*New Winter Holiday Series Content*
Dar Williams - Christians and The Pagans
The Holly King and The Oak king is a symbolic story about the constant battle and seasonal changes between light and dark. The dark half of the year vs the light half of the year. (Not dark as in evil and light as in good. But as in warmer months vs. Colder months) Perhaps this is why modern people still use Holly as Christmas Decorations today?
The Oak King rules the light half of the year, or spring and summer, and the Holly King rules the dark half of the year, or fall and winter. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year, from this point on the days get longer a few minutes at a time and presumbably warmer. The Winter Solstice is the night the Holly king gives up his crown and allows the Oak king to transition into the warmer months. Vice versa - The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. The sun wanes and days get shorter and longer. The Holly King takes over at this point until Yule or the Winter Solstice when the cycle starts over again.
Some say when the kings fight, the defeated one never really truly dies but instead merely withdraws for six months, some say to Caer Arianrhod, the Castle of the ever-turning Silver Wheel, which is also known as the Wheel of the Stars. This is the enchanted realm of the Goddess Arianrhod where the god must wait and learn before being born again. Arianrhod means "silver wheel" and the castle is the Aurora Borealis. She is the goddess of the astral skies and there she rules as goddess of reincarnation.*
Dahm The Bard - Noon of The Solstice
In the legends of some belief systems, the dates of these events are shifted; the battle takes place at the Equinoxes, so that the Oak King is at his strongest during Midsummer, or Litha, and the Holly King is dominant during Yule. From a folkloric and agricultural standpoint, this interpretation seems to make more sense.*
The Holly and Oak Kings are seen as symbolic personifications of the horned god as symbolized as the sun, who is said to be reborn at this time of year. Hence why this is a good time to recognize all the reborn gods at this time, Mithras, Osirus, Saturn, Sol Invictus (The Unconqured Sun)...and yes why the Christians chose December to celebrate the birth of Christ.
As the seasons change so too does the horned god go through changes.
In Modern Neo-Paganism, in one such Religion -- Wicca --- The Wiccan God is the Lord of the Greenwood, consort to the Lady of the Greenwood. Known also as Cernunnos, the Green Man, Herne the Hunter, and Lord of the Wild Hunt, he is a god of fertility, growth, death, and rebirth.
The Sun-God rules the seasons. At Yule, he is the new babe, the emodiment of innocence and joy. He represents the infancy of the returning light. At Imolg (Imbolc), his growth is celebrated, as the days are growing longer and light stronger. At Ostara, he is a green, flourishing youth whose eye is taken by the Maiden Goddess. On Beltane, he is the young man in love who takes the Goddess as his bride. Their consummated marriage is celebrated with maypoles and bonfires. At Midsummer, he comsummates his marriage in a union so complete that it becomes a death. He is mourned at Lammas, and at Mabon, he sleeps in the womb of the Goddess. At Samhain, he waits in the Shining Land to be reborn.*
The birth, maturation, consumating with the goddess, death, and rebirth at Yule/Solstice time of the horned god is synonymous with the cycles of the earth and the changing seasons from Winter into Spring into Summer into Fall and Back into Winter again. This is why for many Pagan Practioners the Yule - Solstice season is just as important to them as the Christmas season is important to Christians.
Don't forget to check out my older Winter Series Articles I wrote them between 2008 - 2010 and were archived on this blog in December 2013 from Myspace and Gather.com --- See This Blogs December 2013 Archive for them: The Pagan Heretics other Winter Holiday Essay Series Entries