The seasons have turned. Mid-winter is behind us, with all of the blissful pleasures of warmer days just ahead. This is the time to speak of the Oak King, and what we might learn from him as we grow into our best selves.
This is an old tale, and it’s been told many different ways. But all throughout the Emerald Isle, and the nearby lands, and the lands that aren’t as close but you could get there if you didn’t mind making a bit of a journey, and even further than that, the people know of the Oak King, and they know of his twin brother, the Holly King.
Now, the two Kings are twins. Twins are alike in many ways, but the Oak King and the Holly King have their differences. The Oak King is golden and fair. He rules over spring and summer’s ripest days; all beginnings fall under his jurisdiction. For plowing and planting and bringing forth children, the Oak King’s your guy. That’s why he’s honored and revered.
The Holly King is very different. His is the season of darkness, beginning when the fields are ready to harvest and lasting until the longest night. The Wild Hunt runs at his command; he minds the thin line that separates the living from the dead. Ironically, he’s a lot of fun at parties. For these reasons, he’s honored and revered.
Now that we’ve talked about how the twins are different, let’s look at how they’re alike. They’re both Gods, so that’s something, and it turns out, they both have the same taste in sweethearts. The Oak King and the Holly King are locked in an eternal battle to win the Goddess’ favor.
The Goddess is no fool. She lets them both win – each in their turn. The Oak King has been resting throughout the autumn and winter’s darkest days. At the moment of balance – when night and day each rule the earth to the same degree – the Oak King emerges from his repose, defeats his brother, and brings spring to the land.
Celebrating the Oak King
The story of the Oak King is inextricably linked with the story of the Holly King. Celebrating one requires involving the other, as you can’t have light without darkness. This balancing aspect is key to many Celtic myths, as well as other philosophies from around the world: the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang articulates this universal experience another way.
That being said, you can expect some celebrations of the Oak King to involve mock battles, evoking his struggle with the Holly King. Feasting & plentiful adult beverages often followed and sometimes precede these theatrical conflicts.
Symbols of the Oak King include the robin, whose arrival heralds spring, and the oak tree. Acorns are emblematic of the Oak King, and if you’d like to incorporate them into your apparel, you could do so with acorn jewelry or by carrying lucky acorn charms in your pocket. The lesson of the Oak King includes the fact that great things can arise from very small beginnings, just as towering trees emerge from wee acorns. If you’ve got a little dream, it can flourish into a grand achievement. That’s the promise of the Oak King.