Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Hibernal Solstice and The Return of the Oak King

Celtic myth posits that the seasons are ruled by two kings, the Oak King and the Holly King, and that they battle each other for supremacy over the earth twice a year -- on the Summer and Winter (or Hibernal) Solstices. On the Summer Solstice the Oak King loses to the Holly King, and thus begins summer's long decline into autumn and its final end, as the Holly King solidifies his grasp over the Earth.

But on the Hibernal Solstice, which begins today, the Oak King wins back his supremacy from the Holly King, and rules for the next six months, from mid-winter till mid-summer, thus heralding the arrival of more daylight hours and the return of green, growing things. He's often depicted as the traditional Green Man, sold in catalogs for display on fences and in gardens. (The Holly King looks a bit like Santa).

Oak leaves in my garden, back in the autumn

A sculpture made by my MIL that hangs inside my house (she associated oak trees with her husband, my FIL, and it hangs below a photo of her)

My Green Man

Will you join me in welcoming the Oak King back to rule over the Earth? This year's Winter Solstice coincides with a full moon.

Read more about the Oak King and the Holly King here.


  1. Oh! I love this. I was looking for a myth by which to celebrate today that ignored religion (Baby Jesus) and commerce (Santa Claus). Thank you, Alison for providing it. I shall when it gets a bit lighter!) go outside and gather some oak and holly for a big bouquet.

  2. I still remember being in the middle of a rather nasty corporate takeover (on the losing side) and the woman leading the transition in my discipline told me: "well, at least the days are getting longer again." There might have been a double message there but I took it as encouragement at the time.

  3. Welcome back Oak King! Your MIL's sculpture is gorgeous. Happy Solstice, dear friend.

  4. Lovely post! I was not aware of the Oak and Holly King mythology.
    Yay for the solstice.

  5. Your MILs sculpture is beautiful-what a treasure to have. It is a challenge for me to embrace the beauty in the winter landscape but I've gotten better at it-I grew up in LA where winter was a non-event.I'm always happy to turn the solstice corner.

  6. Happy Solstice, Alison!
    From the information on that link, one sentence in particular jumped at me: "two sides of a whole. Neither could exist without the other". As I see it, not so much a battle but Harmony. Either way, from now on I'll look at my Green Man with a little more reverence.

  7. A wonderful legend. Long live the Oak King! Beautiful scarlet leaves.

  8. Fascinating! I wasn't familiar with the tale of the Oak King and the Holly King, so thank you for the enlightenment! I have to say I take great pleasure in the idea that they both go through this cyclical development because of the Great Mother whom they both aim to impress. Rinse and repeat!


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