Modern Pagan traditions have the Oak and Holly kings fighting at the summer and winter solstices. It’s a good excuse to evoke some mumming drama and get some chaps to hit each other with bits of wood, and as such is not without merit. But what of the oak and the holly?
Winter is certainly holly’s season. The deciduous trees shed their leaves a month or two ago, so the dark glossy hues of the holly stand out. Red holly berries can be one of the few bright things in a winter environment, still vivid even on gloomy days, and vibrant against backdrops of snow. Holly is certainly King at this time of year, but in practice he’s probably been King since Samhain.
The insanity of the holidays can drive anyone crazy. Getting gifts, arranging to visit with family, work parties, and more. It is a time of the year when you can lose track of the importance of the phase of the year we are in.
You can find any posting on what to do on Yule, how to decorate your house with all the associations, what food to cook and so on. I don’t do any of it. I find the holidays stressful and unbearable in most years.
Seasonal celebration themes are such a strong focus within the magical and pagans worldview that it can be difficult to see beyond them. I don’t mean to ignore the seasons instead what I am asking is, what is beyond the celebration seasonal cycle? The Seasons are an excellent place to start when you first begin your magical study but having started there it is important to remember that they are not the bee all and end of magical practice.
Rating: PI (Contains Politically Incorrect Language)
There's a whole genre of Minnesota jokes that begin: “Minnesota has two seasons: Winter and....” Winter and Road Repair. Winter and Winter-is-Coming. Occasionally there are variations: “...two seasons: Shovel and Swat.” Whatever one calls its partner, though, Winter is the central fact of existence here in Lake Country. Spring and Fall aren't really seasons in the North; they're occasional delightful visitors, all the more beloved for their poignantly brief stay. Our year really is a bi-seasonal one.
This would have been utterly familiar to the ancestors. The ancient Germanic speakers knew a two-season, Winter-Summer year: etymologically, the “windy” and “sunny” seasons respectively. The great holidays of Proto-Germanic culture were apparently Midwinter and Midsummer, associated even then—between 3000 and 4000 years ago—with the winter and summer sunsteads (solstices). We know that this goes back to the time before the Germanic languages branched off from one another because the terms are preserved in all surviving daughter languages.
I’m late with this post. I normally aim to blog in the first two days of the month, and in truth this time I nearly forgot. The 1st brought me a handfasting, the 2nd a political launch and as I swapped hastily between celebrant and press officer hats, the Druid blogger hat didn’t get a look in. I wear a lot of hats, so this kind of thing happens now and then.
When you have one identity defined by one thing you are doing, it’s much easier to steer the course of your life and pace yourself in line with the year. The more hats you have, the harder it is to keep an overview. I frequently end up running from one kind of job to another, so busy trying to be in the right headspace for the task in hand that I don’t pay as much attention as I might to the bigger picture. So here I am wondering how it got to be September already, and nearly missing a post.
While the Vanir are always present in the world around us, I personally tend to feel Them the most strongly in that liminal space when the seasons change: Nerthus when fall becomes winter, Freya when winter becomes spring, Frey when spring becomes summer... and Njord when summer becomes fall.
This is the time of year when depending on where you live, it's still warm enough to be comfortable, but the oppressive heat of summer starts to fade, and the rains come or will be coming soon. As the land mellows, I feel Njord's gift of serenity, water after fire, which will later wash color into the world.