Women, Healing & Lore: Holly

Holly

Since today’s Ancient Calendar marks the season of the Holly King, (Read Here), I thought, what could be a better opportunity than right here and now to delve deeper into the folk medicine and lore of something we are all somewhat familiar with.

Holly actually has quite a few nicknames. For the Celtic Tree Month, we know it by Tinne, but it is also called, Christ’s Thorn, Bat’s Wings, Holm Chaste, Hulver Bush, Aquifolius and Hulm. It’s proper name would be quite the tongue twister, Ilex aquifolium or I. Opaca.

Here in the mountains, we know it as Holly and it’s something that stretches as far as landscaping to the table and wreaths inside our homes. And while today, most of us are oblivious to it’s true history or purpose, not so long ago, those dead and gone from these mountains, knew it all quite well.

While present day Pagans might plant Holly by the front door for protection, it wasn’t much different in times of old. Not only did people believe that Holy warded off evil spirits but they also believed it kept them safe from lightning, dark sorcery and poison.

People used to make something called, Holly Water. Was this the origins of “Holy Water”? They would make Holly Water by infusing water with Holly. This was used to protect babies, especially when they were first born, by sprinkling a few drops of the water upon their heads, much like baptism.

Holly was deemed so powerful, when thrown at wild animals, people believed it made them lie down and grow silent.

It was carried by people for luck – especially by men– and hung around the home at Yule for an extra dose of something special.

According to, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Herbs, there was even a special ritual surrounding Holly. It had to be done on a Friday after Midnight, but if someone gathered nine Holly Leaves (from a smooth plant) and wrapped them in a white cloth created nine knots, then they could sleep with it under their pillow– making their dreams come true.

Medically, the leaves, berries and bark is used. The berries are actually harmful to people. Animals, however, love the Holly Bush. Deer eat them during winter. Birds feast on the berries and for those who keep rabbits, a stick placed in a rabbit hut, will give them something to gnaw in order to restore their appetites. A tonic, if you will.

In olden times, Holly was used to treat smallpox, pleurisy, fevers, rheumatism, and catarrh. It’s leaves were used in tea and because of it’s tannins, it is known as a good blood purifier, diuretic and was also, highly revered as a diaphoetic (which made it good for fevers and such).

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Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: July 8: A New Celtic Tree Month Begins

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The Norse step in today with an observance for Sunna, their Goddess of the Sun. In many Germanic Traditions, she was called, Frau Sonne, and Sunday is actually named after her. (According to Ancient Germanic Calendars.)


Holly

The Celtic Tree month of Tinne begins today. Tinne, or Holly, rules over the Realm of Winter. We leave the Realm of Light (Oak/Duir) and begin to enter a darker half of the year.

Tinne begins July 8th and will last until August 4th. This is a time of protection, luck, and prophetic dreams. Bring a Holly Branch inside the home so that all the tree spirits know they are welcome. Plant Holly outside your home and the Holly King shall protect you from evil.

The Holly King and the Oak King are brothers– age old enemies of Light and Dark– neither wishing to fade so that the other may take the throne. But there is a respect there, of seasons and of rebirth, for as one leaves, they shall return again. Neither is ever gone for good.


Stay Tuned…

In honor of the Holly King, read Holly itself for the Column: Women, Healing and Lore.

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