So, I am super late in posting this latest post in my Magic of Trees series. The month of Holly (according to modern interpretations of a Celtic Tree Calendar) begins on 8th July and carries on through until 4th August, so we are already halfway through the month.
However, I hope you will forgive me, as these posts are far more about the special nature and qualities of the trees that can enhance our lives throughout the year, rather than only during their individual months. I like to think of the Celtic Tree Calendar as being more about helping me to focus on learning more about the trees than specifying times in which to connect with them.
So, without further ado, let’s learn about the Holly.
The Holly is perhaps one of our most easily recognised trees, with its spiky leaves and bright red berries that have become an essential part of our Christmas (or Yule) decorations. But did you know that it is only the female trees that have the bright red berries, and that Holly flowers in June when the leaves are soft – it is only during the colder months when they become so tough and sharp!
Holly has most obviously been used throughout the years as an effective boundary marker, as seen by its popularity in hedges. But the wood itself has also been used for carving, veneers, and inlay. It is a dense white wood, however it takes a stain well and is often dyed black and known as “English Ebony”.
The dried leaves of the Holly are sometimes made into a tea or concoction that can help clear the body of things like colds and catarrh. The berries themselves are poisonous and cause the body to “purge”, so have been used to help clear the body of unwanted waste or toxins. However, as with all healing such as this, Holly should never be used without professional advice and support – this is especially important when using something as potent as Holly!
The Bach Flower Remedy of Holly is considered to be of great use in bringing withheld emotions to the surface and releasing them, further bringing this idea of “purging excess toxins” into play.
Folklore and Legend
There is so much folklore and legend connected to the Holly that it is hard to know where to begin! Yet despite the many varied traditions associated with Holly, there seem to be some very clear patterns between them all.
In the Pagan Wheel of the Year, the two turning points of the year are the Midsummer Solstice (longest day) and Midwinter Solstice (longest night). Within this tradition there are several myths that associate the Oak with the Sky God, who is most powerful through the Summer months, and the Holly with the Earth God (or Goddess), who is most powerful during the darker Winter months when everything hunkers down to hibernate. So it is perhaps unsurprising that Holly became such a popular part of celebrations at this time of the year.
Within medieval Christianity a connection between the Oak and the Holly was also drawn, although this time the Oak was associated with John the Baptist and the Holly with Jesus. In fact the word Holly derives from the Anglo-Saxon holegn and Old High German hulis, both of which meanin “holy”. With such a Divine connection being made with the Holly, is is no wonder that it became an important symbol in Christian celebrations too, and it is common to find Holly trees in church graveyards today.
Holly has always been associated with great strength, especially in times of adversity. Just think about how bright its leaves and berries look when surrounded by the depths of Winter – it continues to feed life and protect itself (and the boundaries it may form) without fail. What a great symbol for us all.
Where and How to Find Holly
I think we all know what Holly looks like (although there are numerous different varieties to look out for). You can generally find it in hedgerows and woodland areas, however it is also popular in local parks too.
To find out more about the Holly, including what it looks like and where to find it, visit The Woodland Trust.
Want to know more?
To find out more about the folklore and legends connected to Oak, check out The Goddess Tree.
Disclaimer: Affiliate links have been used in this post in order to help fund the development and growth of Spirit Kid Network.