Tuesday 5 December 2023

Holly Folklore from Rounding the Wheel of the Year

As many of us are starting to decorate our homes for Yule, the Winter Solstice or Christmas, here's a seasonal extract from my book Pagan Portals - Rounding the Wheel of the Year. It's about holly in folklore and nature:


Before Christmas trees, people brought holly into the home. Romans decorated their villas with it for Saturnalia, which was somewhat like modern Christmas. Magically, holly has protective powers, particularly if planted around your home, and brings good luck if you hang it inside at Yule. Put it in your bedroom to help your pleasant dreams come true, and put on your altar to boost the success of your spells. However, it was traditionally considered unlucky to bring holly into the house at any time other than midwinter. 

Rachel Patterson, in A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Herbs, writes: “The holly berry is symbolic of the life-giving blood of the Goddess.” I agree holly is a goddess tree, although many books on herbal magic list it as male. Actually, holly trees, or more accurately shrubs, can be male or female. Only female bushes have berries and they need to be close to a male bush for the flowers to be pollinated. If you have holly in your garden that never produces berries, it’s a male or a lonely female. The tale of the Holly King ruling over the half the year from midsummer to midwinter, then fighting with his rival the Oak King at Yule, who defeats him to lead us back into summer, is a relatively modern myth. It comes from Robert Graves’ The White Goddess, although he was inspired by older mythology of battling heroes.

Holly berries are poisonous, so don’t eat them, and make sure they’re out of reach of any pets.

You can find copies of Pagan Portals - Rounding the Wheel of the Year at Treadwell's bookshop in London, at online shops including Amazon and at my publisher Moon Books: https://www.collectiveinkbooks.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-portals-rounding-wheel-year 

On Tuesday 12 December I've giving an online talk on Magic for the Yuletide through The Last Tuesday Society. It starts at 7.30pm and tickets ·are from £5.82. You can find more details and book here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/the-viktor-wynd-museum-amp-the-last-tuesday-society-12203346619

(Note: I earn commission from advertisers for some links. This helps support my blog at no extra cost to those who read my posts.)

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