winter solstice ring

Rings are pretty easy to make, why don’t you give it a go. It helps develop some fine motor skills around carving and the appreciation of small symmetrical things!

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Holly is a lovely wood. Pale and dense. This was harvested from a very special holly grove and from a very special holly tree and made into a ring whilst still green and alive. It is the same shade as ivory and has a similar ‘grain’. Chess pieces were made out of the wood as were were piano keys (black and white ones – it is easily dyed). It is thought to be unlucky to fell an entire holly tree but it is alright to coppice it – if you have asked it permission and thanked it for doing so!

This ring was made from a male holly.

holly ring 1

In Celtic mythology the Holly King was said to rule over the half of the year from the summer to the winter solstice, at which time the Oak King defeated the Holly King to rule for the time until the summer solstice again. But the Holly King and the Oak King were two sides of the same coin – the ying and yang of nature. These two aspects of the Nature god were later incorporated into Mummers’ plays traditionally performed around Yuletide.

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The Holly King was depicted as a powerful giant of a man covered in holly leaves and branches, and wielding a holly bush as a club. He may well have been the same archetype on which the Green Knight of Arthurian legend was based, and to whose challenge Gawain rose during the Round Table’s Christmas celebrations.

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The holly is a plant that was sacred to the early denizens of Britain. This may be because the three most visible green plants in the extensive woodland during this time were holly, ivy and mistletoe. These plants all earned a place in tradition. In old village life there was a midwinter rite of holding singing contests between men and women, where the men sang songs praising holly (for its masculinity) and ‘dissing’ ivy, whilst the women sang praising  ivy (for its femininity) and ‘dissing’ holly. The only way to broker peace was under the mistletoe, which gave rise to the tradition of kissing beneath the miseltoe during Yuletide. It is also therefore linked with fertility.

Holly is reputed that the tree gives protection and keeps people safe – warding off bad omens – hence it spiky nature. Holly Water was spinkled onto infants to ward off evil and give them luck. In European mythology, holly was associated with thunder gods such as Thor. Holly trees were also known for protection from lightning strikes.

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