I have always been fascinated by the Holly tree, partially because of its association with Yuletide festivities and winter and partially because I have always known Her as a fairy tree.
We don’t get particularly cold winters in my part of the world, and there is very rarely snow- and more likely black frost- but still the Evergreen Holly holds a special place in my heart and garden.
It is said that a harsh winter can be predicted by an abundance of berries on the plant. My Holly tree has never produced berries, so I have not been able to test out this bit of folklore.
The berries of Holly are poisonous and it is therefore interesting that the Holly Tree is associated with everlasting life and sacrifice. While it is often associated with Christ and Christmas, some have called the Holly the Devil’s tree on account of its prickly leaves.
The Holly tree should never be cut nor burnt according to folklore lest its spirit haunt you and bring misfortune. This lore is in accordance with faery lore, where certain trees and plants are watched over or lived in by fae, spirits or even the devil himself, the cutting or harming of which would cause offense and bring ill fortune or even death.
While the holly is often associated with the spirit of Winter as “The Holly king” who battled “The Oak king” I personally associate the Holly with Queendom and sovereignty of the feminine spirit. There is something about the Holly tree that reminds me of the witch in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Perhaps it is her Fae nature that gives me this impression.
Holly can be used in for love divination- girls wishing to dream of their future love would tie 9 fresh leaves into a three cornered handkerchief with 9 knots. The pouch would then be kept under the pillow.
The leaves and branches of Holly are traditionally used for protection from malevolent spirits and are said to help prevent night-riding.
Holly, being of a protective nature which can defend from spiritual attack and warfare, can also be employed as a martial herb for offensive purposes and therefore can be added to any formulae whose purpose is to harm and attack an enemy.
The Holly planted in the garden is a traditional ward against lightning and witchcraft.
A charming folkname for the Holly is “Bats-wings” on account of the shape of the leaves. It is with this folkname in mind that I decided to make little charms in the shape of bats for protection and luck similar in nature to poppets which are stuffed with holly leaves and used to ward malevolent spirits.
Small Red buttons (dried berries would be best, but buttons and beads would do in a pinch)
Dark Green Felt
- Make a template
- Pin template onto felt which should be a double layer
- Cut bat shape from felt
- Sew red eyes onto one piece of felt
- Sew up the bat, you can use blanket stitch if you fell like it or an ordinary stitch. Before closing it up, add some dried Holly leaves and berries and close it up! (Berries are slightly toxic!)
- Bless it on your altar and hang them around the home for Protection and Luck!
Sources and resources
Daniel Schulke- Viridarium Umbris
Max Adams- The wisdom of Trees