Lydia is a practicing Druid who has dipped her toes into various occult organizations over the years.
What Are the Celtic Tree Months?
The Celtic Tree months are based on a 13-month lunar calendar. Most Pagans follow the regular Gregorian calendar that syncs with the Sun. If we didn't, our calendar would quickly fall out of sync. The development of the Celtic Tree Months is based on the idea that the Ogham alphabet depicts different trees. Also known as the Beth-Luis-Nion Calendar, it was developed by Robert Graves in his book, The White Goddess.
The Celtic Tree Months are unlikely to have been part of authentic, pre-Christian Celtic culture. They are a more modern interpretation. However, this doesn't mean that we can't have fun bringing mindful awareness to each plant and its magical uses and correspondences at particular times of the year. For this article, we will focus our attention on the Holly plant. Though Holly is one of the most sacred plants to the Druids, it is not an authentic part of ancient practices to follow this calendar. It is also important to note that many do not consider Robert Graves's work to be accurate, historical, or scholarly. However, his writing is highly influential and widely read.
On the Llewellyn Calendar, they do make note of the Celtic tree months. I love the Llewellyn calendar and try to purchase one each year. I am currently a member of A Druid Fellowship (ADF), and Robert Graves is not taken seriously by this organization. He is actually a writer we are advised to avoid reading for serious study. That said, I still enjoy knowing the origins of the Celtic Tree Months and why Holly is important to those of us on a Celtic or magical path.
The Celtic Month of Holly
The Celtic month of Holly occurs from July 8th until August 4th. Holly is an evergreen plant, and its energy is considered to be masculine, active, or yang. It is also a symbol of immortality. You may be used to the idea of Holly being a Yule plant. Perhaps you are wondering why anyone would assign Holly to July and August? Well, in the Celtic Tree Calendar, it is assigned the 8th month because this is when the Holly King has just overtaken the Oak King as of the the Summer Solstice. Thus begins the dark half of the year in which sunlight diminishes until the rise of the Oak King at the Winter Solstice.
A beloved tree in Celtic mythology, the Celts referred to Holly as "Tinne." The month of Holly occurs at the time of Lughnasadh. Holly is the evergreen twin to oak and is one of the most sacred trees to the Druids. It is considered a lucky tree, and misfortune is thought to come to anyone who would chop a Holly down.
Holly's Magickal Correspondences
Born in the Month of Holly
A Celtic version of the zodiac has been set up based on the Celtic Tree months. What are people who are born in the month of Holly like? Those born in the month of Holly are said to be natural leaders who are both high-minded and noble. They aim to be popular and love overcoming challenges. Sometimes their excessive self-confidence may be viewed as arrogance. They also do not enjoy being criticized.
Holly Has Been Used in Protective Magic
As a Mars herb with prickly leaves, Holly is known for its protective qualities. It is often planted beside homes and churches to ward off bad luck and keep evil spirits at bay. It is also believed to have the power to protect buildings from lightning. For this reason, it is often associated with the gods Taranis and Thor.
The wood in Harry Potter's wand is Holly. It is not the most popular choice of wand amongst witches, but is good for those with a spiritual quest that requires protection.
Bringing the leaves into the house in winter is thought to be a kind act toward the fairies as it provides them refuge from the cold during these months. In return, they bestow their blessings upon the household.
Babies were sometimes bathed in Holly water as a means of giving them protection and good luck. Be sure to exercise caution and do your research before using Holly in any sort of liquid that might be ingested—the berries are poisonous. Making your own Holly water is a relatively easy endeavor. You merely place a sprig of Holly in some water and let it impart some of its magic mojos. If you want a strong infusion, you could brew up a tea with the leaves—NOT the berries. Though the berries are poisonous, the leaves have been used in tea. But don't take my word for it. Again, be sure to exercise caution and do your research before consuming any part of the Holly plant. There are many different varieties of Holly out there.
Holly and Its Martial Qualities
Holly wreaths used to be worn as crowns by Celtic Chieftains for good luck. This crown would give warriors good luck and strength in battle. Holly is a tree of sacrifice and its wood is strong. As such, it reminds us to stay calm in the face of adversity and take responsibility for our actions. It has been used historically to make weapons and chariot wheels. All of these are great things in battle. As a Mars plant, it may bring out your own inner warrior!
The Uses of Holly
Holly has been used by some to treat fevers, catarrh, pleurisy, and arthritis. The leaves can be purchased from many Chinese herbalists in loose leaf form. There is also an American Holly variety called Yaupon, and it is the only caffeinated plant that grows in North America. There are some companies out there that sell it. Look around to find a merchant if you are interested in giving this unusual tea a try.
Holly berries are poisonous and cannot be ingested by humans, but birds enjoy eating the berries over the winter. Holly berries have been used in spellwork related to female fertility as they are said to symbolize the blood of the life-giving goddess.
The leaves are consumed by many different species of butterflies and moths. The Holly Blue butterfly, which is the national butterfly of Finland, is one notable example. This species can be found in both Europe and North America. As a flower remedy, Holly opens the heart to love by ridding us of jealousy and hatred.
How Does Holly Resonate With You?
I hope you feel like you learned something from all of this information. Holly is a beautiful plant to have in our lives and is much more than just a Yuletide decoration. Perhaps you will feel inspired to bring this plant into your world in some way. Maybe you are just the right person for a Holly wand. Or perhaps planting a Holly plant outside your front door will help you protect your home and hearth. You never know exactly how a plant's utility will manifest in your life until you try connecting to the plant. I know I feel inspired by these ideas and want to give them a go!
Resources and Further Reading
- The Celtic Calendar and Astrology Through Trees
Are you an ivy, ash, willow or rowan tree, according to the Celtic calendar and seasons? Discover your ancient astrology through trees. Ancient Irish Celts believed that Ireland's trees held sacred properties that could reveal a great deal.
- Celtic Tree Calendar - The Witchipedia
The Witchipedia is your online encyclopedia of magick, witchcraft and the occult.
- 13 Celtic Tree Months — Celebrate Pagan Holidays
The ancient Celtic calendar is based on a lunar schedule and contains thirteen months in the year. In modern paganism, we united the lunar phases with the Gregorian calendar to give us a definitive time period.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.