Since the Summer Solstice, the Holly King has reigned over the half-year of waning light, yet on this night the renewed Oak King will return, and rule on his throne until it is time for him to step down for the reigning Holly King. And through the ages this dance shall repeat again, and then again and again.
Each year, we tell this story of cleansing and gratitude, of death and rebirth.
This is a story older than old, of a rivalry that has been repeated year after year, since ancient times and the dawn of myth.
The tales are told of two great kings, one dark, and one light, who twice a year, at Midsummer and Yule, engage in a heroic fight.
The Holly King, the darker one, rules the winter and the dimming sun.
While the King of Oak, who is vibrant and bright, reigns over summer and the sun’s growing light.
At Yule they battle in an inspiring scene and the victory always goes to the mighty Oak King.
But at Midsummer’s time, when the sun is at its peak, the Holly King will win as the Oak King grows weak.
And so it goes, year after year, and the story is told to all who can hear.
And we show our gratitude to the Holly King in winter when all must die and be reborn.
As the Holly King dies and the Oak King reigns, we honor the sacrifices that are made by ourselves and others. We honor death and the gloom of winter nights. In the starlight darkness we are given visions of a world that could be different. In the quiet of the midnight blue, as the white moon glistens with clarity beyond the stark black trees, we are shown that the old must die in order to make space for the new. We honor the coming New Year and the opportunities of renewal and rebirth within ourselves, within nature, and within the cosmos. We share our gratitude for the shining of the winter stars as the longer and warmer days draw near. And we sing our song of hope on this triumphant season as the Holly King steps aside and Oak King is renewed.
(I was asked to write this piece for a friend of mine who hosted this year's 2013 Yule ritual for our Circle. Pieces were taken from the book The Celtic Wheel of the Year: Celtic and Christian Seasonal Prayers by Tess Ward. The bulk of the poem was used from the blog The Raven and the Oak by Brenna Adaira.)