19 Days of Illuminated Darkness: Day Three


The Holly King and the Oak King

Each holds sway and hand of might
Upon the year’s Great Wheel.

In each domain one shall be King
As wax and wane of Light
Move within nature’s cyclic plan.

Solstice Kings, though brothers, they
in battle determine solar fate.

The Oak King and the Holly King are part of Celtic mythology, and are often seen as aspects of the Green Man. They are usually considered “twin gods,” or sometimes two aspects or manifestations of the same god, often the Horned God. The Oak King rules the Summer (and is sometimes called the “Summer King”) and the Holly King rules the Winter (and is thus called the “Winter King”). The God in this form acts as guardian and keeper of the natural world through its cycles of waxing and waning light. He ensures that all will be well and all will continue and be sustained.

The Oak holds fast
To growing light as
Holly brings shadow near.

The time between held
In equinox Gate and season’s turn
Tips finely calibrated scales.

The Oak King is usually celebrated at Yule and heralds the return of the Light, spring and new growth and the Holly King reigns supreme and is celebrated at Litha, as the Light begins to lessen in preparation for harvest and winter. A battle is enacted at those times and the victor of the new season takes his place as guardian. They are twin reflections of an inner polarity of Light and Dark and the battle that takes on the inner landscape as we move towards acknowledgement and embracing of our own Divine nature.

The Light holds fast
The Oak marks time
Flanked by strength
And sundial’s grace.

The Holly answers with response
A dance of calculated pace.

At sunset’s call, he strikes his final blow
As Oak in silent acquiescence bows
And bends to Summer Light’s repose.

The connection between the Summer and Winter Solstices is one that calls us from the sleep of stasis. The balance of equanimity is more of an illusion than a truth particularly in application towards spiritual growth and setting one’s foot on a path of devotion. It was not that long ago that we basked in the strength of the Sun- the Oak King having reached his peak and we savored that last day where there Sun would remain the longest before night crowded in. And, the battle ensued and Oak King fell to the hand of his brother the Holly King and the much needed rest and introspection soon to be acquired in the illuminated darkness of the waning year.

His brother hails triumphant
As Holly King and
Upon rooster’s call
Shall next arise.

The waning of the year begins
With Oak King’s necessary demise.

We now stand awaiting the return of light filled days and the promise of Spring’s growth. But we should not forget the healing that has taken place in these days of darkness. The lantern of the Hermit has been placed in our hand and we have had choice of remaining without its light of inspiration. Give pause to think on this as we eagerly await the Solstice and offer up the space to embrace the wisdom of the Holly King….

For what lay sleeping within
The growing splendor of Holly’s
Fertile embrace is the promise
Of Light’s return at the peak of
Winter’s darkened and snowy face.

And, once again the two shall meet
Oak strengthened by slumber’s rest.
The end of darkness near.

The Holly King, his energy spent
Shall relinquish crown as
Oak King reigns renewed.

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