|by Kristen Gould|
I chose the ancient Celtic belief in the Holly King (the spirit of winter) and the Oak King (the spirit of summer) as my inspiration. It is said that they are forever entwined in battle with one another as the seasons change each year. There is a duality to this so-called battle, for while they oppose one another, they are still two parts of a whole and work in sync with one another to create the solar and harvest cycles. During the winter, the Holly King reigns, bringing transformation and new birth. The winter solstice is the marked return of the Oak King. On this day, the light is reborn.// I liked the idea of the two spirits being two parts of a whole forever entwined. This one also began as a traditional piece and then very quickly became mostly digital.
The Oak King, often represented as having a crown of oak leaves and acorns and dressed all in green, can be seen as comparable to the figure of The Green Man. The Green Man, like The Oak King, was seen as a figure of fertility, and is most commonly depicted as having a face made from sprouting oak leaves. This image of metamorphosis – from man into tree, or tree into man? – could tie in to the notion that the two Kings are the same being, transforming from one into the other.
The Holly King is likewise said to wear a crown of holly leaves and berries, dress in red, and sometimes as being accompanied by eight stags. This of course could arise from the belief that the Kings are aspects of The Horned God. But it also be connected to other figures, such as the Norse god Odin on his eight-legged steed, or Santa Claus and his eight reindeer (before the more modern inclusion of Rudolph). Due to Santa’s patchwork history, it is unlikely he is a direct descendant of The Holly King, despite his resemblances – though this could be another instance of comparative mythology at play.
|Kristen Gould's "Solstice", reversed, to better see the Oak King|
|Solstice by Kristen Gould|
You can find more of Kristen's work on her website Enchanted Studio Co and Instagram - see below