Tadhg’s Ephemera: The New Month Of The Holly Tree [8 July – 4 August]

20170706 THE CELTIC MONTH OF THE HOLLY TREE

This Friday is the last day of the Celtic month of the Oak, and Saturday, 8 July is the start of a new month – but remember the ancient Druids and Celts, and many other ancient peoples, too, started their new day in the evening. So, you can celebrate the new month this coming Friday evening if you wish, or Saturday evening.

The upcoming new month is the Celtic and Druid month of the Holly, and it’s a wonderful month.

About The Tree

Common Name: Holly
Scientific Name: Ilex aquifolium
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Miscellaneous Information: The name ‘holy’, which probably derived from the Prot-Indo-European language for ‘prickly’, came to us through the Old Norse word ‘hulfr’. In German it’s hulst, French it’s houx, and Welsh as celyn.

Mature trees, can grow up to 15m and live for about three hundred years. The bark is smooth and thin with numerous small, brown ‘warts’, and the stems are dark brown. Its leaves are dark green, glossy and oval in shape, with younger plants have spiky leaves.

The holly is dioecious: male and female flowers occur on different trees. Flowers are white with four petals. Look out for its bright red berries and shiny, leathery leaves that usually have spiny prickles on the edges.

Love is like the wild rose-briar;
Friendship like the holly tree,
The holly is dark when the rose briar blooms,
But which will bloom most constantly?

(Emily Bronte)

The tree is native in the UK and across Europe, north Africa and western Asia. It is commonly found in woodland, scrub and hedgerows, and especially in oak and beech woodland.

Holly provides dense cover and good nesting opportunities for birds, and its dry leaf litter is used by hedgehogs and other small mammals for hibernation.

The berries are a vital source of food for birds in winter, and are also eaten by small mammals such as wood mice and dormice.

Holly wood is the whitest of all woods, and is very heavy, hard and fine grained. It can be stained and polished, and is used, sometimes, to make furniture or used in engraving work. It is also commonly used to make walking-sticks. Holly wood also makes good kindling, and burns with a strong heat.

Mythology And Symbolism

For centuries, holly branches have been used to decorate homes, especially in winter. In the Christian tradition the bright red berries represented the blood of Christ, and was a reminder at Christmastime of the Christ’s impending crucifixion and that new life springs from that.

The Holly and the Ivy
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly wears the crown.

(Traditional carol)

For ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids, the tree was also seen as a fertility symbol and a charm against witches, goblins and the devil. It was thought by many to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree.

It is said the oak tree attracts lightning, but the holly tree repels lightning, and so it was often planted around homes for protection from lightning strikes, and for this reason it is viewed as a symbol for protection. But, please don’t shelter under one, nor any tree, in lightning storm!

Interestingly, science has actually discovered the distinct leaf-shape of the holly acts as a natural repellent for lightning’s electricity, allegedly, making the holly’s protective significance more than just lore, perhaps.

I’ll bid the hyacinth to blow,
I’ll teach my grottos green to be;
And sing my true love, all below
the holly bower and myrtle tree.

(Thomas Campbell)

As the ‘ruler’ of winter, the holly is also associated with dreams and the subconscious. Druids would often invoke the holly energy for assistance in dream work.

In Celtic mythology the Holly King was said to rule over the half of the year from the summer to the winter solstice, at which time the Oak King defeated the Holly King to rule for the time until the summer solstice again.

In heraldry, the holly represents truth.

Celebrating The Month Of Holly

However you would normally celebrate a new Celtic month, it would be a good idea, perhaps, to:

  • spend some time contemplating on a holly twig, if you’re able to buy some, or print out a photo from the internet of holly, and have that on your table near a candle, and
  • think about the various associations that holly has: fertility, protection, the blood of the Christ, and what this means to you and others – always good to know what others believe, even if you have a deep-seated belief, and
  • perhaps use some of the quotes above in your time of celebration (which can be incorporated into a meal or similar, or token meal), but make it a good time of celebration as we move into a new month, a new start.

And, there’s also a full moon too, this weekend, so that is also something that can be incorporated into your new month celebration – but more about the upcoming new moon, tomorrow.

Blessings, Tadhg

 

 

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