I’ve thought some on the Oak and the Holly Kings, quasi-mythological figures within parts of modern Pagan Witchcraft, figures that may in fact not be so old and have more to do with Robert Graves than ancient times, but figures with poetic meaning nonetheless.
The popular modern stories told of the Oak and Holly Kings have them as rivals for the hand of the Goddess, defeating each other at the Solstices, the Holly King gaining ascendency at Summer Solstice, the Oak King at mid Winter. For some this works, but it has never resonated for me. I can understand them as faces of the Horned God, but the endless rivalry, battle, death and rebirth leaves me queasily unmoved. I will quietly beg to differ.
The most striking thing for me is of course that Oak is deciduous, while Holly is evergreen. The Oak does appear to die and revive, while the Holly remains constant. While the Oak goes through the cycle of manifest becoming and decline and re-becoming, the Holly for me represents that which is not born and does not die.
I see these two as brothers, looking into each other’s eyes, and I cannot tell which is dying and which is living, for in the richness of life is the process of ripening and transformation that gives way to the gateway of death, while in the eternal otherworld that we associate with death is found the infinite abundance of shining life.
These two brothers entwine with each other in the single reality of Life. To realize one in the other is one of our mysteries.
Not battle, but astounding love.
photo credit: Tom Murphy VII