Holly – Endurance
Genus: Ilex – Family: Aquifoliaceae
Holly brings life and creativity during difficult and challenging times. As an evergreen, holly reminds us of our inner strength and endurance so we may achieve our goals and make them real.
In Celtic lore, the Holly King versus the Oak King was a metaphor for the changing of the seasons. The evergreen holly symbolized the enduring nature of life during the dark days of winter, while the deciduous oak symbolized the fullness of life during the light-filled days of summer. When the oak dropped its leaves in fall, the evergreen leaves of holly became symbols of hope for continued life. English Ivy was considered Queen to the Holly King. On the Winter Solstice girls dressed in ivy and boys in holly to symbolize how nature came together to create new life. The ancient Romans saw holly as the sacred plant of Saturn (Roman god of harvest). Sprigs of holly were given as gifts during the festival of Saturnalia leading up to the Winter Solstice.
In ancient Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated on December 25th to honor the birth of the “Sun” or Sol Invictus. By 354 CE the Winter Solstice became associated with the birth of the “Son” as Jesus. As Christianity spread throughout Europe the old Celtic and Roman traditions endured. Holly became known as “Christ’s Thorn” its prickly leaves represented Jesus’s crown, while its red berries were his blood. The 1800’s British Christmas carol The Holly and the Ivy weaves these stories together, with Jesus as the holly and the Virgin Mary as the ivy. Holly was the most famous choice for traditional Christmas decorations as seen in the opening line of the 1860’s Welsh song Deck the Halls… with boughs of holly.
In popular culture, Harry Potter’s wand is made of holly to help him on his spiritual quest, this is based on the idea that druids wore holly in their hair to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
The genus name ilex was originally the Latin name for evergreen oak, Quercus ilex, also known as holm (holly) oak. This interrelationship of holly and oak was based on the similar shape of their leaves and the fact that they share the same habitat. Unlike evergreen oaks, holly trees produce white blossoms in summer and red berries in winter. Holly is dioecious, meaning there are male and female trees. Both produce white blossoms but only the female tree produces the iconic red berries. The contrast of the red berries against the waxy evergreen leaves became symbols of endurance. European holly, ilex aquifolium is a rugged species native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. Holly is a spirit of prosperity and focused strength.
Message: Holly reminds us to believe in ourselves and to connect with our inner strength as we move through difficult times in our life. By knowing that everything eventually comes full-circle we can see the potential that lies ahead. This is a time of positive action and endurance that will actually help us achieve a long-term goal.
Challenge: Being stuck in a rut or seeking quick fixes that deplete our resources, which make us bitter, frustrated or selfish.
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