The Holly King | A Celtic History of the Pagan Holiday Yule – The Devil & The Dame

The Holly King | A Celtic History of the Pagan Holiday Yule

A Celtic History

Before Coca-Cola created the Jolly Old Man in a Red Suit, there was a more pagan-esque picture of an elder man with a beard usually in green or blue garb with holly in his hair. This older Claus is the Holly King, the God of the Waning year.
His given name is Arawn. He comes from Annwn, also called the Otherworld in Welsh Mythology. Arawn is a very prominent King in this world from leading men into battles over stolen dogs, deer, and birds, to a voyage by King Arthur into Annwn to rescue a prisoner and take a cauldron. However, for this particular post, we will concentrate on his roll in Yule and his battle with the Oak King, his twin.
Arawn, the Holly King, and Hafgan, the Oak King are forever engaged in this battle of darkness over light, but it is well understood that both are necessary. The darkness brings an end to life, but also brings us closer. We have it well documented that more babies are born in the winter months than summer, so it's quite possible they also saw this trend. At the time of Midsummer, the Holly King would wake from his great rest and start to gain strength, thus leading to the death of the Oak King at Samhain. A rather common and interesting theme seen in one particular faith. Much like Jesus, the "Sun" of God, the Sun God, The Oak King, also was born at Yule and then rose from his death at Ostra.

Crossing Hairs

We also see yet another reference to a Wild Hunt, but in the Celtic tradition it is more a force of good to chase away the evil than it is anything to do with ancestors or death. A very striking difference from the Germanic Tribes. It does, however, still involve wolves, but more wolf like hunting hounds being lead by the great Holly King in a crown of antlers.

A Forgotten Goddess

He is also referenced along side Cailleach, or the Queen of Winter, who also has a twin, or double aspect, none other than Brighde. Cailleach goes and frosts the earth and then turns to stone at Bealltainn (Beltane). Though lesser known, she is still a rather interesting character in this epic and has a rich history in the same story.

© 2016, Copyright The Dame and The Devil Business Blog - Writer Shannon Hinojos

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