Holly usually brings to mind wintertime. It is associated with Christmas decorations. In Celtic myth and folklore, the tree also has a strong connection to the winter season. The Holly King ruled the dark half of the Celtic year, which starts at Samhain (November 1st) and ends at Beltane (May 1st). So why is it the Celtic Tree Sign of the Holly takes place in summer (July 8-August 4)? I’m not enough of an authority on the subject to give a definitive answer, but here is a possibility. The Holly represents transformation. Coming immediately after the Oak Tree Sign, it is a reminder that, in the never-ending cycle of seasons, the summer (ruled by the Oak King) will ultimately give way to winter (ruled by the Holly King). Also, the White Horse of summer, the companion animal sign of the Holly, will transform into the Unicorn, and guide the Celts through the long dark of winter. No matter the reason the Holly as a Celtic Tree sign is celebrated now, the tree is pretty special, as are those who were born during the period of its influence.
The value Celts placed on trees is evident in the fact that Brehon law (ancient Irish law) protected them. Cutting trees could result in a fine or an even harsher punishment. In Scotland, cutting an Aspen was equivalent to killing a human—resulting in an equal punishment. The Druids classified trees into a hierarchy. Some were nobles of the wood, some commoners, and some were just bushes. The nobles were the most important, and the Holly was one of the top trees in its class. In fact, it was not just a noble; it was a monarch.
The Tree Sign
Those people born under the sign of the Holly are royals as well. They are noble, high-minded, natural-born leaders. People look up to Hollys and follow them. This is not surprising since Hollys can be quite impressive. They like challenges, deal well with obstacles, and don’t give up just because of a few setbacks. They are tenacious in the pursuit of their goals and are capable of accomplishing great things. Hollys are highly intelligent and usually excel at academics. Their personality’s double-edged sword is a strongly competitive spirit combined with ambition. This can potentially be off-putting to other people. Also, Hollys sometimes appear arrogant. Behind their regal, driven exteriors, though, are deeply compassionate, generous souls.
The Companion Animal Sign: The White Horse / Unicorn
The Holly’s corresponding Celtic animal sign is the White Horse or Unicorn. These equines also are quite regal, often admired, and have a knack for attracting followers and garnering praise. And why not? They can be quite impressive, even brilliant. Although they may not seem to seek the attention, secretly they love it. And, in truth, they deserve it. Horses are born leaders, master problem-solvers, and people of action. Horses and Unicorns are not ones for standing idly by while things happen. They charge forward. This might lead them to fall off a cliff, but at least they tried. Usually, though, they are highly successful. Part of their success comes from their ability to work well with people. Make no mistake: they are not followers. They’re always in charge (even if their boss doesn’t realize it). They just don’t always have to appear to be in charge. Horses are excellent at teamwork and at leading the team in the right direction.
Neither the White Horse nor the Unicorn are common beasts of burden. These are rare beings, wild and unbroken, with a majestic beauty and strength of will. They are free and dynamic forces of nature who can reach great heights and accomplish goals that will benefit their families, communities, even the world.
Perhaps surprisingly, underneath all that dynamic energy, beat hearts with an enormous capacity for love. Horses are tenderhearted and affectionate. They even are playful and cuddly when they're around those they’re comfortable with.
Keep in mind that all White Horses are potential Unicorns. So what was the Unicorn to the Celts and what does it mean for people born under the sign of the Holly? Even today people associate the Unicorn with purity and gentleness, as did the Celts, but there is more to this mystical being. Unicorns can look directly into people’s hearts and see that person’s true nature. A Unicorn’s horn could be used to detect poison (or so the Celts believed). The horn also had magical properties which could be used for healing. Perhaps most importantly, the unicorn is a sign of transformation. If you are a Holly, consider reflecting on whether you’re a White Horse or a Unicorn. Being a White Horse is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. Horses are magnificent, as detailed above. But the White Horse is called to become a Unicorn. That is your best self.
The unicorn is the national symbol of Scotland. To the Scots, the unicorn represents not just purity but courage, intelligence, freedom, and a certain untamed wild beauty. The unicorn is a protector against evil and is a guide through the darkness. Finally, the Celts considered the mystical unicorn to be the strongest of all animals, one that was difficult to capture. Yet it does not have a reputation for fierceness. The unicorn demonstrates that gentleness and genuineness will prevail in the end.
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