength; the Holly King regains power at the Autumn equinox, then his strength peaks during Midwinter, at which point the Oak King is reborn, regaining power at the Spring equinox, and perpetuating the succession.
From Patti Wigington over at Learn Religions:
In many Celtic-based traditions of neopaganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King conquers the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him. In the legends of some belief systems, the dates of these events are shifted; the battle takes place at the Equinoxes, so that the Oak King is at his strongest during Midsummer, or Litha, and the Holly King is dominant during Yule. From a folkloric and agricultural standpoint, this interpretation seems to make more sense.
I agree: the switch over occurs at the Equinoxes. Though in my version there’s not much real battling.
Nellie Cole has a nice piece on the duo. Which includes the robin and the wren.
And there’s an interesting story about the pair over at Patheos by Erica Baron – it’s about balance.
This Oak King / Holly King tale is the seed from which my new animated feature (Project Snowcap) story will spring. Check in on the progress of the process at Twig & Hermit.
And I am looking for Productions Partners – so if you think you might like to help, drop me an email.