Sunday, December 4, 2011

Faces of the Holly King

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

Goat, Holly, Wren

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.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Meditation: Visiting the Holly King, Janicot

Our tradition uses guided meditation to help impress certain symbols on our member's consciousness. Below is our Yuletide meditation. It takes place in the Glass Castle, which is the northwest area of our compass.  It is the home of the Holly King, who we honor as Janicot.  To use this meditation let yourself relax comfortably and picture yourself drifting downward and inward to the third realm, the lower realm. The third realm is a place of darkness and mystery.  Let yourself sink down into the third realm and rest there peacefully.

Meditation: Visiting the Holly King, Janicot
You awake in a grove of holly trees at night.  Frost has made the ground around you hard, and sparse snowflakes drift silently through the air.  A full moon illuminates the grove and causes the frosty earth to look as if it were made of glass.  It is cold enough to see your breath fog the air. Other than the sound of the frosty forest floor crunching beneath your feet the grove is entirely silent. 

Despite the chill and silence you are certain that you can feel something watching you.  You are startled to make out the shape of a large black goat silently standing between two holly trees near you.  The goat watches you, motionless, except for the steady rhythm of breath.  As he stares into your eyes you feel that you can hear his thoughts.  The goat claims he has something important to show you.  He moves towards you slowly and turns so that his side is facing you.  He then asks you to climb on his back for a ride.  You do this, silently and carefully. 

When you are situated comfortably on the goat's back he begins to walk.  Slowly at first he plods through the stands of holly, then trotting faster as the forest clears.  Now through an icy meadow he runs at a full gallop.  The cold wind whips at your clothing and snowflakes sting your cheeks.  The goat charges faster still and ahead you can see the edge of a steep cliff.  You cling to the goat's shaggy hide as he leaps over the cliff's edge. 

You are surprised to discover that your steed is now flying.  Swiftly through the night air you ride atop the black goat.  He soars high above the holly trees.  Higher he climbs and faster too.  Into the snow clouds he flies, and across the mists above the clouds he carries you. 

Through the mist you can see a sparkling castle.  It appears to be made of glass or ice, and it shines like cut diamonds in the moonlight.  From its turrets hang banners of pale blue and white.  As you approach the castle you can hear the sound of a choir singing softly from within. 

The goat alights on a snowy bank near the great mirrored castle doors.  He says that he will wait for you outside.  You ask him what place this is and he answers, “There are many names for this place.  Some call it Merlin's Tomb.  Others call it the Fata Morgana.  I call it the Castle of Glass.  It is the home of King Janicot and his glass orb.” 

The doors of the castle fly open suddenly and reveal a glass staircase within.  You enter the castle and climb the staircase.  You are surprised to find that although the staircase is very long the climb is an easy one, as though you were floating.  Yet, as you reach the top of the stairs you find that you are suddenly gasping for breath. 

In front of you are two large intricately carved doors of glass covered in countless symbols. Among these you notice a wren and a goat. You move to touch the doors and they swing open at your gesture.

The room inside twinkles with pale icy light. In it you see a cloven-hoofed man with a long black beard and a crown of goat horns. He is seated on throne of glass and he wears fur hides. His eyes are dark and he regards you with a cool countenance. To his right is a table with a large glass orb hovering over it. To his left is a staff of holly bearing leaves, and berries. “I am called Janicot” he says. His voice is soft and low like thunder in the distance. You can feel your body chill when he speaks. The scent of pine and mint fills your nostrils. Your entire being is infused with piercing coolness and you feel shocked into alertness.

He smiles knowingly and gestures to the glass orb to his right. “This is the treasure of the Glass Castle.” You peer into the glass orb and can see a mist swirling within it. From the mist come shapes and symbols, some from your past, some from your present, and some from your future. The symbols evoke feelings of joy, wonder, sadness, desire, heartbreak, and deep love.

The symbols swirl faster in the mist, causing you to feel overwhelmed with emotion. Janicot laughs. His laugh is jarring and you can feel your mind spinning into multiverses you dared not dream of. Janicot steadies you with a sharp glance. “I have a message for you,” he says.  He leans forward and whispers his secret message in your ear. [long pause] 

Janicot bids you farewell and shakes your hand.  Your flesh stings at his frigid touch.  The room begins to fill with mist and you take your leave of it hastily.  You hurry down the glass staircase and through the mirrored doors.  The black goat waits for you on the snowy bank.  You climb aboard his back and he launches into the air, accompanied by a flock of small brown birds.  They are wrens, you realize, as you soar back across the misty moat.  The black goat flies you beneath the snow clouds and down over the tops of the stands of holly.  He lands gently in the same grove of holly trees where you first met.  You settle in beneath a large holly tree and rest.

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