|Green Man Tree Oracle, Matthews & Worthington|
I am going to continue my technique of personal explorations of the card before looking at the companion book. For myself, I associate holly with winter and with Christmas. As a child I was taught that the holly represented Jesus. The pointy bits on the leaves were like the crown of thorns and the berries like drops of blood. The vivid green represented everlasting life, the triumph of Jesus over the grave.
Funnily enough holly berries are highly poisonous to humans, but not birds. I think there is some lore about not planting a holly tree too close to a house, and also about not cutting holly trees. This is interesting because I pass a holly tree every day on my walk to work that is not only planted right up against a house, every year they also chop it back to a degree that seems quite insulting to the poor tree, and yet if they didn't the pavement would be impassible, because it does seem to grow back every year. I know that holly is important to Druids for some reason, but I don't know what that reason is. The Bach Flower Remedy, Holly, is used to treat spite, hate, suspicion and envy, to encourage generosity of spirit and acceptance of others.
John Matthews' divinatory meaning given in the Green Man Tree Oracle companion book seems aligned with the Bach Flower Remedy interpretation. 'Since holly burns fiercest and hottest of all woods, it creates a passionate fire. At one extreme, action can be fueled by anger...and at the other extreme [it] can create dynamic changes.' I thought I'd check up on this:
*'Holly is a fast burning wood with a bright flame but little heat,' from The Woodburner Warehouse blog.
*'Well-seasoned, holly is a reasonable burner, with a medium heat,' from Firewood Review.
While most reviews I checked said holly is a reasonable-to-good firewood, almost all of them said hickory or hawthorn were the 'hottest burners'. The reason I think this is important is that the interpretation seems to be based on the idea that the holly is the hottest burner, and apparently it is good, but is not the hottest burner, nor apparently the fiercest. So there goes that idea. In fact, Matthews' interpretation and the few others for holly I could find seem to talk about moderation:
Matthews says, 'Holly urges you to take action, but to consider the possible implications of doing so, making sure you do not let your heart rule your head or allow your energy to be used up too quickly.'
'Situations now require the passive approach. A firm hand, a steady nerve, and plenty of empathy are the best counsel' (Tree Divination).
I don't make a strong connection between moderation and holly. My connections are all related to Christmas lore and Jesus connections. So if I were to draw Holly, I would have to put aside my own associations and revert to a learned one, which I'm not inclined to do. Holly makes me think of sacrifice (Jesus), being careful (the prickly bits), life affirmation and hope (the vivid colours in bleakest season of year). These might not be 'Celtic Druid Ogham' meanings, but they make sense to me.
So far I'm not sure how I would use the cards in this deck. For me, they are not proving to be useful as daily cards. Maybe they could be of use in seasonal displays , certainly in spell work.