Faces of the Holly King

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Names
Janicot, Woden, Odin, Gwyn ap Nudd, Arawn, Iuan, Krampus, Hod, Hob, Basajaun, Lucibello, Iu-Hu, Old Nick, Misrule, Pan, Baphomet, Scratch, Puck, Buccos

Station of the Wheel
Northwest, Yule, December, Glass Castle, Cold Moon

Totems
Goat, Holly, Wren

Tools
Glass Orb, Druid’s Egg or Glain y Nidir

The Holly King is a speculative archetype of modern studies of folklore and mythology which has been popularized in some Neopagan religions. In his book The White Goddess, the author Robert Graves proposed that the mythological figure of the Holly King represents one half of the year, while the other is personified by his counterpart/adversary the Oak King: the two battle endlessly as the seasons turn. At Midsummer the Oak King is at the height of his strength, while the Holly King is at his weakest. The Holly King begins to regain his power, and at the Autumn Equinox, the tables finally turn in the Holly King’s favor; he later vanquishes the Oak King at Yule. Graves identified a number of paired hero-figures which he believes are variants of this myth, including Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Gronw Pebr, Gwyn and Gwythr, Lugh and Balor, Balan and Balin, Gawain and the Green Knight, the robin and the wren, and even Jesus and John the Baptist.

Wōđanaz or *Wōđinaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of a god of Germanic paganism. Woden probably rose to prominence during the Migration period, gradually displacing Tyr as the head of the pantheon in West and North Germanic cultures.

Testimonies of the god are scattered over a wide range, both temporally and geographically. More than a millennium separates the earliest Roman accounts and archaeological evidence from the 1st century from the Odin of the Edda and later medieval folklore.

The name of Woden is connected to a Germanic root *wōd-, preserved in Gothic wôd- “possessed” and Old High German wuot “rage”. Old English had the noun wōþ “song, sound”, corresponding to Old Norse óðr, which has the meaning “mad furious” but also “song, poetry”. Modern English preserves an adjective wood in “dialectal or rare archaic use”, meaning “lunatic, insane, rabid”. The earliest attestation of the name is as wodan in an Elder Futhark inscription. For the Anglo-Saxons, Woden was the psychopomp or carrier-off of the dead, but not necessarily with exactly the same attributes of the Norse Odin.

A celebrated late attestation of invocation of Wodan in Germany dates to 1593, in Mecklenburg, where the formula Wode, Hale dynem Rosse nun Voder “Wodan, fetch now food for your horse” was spoken over the last sheaf of the harvest. David Franck adds, that at the squires’ mansions, when the rye is all cut, there is Wodel-beer served out to the mowers; no one weeds flax on a Wodenstag, lest Woden’s horse should trample the seeds; from Christmas to Twelfth-day they will not spin, nor leave any flax on the distaff, and to the question why? they answer, Wode is galloping across. We are expressly told, this wild hunter Wode rides a white horse.