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The Holly King

January 9th, 2012

Here is a wonderful post by Damh the Bard which he has very kindly shared from his fantastic Blog, which you can find here: 

I shall be as the Dark Holly King,

Darkness and cold in my cloak I will bring,

And on Winter’s nights to me you will sing,

Til the air around me starts changing,

And on the Noon of the Solstice I’ll give up my crown,

To the Light, and the mighty Oak King!

– Noon of the Solstice from Spirit of Albion

The Dark Lord, the Holly King, Arawn, Lord of Winter, a deity known by many names, one whose Zenith was marked at the Winter Solstice on the Longest night of the year, yet whose power and strength only seems to get stronger throughout these first few months of the Waxing Year. I have a deep and personal connection with the Oak King, Lord of Summer, but I have sadly not always felt that same connection with his darker brother. This is something I am addressing this year.

I remember playing a talk given by Professor Ronald Hutton on DruidCast where he said something like, “Pagan Gods are great, and full of hoof and horn, and sweat, and the men’s locker room, but which Pagan God would a parent take their sick child to for healing, or to offer love and comfort if that child had passed away?” Our Pagan Gods are wild, as is Paganism itself, but sometimes I feel that reflection, peace, calm, prayer, silence and love are too quickly labelled as ‘fluffy’. The irony is that, although Winter can be a harsh time of year, it’s also a time where the Earth appears to be hibernating, is calm, peaceful, and often silent. Of course there are storms, but there is also a stillness that is tangible. Walking through a woodland in late Autumn/Winter you can see deeper into it, I find the leaves underfoot comforting, and the oasis of the green of Holly and Yew remind me that although the God I know well is resting, or growing as a small child, I am still not alone, as the eyes of the Green Man’s face of evergreen is still watching me.

Whereas the Spring and Summer are times of bursting activity, it is the Autumn and Winter that give me these times of reflection. So although the Holly King’s face is thorny and tough, I feel it is to him I can go to in times of pain and hurt, for healing, for comfort. Less hoof and horn, and more a reminder that I am never truly alone, even in the darkest of times.

Damh the Bard

6 Responses to “The Holly King”

  1. Dear Damh,

    Thank you so very much for sharing your exquisite thoughts and experiences of the Dark Lord of Winter, our blessed Holly King! Whilst many of my Druid friends know me to be deeply devoted to Goddess, I also feel so kin and akin to Him, so intimately wedded to this Great God of the Greenwood.

    Walking amid the forests, where He, as you so aptly say, “still lingers”, gives me a wonderful sense of release, comfort and rest. In the same instance, a strength grows inside me; a sweet toughness – like the holly seed, that needs the cold to germinate.

    Following His call into the deep heart of Winter, He has led me to wonderful places, ones I was pulled to whilst purposely getting lost – an enchanting chapel to a beautiful Black Madonna, (you will find in no guidebook to sacred places in the Black Forest), beyond – the hill far above, crowned with its great Roman ruins, the layers below it, teeming with artefacts of a Celtic people, who in times earlier still, this wind-danced rising with its magnificent vista, called home.

    Warmer days, I know I shall welcome, but when the heat of the much later months to come is just too much to bear, I know he’ll bewaiting there – under the cool canopy of Summer leaves – present, ever present, as He is now in the silver woods of Winter.

    The kinship you have found with our DarkTwin and your beautiful words, speaking His Wisdom, as one who has truly met Him – and knows, have inspired me to share this poem below written in His honour.

    Many ‘Rest of Winter’ Blessings to you and to all,


    “The ultimate conquest of all will be through love and gentleness,
    and when we have sufficiently developed these two qualities
    nothing will be able to assail us,
    since we shall ever have compassion and not offer resistance.”

    Dr. Edward Bach
    (Speaking of Holly and the Holly King)

    Home To My Holly King
    (A Love Song to the Green Man, the Lord of Winter)

    I awaken with the prayer of your name on my lips,
    to the song of your voice in my soul
    Again sounds the love
    you made to my heart
    your en-chant-ment
    it rests on me whole

    To hold you
    in the chalice of my breast
    to feel you
    in the forest of our flesh
    to bless you
    with the hallowed light
    of the Moon,
    to thrill you with touch
    and with touch give you rest
    From Night’s holy stars
    spin your mantle of snow
    from their music so sweet
    weave your deep greeny dress

    Set your eyes of Yew upon me
    and upon yours mine shall nest
    Long on the wing, the birds of my heart
    in your dark leaves of Holly
    lay secure and are blest

    To be by your side, to lie in your arms
    No tempest deters me, no weather incurs me
    and ne’er shall I be late!
    On the altar of your love – to wholly lay my heart,
    at the centre of your mystic wood – my breath, my life, my fate!

    To your body blessed body my blessed body – fain entrust
    To the germinating, unborn seed unseen – my dreams – all, they must
    In your spirit – clearest mirror – my transformation
    and claim me
    and change me

    In the Spirit-Depths of your Peace
    I die
    To my heart’s Highest Gladness

    to walk,
    to dance,
    to fly

    Wand of Tinne,*
    Phoneix feather within

    Ever Bright

    the World

    Gabriella Gabrielle
    October 2007 and January 2012

    * The Ogham name for ‘Holly’
    Irish pronunciation for ‘Tinne’ = ‘Chin-yuh’ or ‘Tyin-uh’

  2. Beautiful as always Damh … I always like to remember the activity that is still going on in the quiet times, the bulb resting in the soil, so full of promise, holding all that potential ….as you know we all experience our Winters, with the birth of Spring just awaiting us and allowing us to once again give birth to hope and fruition … at times I use the wheel of the year as a metaphore in my counselling sessions as it is so reflective of what we experience in life …
    Looking forward once again to meeting with you in Melbourne ….
    Phillip … wondering if you will ever ‘pop over’ to Melbourne to run some tarot classes …..
    With many blessings to both of you …. Lynne … OBOD and Melbourne Grove member ….

    • Hi Lynne,
      I haven’t been to Australia for years but would love to…planning 2013 off (visiting 9 countries in 2012 so 2013 is a year of rest and writing!) But perhaps 2014? Many blessings, Philip

      • Fingers crossed for 2014 Philip …. I know our Grove would would welcome you with open arms .. many blessings … Lynne

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