The Battle of Light and Dark
In the Craft the solar year is often seen as being ruled over by two opposing kings.
The Oak King rules the waxing year from midwinter solstice to summer solstice, the
part of the year when the hours of daylight increase. The Holly King rules the waning
year from summer solstice to winter solstice when the hours of daylight decrease.
At each solstice they battle for the hand of the Goddess and the honor of ruling the land.
The summer solstice begins with the Oak King in power, but this is reling Uished to
the Holly King at the close of the festival.
This idea of two gods, one of summerllight and one of winter/darkness, occurred
in many myth systems. These two lords, often twins or even hero and dragon/snake,
fight for rulership at the beginning of summer and at the beginning of winter.
The Greek sun god Apollo killed the python at Delphi with his sun-ray arrows.
The serpent represented the powers of darkness, underworld, and earth womb
as opposed to Apollo’s gifts oflight and sky The Egyptian god Ra, as the solar cat, fought the
serpent of darkness Zet, or Set. Similar stories are of sky gods fighting serpents, such as
Marduk and Tiamat, Zeus and Typhon, and Yahweh and Leviathan. In Irish myth the
Fir Bolgs and Tuatha de Danaan first fought at Midsummer. The monstrous Fir Bolgs
represent the powers of winter, decline, and death.
The dark twin, or the dragon, is not an evil power but merely the other side of
the coin. One is light, the other dark, one summer, one winter, one sky, and the
other the underworld. Pagans accept these polarities as a necessary part of the
whole-winter comes but summer will return. The sun sets, travels through the
underworld at night, and is reborn with the dawn. The king dies, returns to the
underworld womb of the earth goddess, and is reborn.
In Christian times the theme of these myths were changed and the hero killed
the dragon instead of just defeating him for the summer months. According to the
Pagan worldview, the slain lord will rise again every year, and the light and dark
rule in balance. Later myths see death as a final ending and the light and dark as
being in opposition. The gods of the light half of the year became dragon-slaying
saints such as St. George and St. Michael, and the dragons they slew became a
metaphor for defeated Pagans. The dark became evil, and the fruitful underworld
‘womb of the Goddess became the Christian Hell.
Pagan :”Midsummer festivities were transferred to the Christian Feast of St. John
the Baptist. However, St. John may not be as 100 percent Christian as he seems
at first glance. Robert Graves points out that while the winter solstice celebrates
the birth of Jesus, the summer solstice celebrates the birth of John, the elder cousin.
This relates them directly to all the ancient twin deities of light and dark, summer and winter.
If John is the Oak King of midsummer, Jesus is the Holly King of midwinter-”
“Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown,” as the old Pagan
carol says. Some of the representations of St. John are rather strange for a Christian saint.
He is often depicted with horns, furry legs, and cloven hooves like a satyr or woodwose,
a wild man of the woods. His shrines, too, are often of a rustic nature, osten Sibly because St. John was fond of wandering in the wilder-ness.
It is possible that St. John not only took a Pagan midsummer festival for his feast day, but also
the attributes and shrines of an earlier green god. Frazer speculates that he took on the mantle of
Tammuzi Adonis, the vegetation god who was honored at Midsummer.
In the Craft today the theme of the battle of light and darkness is usually enacted
as a ritual drama with a choreographed battle between the Oak King and the Holly King.
Now is the time of brightness, long days, and warmth. There is the promise of
the harvest growing in fields and gardens. The earth is pregnant with goodness,
made fertile by the light of the sun. The sun god is in his glory: strong, virile, the
husband and lover of the Goddess. The power of the sun on this day is protective,
healing, empowering, revitalizing, and inspiring. It imbues a powerful, magical
charge into spells, crystals, and herbs.
It is a time for fun and joy, for enjoying the light and warmth. Modern Pagans often celebrate
Midsummer outdoors and follow the festival with a picnic or barbecue.
This excerpt is from Midsummer-Magical Celebrations of The Summer Solstice by Anna Franklin.
Click on this link to download your own free copy, Blessings <3.