Holly King: A Cure for the Holidaze


Normally it is around this time of year, that I begin noticing again how much I am out of touch with popular culture. Just as everyone else starts gearing up for shopping, parties and decorating, I instead start shedding, nesting and turning inwards.

Indigenous Europeans celebrated the Winter solstice for centuries as a festival of lights. Christmas lights and trees share this pagan heritage. The Oak King is victorious over the Holly King during the longest night and the Sun begins to slowly to take back its domain over the night. Light is reborn, and the wheel of the year turns toward spring.

But until the solstice, the Holly King rules. The Holly King symbolizes withdrawal, reflection and rest. Mammals especially begin their hibernation in northern latitudes and nature herself slows down and falls into a deep sleep. The birds that remain fight over scraps, while the squirrels become even more hectic in their hoarding. Any frantic activity in nature is toward picking the bones of the final harvest.

The harvest festivals are now only distant memories, and what is consumed are the bounty that cannot keep over the long winter. Windows, doorways, and all openings into home and hearth are girded to withstand winter’s storms. And the heavy blankets and clothing are brought down for inspection and repair. The work moves inward, and supplies are set aside for winter’s projects such as knitting, weaving, spinning and tool repair.

Our entire human history, our mammalian ancestry and nature itself pushes us to slow down, turn inward and reflect. And what do we do? We go mad with shopping, eating, drinking, and parties. We travel long distances to be with families yes, but we drive ourselves doggedly to buy, buy and buy as if there is no tomorrow. We consume what serves us better to be save. We buy ready made what would serve us better to create. And we put up lights all over our homes sending heat and light out, instead of conserving the energy for warming and illuminating our homes internally.

We do not turn inward until New Years, after the Oak King has reawakened. The Oak King symbolizes expansion and growth. And maybe it is appropriate to examine areas in need of growth, i.e. New Years resolutions. But the Oak King does not reach his zenith till Beltane, May 1st. So although the Oak King is victorious, we are still within the domain of the receding Holly King.

Christmas is notable for another cultural theme as well, holiday depression. More people attempt suicide during the Christmas holidays, than at any other time of year. There are many theories as to why this is so including Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The diminishing light of winter causes many sensitive folks to begin a descent cycle energetically just as everyone else around them begins to rev up.

What would happen if we celebrated the season in tune with the signs of nature all around us? What if we all slowed down, turned inward and fortified home and hearth? What if we as a culture moved the shopping and decorating back toward harvest time where it fits the hoarding and exhilaration of autumn, and let winter become a time of rest and reflection. Maybe folks with SAD and others who begin descending into the underworld would not feel so out of step. Maybe we all could begin to satisfy our very human needs for withdrawal. All hail the Holly King!

The legend of The Oak King and the Holly King

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Sat, 12/10/2005 - 1:23pm.

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Recent comments

  • Nephthys (not verified)

    I've been with Firefly for a number of years, I recently left my position at The Firefly Community to pursue other dreams but to be clear how much I was involved before I address the statements made, I was a teacher, Priestess, member of the Inner Circle of the Council of Elders, Course Contributor, Clergy, Delegate and Divination reader so I was quite involved with Firefly on many levels.

    I am offended by your statement that Firefly is cultish. Given my involvement as listed above I can safely say that Firefly members are not cultish in behaviour nor is Firefly cultish in of itself. I am no longer involved with Firefly in any strong capacity other than that of a student so I can also safely say this is not coming from a blind faith position. I will be the first to admit that part of the reason I left Firefly was because I did not agree with some of the changes Lady Iris intended to make, that being said, I don't support the idea that abuse should be turned into a political statement.

    I don't know Sean and I am not close to Lady Iris (I live in a different country) and have not commented on the situation with her marriage but some of his behaviours are reprehensible. If a President did this he would be impeached and booted so I fail to see why it should be ignored and relegated to 'personal marital issues' when behaviour like this is indicative of larger psychological issues. If Sean Bennett is allowed to use and abuse women in this fashion, eventually he would work his way through the single ladies in the OHF and what would you be left with?

    2 years 3 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I for one have been pondering this question. Iris did highlight a valuable point - how are checks and balances established to prevent potential abuse and to air concerns. These are hard lessons that groups need to learn.

    Without denying people their agency, how do you set up a system that will prevent abuse by other members? How far does a group go to ensure the mental and emotional safety of the adult members?

    For example, I know with my disability (brain injury), I would deeply resent being told that the group is looking out for my best interests. It would seem to be paternalistic on the group's part to assume that I cannot fend for myself. But because of my disability, I can be easy prey for a con-artist. How do you solve a dilemma like that? Can this be encoded or is this sort of thing too nebulous to pin down?

    2 years 4 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I have a traumatic brain injury.

    That being said, I got caught in the cross-fire in the Firefly Campaign, since I did not get with the program - i.e. Firemoon was abused by a sexual predator, who for the sake of the community had to be removed. I was shocked at how this mantra was repeated over and over everywhere it could be. I was shocked at how the Firefly folks did not identify themselves as they sought to achieve their goals. It left a poor taste about Firefly in my mouth since I started to regard them as "cultish", incapable of independent thought or discussion. Also it disturbed me how the Firefly folks who had nothing to do with DC, carried water in the campaign as well.

    Since I had lot of free time, I researched the consistent posters and everything I could find, and an disturbing picture arose. The one you described of a one-sided campaign to achieve a stated end, without proper identification or perspective.

    As for the brain injury - I got raked over the coals for making light of the issue from an avowed healer, who thought my injury was a ruse. That scared me into thinking that perhaps my impression of the "cultishness" of the Firefly group was true. (I know cult is a loaded word, but I cannot think of the word that would indicate a group of people, emotionally inflamed with one mission in mind, and not allowing any dissent.)

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Kali Firemoon (not verified)

    Katrina,

    I am so sorry that we have not met yet since it so obvious from your comments that you are a close personal friend of Iris’s and know all there is to know about the situation from a front row seat. I mean, after all, one who has seen a woman four months pregnant, losing weight and physically appearing to not be pregnant would of course understand the emotional, and yes, physical stress she was under. But of course, since you were there I don’t need to remind you of that. So lets move on to the rest of the story, you know where her husband chose to have unprotected sex with someone else, who I am sure was a complete virgin and posed no risk to mother or child, and then husband went home to engage in carnal activities with his wife, confident that his unborn child was never at risk. Yes, I am sure that all of your female students understand why you are firmly in the husband’s court. After all, it’s always the woman’s fault when marriages go bad. Or at least that is what I seem to glean from your article. Yes, I am Firefly, and I was one of the one’s chosen to help this woman after she was victimized by this predator who seems to have persuaded the pagan community that it is acceptable to treat not one, not two but at last count four woman as though they were simply a means to his end. And BTW I know she attempted to alert the community to her situation and apparently no one felt it worth even a cursory investigation. Oh yes, one more example of us not wanting to rock any one’s boat. I will tell you that in response to her story, several other pagan women have come forward with similar stories of abuse reported to the male members of a community met with similar disdain and an obvious desire to hide this type of behavior. Do I believe it happened this time, yes; do I believe that this community is willing, no matter the cost, to hide this type of behavior, yes. No one wants to call attention to the pagan community because we already have an undeserved stigma. But that does not mean we should allow behavior none of us condone simply because we are afraid of controversy. If one of us needs be sanctioned, then we either stand and sanction or accept the stigma so many would place upon us. We need to “police” our own. When four and probably five women come forth and tell the same story of predatory behavior against women we either act or fold the tents and go home. So I suggest you talk to all of them before you post any more pontifications. I also realize you can never post this but we both know you will have read it.

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Cara Schulz (not verified)

    Hello Katrina,
    Although we know one another, mostly online but also when we met at Sacred Harvest Festival, for your readers let me note that I'm the Managing Editor of PNC-News and the Co-Editor of PNC-Minnesota. I was the primary author of the PNC-News statement that you are writing about.

    The persons who contacted me asking when PNC would cover this were not Firefly members. Most were not local to DC, but were Pagans and polytheists in other parts of the country who had donated to the Pagan community center in DC and naturally had an interest in it. Why would they contact me? Because I'm the Managing Editor and people often contact me to ask if PNC is covering a story or to request that we cover a story. That's how we get many of our articles - through our readers.

    As for why PNC-News put two different situations in one statement, it's because they are related in nature and both needed to be addressed promptly.

    If anyone has any questions, we encourage them to contact us and ask them.

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Kat, Emralde (not verified)

    Thank you for this perspective. I very much appreciate the voice of the elders as I struggle with my own (not-voiced) feelings about this situation and its outcome.

    2 years 6 weeks ago