The Oak King

The Oak King, the Lord of the Greenwood and golden twin of the waxing year, rules from Midwinter to Midsummer. At Midwinter, he goes to battle with his twin, the Holly King, for the favor of the Goddess. He slays the Holly King, who goes to rest in Caer Arianrhod until they do battle again at Midsummer. The Oak King and Holly King are mortal enemies at Midsummer and Midwinter, but they are two sides of a whole. Neither could exist without the other.

Two themes run throughout the Oak King and Holly King saga. The first, of course, is the two great yearly battles between the two. The second is the sacrificial mating, death, and resurrection of each in his season. At Beltane, the peak of the Oak King's reign, he sacrificially mates with the Great Mother, dies in her embrace, and is resurrected. This is an enactment of the natural fertility theme of the season, and is not uncommon in other mythologies: Osiris, Tammuz, Dionysus, Balder, and Jesus are only a few other gods who die and are resurrected. (The Holly King on the other hand, mates, dies and is resurrected at Lammas.) This aspect of the Oak King and Holly King is not widely discussed, but is an important element in their roles as fertility gods.

The Oak King

Represents: Growth, Expansion

Gods: Jupiter (Roman god of light and sky)

Janus (Roman god of planting, marriage, birth, and other types of beginnings)

Dagda (Irish-Celtic god of the earth)

Frey (Norse fertility god)

Pan (Greek god of fertility, unbridled male sexuality and carnal desire)

Colors: Red, green, yellow, purple

Plant: Oak, mistletoe

Bird: Robin

Associated myths: Robin Hood, King Arthur, Gawain (when he meets the Green Knight), Jesus, Balder, Green Man