To the Celts and many other people of the Old World, certain trees held special significance - as a fuel for heat, cooking, building materials and weaponry. In addition to this however, many woods also provided a powerful spiritual presence.
The specific trees varied between different cultures and geographic locations, but those believed to be "sacred" shared certain traits.
The Celts beleived that many trees where inhabited by spirits or had spirits of their own.
This idea most notably applied to any tree with a strong aura around it.
They also believed that certain trees had a healing influence on humans.
From this ancient respect for the power of trees came the expressions 'touch wood' and 'knock on wood'.
Oak, ash, and thorn were called the faery triad of trees. Where they grow together,it is still said that faeries live.
The ancient Celts had a kinship with trees which is shown in the magical Ogham alphabet and in their tree calendar.
Further proof of their respect for trees is in the old Celtic word for oak (Duir); the word Derwydd or Duirwydd (oak-seer)was probably the origin of the word Druid.
Some may feel that the moon names, Birch, Rowan, Ash, Alder, etc., are just alternative names for the secular months of our modern-day Gregorian calendar.
The Lunar Tree Calendar, as practiced by the Faerie Faith, is more than simply a system of alternative names for the 12-13 cycles of the moon that occur in a solar year of 364 days.
Each of the 13 moons in the calendar is named after a tree.
The calendar begins within a few days after the Winter Solstice,and always ends on the Winter Solstice, never going past that date.
After this day, usually on December 21 or 22, the days will begin getting longer, and we enter a new solar cycle.
December 23 is not ruled by any tree for it is the traditional day of the proverbial "Year and a Day" in the earliest courts of law.
That's a bit of background...
Now onto the Month of Holly.
July 8 - August 4: Although the Oak ruled in the previous month, its counterpart, the Holly, takes over in July.
This evergreen plant reminds us all year long about the immortality of nature.
The Holly moon was called Tinne, pronounced chihnn-uh, by the Celts, who knew the potent Holly was a symbol of masculine energy
The ancients used the wood of the Holly in the construction of weapons, but also in protective magic.
A beautiful white wood with an almost invisible grain, it looks very much like ivory.
Holly is associated with the death and rebirth symbolism of winter in both Pagan and Christian lore and is important to the Winter Solstice.
Holly may be used in spells having to do with sleep or rest, and to ease the passage of death.
A bag of leaves and berries carried by a man is said to increase his ability to attract women.
As a symbol of good luck and good fortune, the Holly was the evergreen twin of the Oak in Celtic mythology and was often referred to by the name "Kerm-Oak."
As the Oak ruled the light part of the year, thus did the Holly rule the dark.
The Holly was particularly sacred to the Druids who instructed folk to take it into their homes during Winter in order to provide shelter for the Elves and Faeries during cold weather.
By tradition, a Holly branch should never be cut from the tree but instead, must be pulled off.
It is considered unlucky to cut or burn Holly, but it is thought to be lucky to hang a small branch remaining from the Yule celebrations outside the house. This is said to protect against lightning and ensure good fortune.
To the Druids, the Holly was regarded as a strong and protective herb, guarding against evil spirits, short-tempered Elementals, poisons, thunder and lightning.
According to lore, if a young girl gathered nine leaves from the "she-holly" at midnight on a Friday and then tied them into a a three-cornered handkerchief using nine knots, she might dream of her future husband by placing the handkerchief beneath her pillow.
A variation of this spell dictated that the leaves had to be collected in silence and bound in a white cloth...again using nine knots. This, when placed under the pillow, was said to make dreams come true.
It was once thought that if the smooth leaves of the "she-holly" were brought into the house first during Yule, then the wife would rule the house. If it was He-Holly, the opposite held true.
Only the female tree produces berries which, although lovely to look at, are poisonous.
Its white, star-shaped flowers bloom in the Spring and it bears shiny red berries in Autumn which last throughout the Winter.
The Holly represented immortality and was one of the Nine Sacred Woods used in Need-Fires (the others being Oak, Pine, Hazel, Juniper, Cedar, Poplar, Apple and Ash).
In ancient Irish lore, it was also listed as one of the Noble Trees of the Grove (along with Birch, Alder, Willow, Oak, Hazel and Apple).
Hang a sprig of Holly in your house to ensure good luck and safety to your family.
Wear as a charm, or make Holly Water by soaking leaves overnight in spring water under a full moon -- then use the water as a blessing to sprinkle on people or around the house for protection and cleansing.
This last bit is from my Llewellyn's Witches' Date Book for 2010.
"You have built up strength during the Oak Month, and now you may test your steel and valour.
Holly corresponds with the Ogham letter "tinne" speaking of the strength gained by a challenge.
Holly was hardened in flames and used as spears-it was said that when heated, Holly would become as strong as iron.
If you wish to grow stronger from everyday challenges and overcome them, enlist the help of the Holly spirit.
As you gaze into the candle's flame, feel it filling you. It blesses you with the ability to face any challenge in your path with insight and strength.
You can overcome anything, and you'll come away stronger than before.
Gather a few Holly leaves (or another symbol of holly) and a green candle. Carve the "tinne"/holly Ogham symbol on the candle and light it, saying,
"I salute the blessed holly tree, In justice's name I do decree,
As every challenge comes my way, The flame will temper my swordplay."
This was written by Mickie Mueller, who's an artist and has also illustrated a couple of decks.