The Winter Solstice, Yule, and the Holly King and Oak King

holly and the oak king

A Turning Point

The winter solstice, also known as Yule, is the shortest day and longest night of the year. It marks the turning point of the sun, when it begins to grow stronger and brighter after a period of darkness and decline. For many pagans, it is a time of celebration, renewal, and hope. Here we see The Winter Solstice Yule and the Holly King and Oak King and their roles.

One of the legends associated with the winter solstice is the story of the Holly King and the Oak King. These two figures represent the cycles of nature, the seasons, and the balance of light and dark. They are often seen as aspects of the Horned God, a deity of fertility, nature, and life force.

Who are the Holly King and the Oak King?

The Holly King and the Oak King are brothers who rule over different halves of the year. The Holly King is the lord of winter, darkness, and decay. He wears a crown of holly and drives a chariot pulled by eight stags. The Oak King is associated with evergreens, mistletoe, and the waning moon. He symbolizes death, rebirth, and transformation.

The Oak King is the lord of summer, light, and growth. The oak King dons a crown of oak leaves and drives a chariot pulled by eight horses. He is associated with greenery, flowers, and the waxing moon. He symbolizes life, vitality, and abundance.

When do they fight and why?

holly and oak fight

The Holly King and the Oak King fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the winter solstice, or Yule, the Oak King conquers the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the summer solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him. In this way, they ensure that there is always a balance of light and dark, cold and warmth, death and life in nature.

Some traditions believe that the battles take place at the equinoxes instead of the solstices. In this case, the Oak King is at his strongest during Midsummer, or Litha, and the Holly King is dominant during Yule. This makes more sense from an agricultural perspective, as it reflects the peak and decline of crop growth.

What is their significance for us today?

The legend of the Holly King and the Oak King can teach us many lessons about ourselves and our relationship with nature. They remind us that everything is cyclical, that nothing lasts forever, and that change is inevitable. They also show us that opposites are complementary, that there is beauty in both light and dark, and that we need both to thrive.

By honoring the Holly King and the Oak King at their respective times of power, we can align ourselves with their energies and qualities. We can celebrate their victories and mourn their defeats. We can also reflect on how we can embody their virtues in our own lives.

For example, at Yule, we can honor the Holly King by:

  • Decorating our homes with holly, mistletoe, evergreens, candles, and other symbols of winter
  • Giving gifts to our loved ones as a gesture of generosity and gratitude
  • Meditating on our inner light and how we can share it with others
  • Practicing acts of kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others
  • Releasing what no longer serves us and making space for new beginnings

At Litha or Midsummer (depending on your tradition), we can honor the Oak King by:

  • Decorating our homes with oak leaves, flowers, fruits, sun symbols, and other symbols of summer
  • Giving thanks for the abundance and blessings in our lives
  • Meditating on our inner fire and how we can use it to create positive change
  • Practicing acts of creativity and passion towards ourselves and others
  • Celebrating our achievements and setting new goals for ourselves

The Holly King and the Oak King are more than just mythical figures. They are archetypes that live within us and around us. They are expressions of nature’s wisdom and power. By connecting with them throughout the year, we can deepen our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.