This is the season when I begin to decorate my house with evergreens ready for the winter solstice and Christmas. I have just cut myrtle and bay and filled a lovely handmade bowl with it. Next week I will add holly to it. This year the holly trees are full of berries not apparently a sign of the harsh winter to come but the sign of a good summer before the winter starts.
I love walking at Selbourne amongst the beech trees and often growing in the shade cast by these large stately trees are holly bushes. Holly can grow into an eighty foot tree or grow in hedgerow as it will tolerate shade. Holly is an evergreen but is not self fertile and both male and female trees are needed to produce the berries. The holly produces tiny white flowers in May. In early summer the leaves are soft do not have spikes but by the Autumn the leaves have hardened and become prickly, perhaps, to protect it from browsing animals. By November the female tree will have developed its red berries.
In the Celtic Ogham Holly is the 8th tree and is symbolic of the life force evergreen and fruitful. It is the warrior king, male and strong. The holly is also a gentle tree the female red berries are associated with compassion and unconditional love. Holly wood is white, dense and strong. It was used by theCelts for the shafts of spears and for chariot shafts. Smaller pieces of the wood were carved or cut for clubs walking sticks, wands bowls, inlay and woodcuts. Holly will give direction and balance in spiritual or emotional turmoil or challenge. In Astrology it is placed at the cusp of Saturn and Mars and its raw energy will burn through deceit and injustice.
The holly tree was known as holm in pre-Christian England. This noble but gentle tree was planted near house and farms to repel poison, wild animal evil spirits and lightening strikes. It was also a tree that was supposed to be hated by witches. This spiritual warrior protects the natural world and should always be treated with respect, woodsmen were wary of cutting down a holly as fairies would be annoyed if it was mistreated and would seek revenge on the perpetrator. Beware how you dispose of holly brought in to the home over Christmas, it should be by buried. composted, or burnt!
There are many folk tales poems and stories about holly. In one of the Fianna folk tales , Fionn Mac Chal tells his son Oscar that:
"No fleshy heart was ever in my breast, but a heart of the Holly spike,
all over clad with steel.
Niall Mac Coitir
Fionn Mac Chal was a brave and fearless Celtic warrior of the Fianna, and eventually took over the leadership from Goll Mac Morna and transformed the Fianna into the legendary Warriors of Ireland. However, he was vunerable to the charms and magic of women.
In the tale of The Hags at the cave of Keshcorran. Three women sat in the cave knitting a yarn of holly on crooked holly needles. The women threaded the yarn across the cave entrance and all around the sides of the cave. Fionn comes across the hags and is taunted by them. Angered by their slurs and jibes he strides into the cave to confront them, as he crosses the yarn his strength leaves him. He is over powered by the women and tied and bound . Warriors from the Fianna rush into the cave to rescue Fionn but as they step across the threshold of the cave they also tumble down helpless and weak and at the mercy of the women. Only the giant, one eyed, Goll Mac Morna is able to kill the hags in a ferocious battle and release the warriors from their magic holly ties.
Far away from this time of the legendary heroes of Ireland holly is brought into houses at the winter Solstices and Christmas. It is used decorate our homes ready for the celebration of the returning of the light and the birth of Jesus. By having Holly in the house natures spirits may rest there out of the cold winter weather and bring blessings to all within. You may even be lucky enough to see a Fairy dancing in the candlelight amongst the holly sprigs.
And Reiki blessings and light for the New Year
Here is a short blog about the Yew