Celebrating the Sabbats · For the Gods · Pagan Blog Project 2014

The hand that governs change

Hail the Mighty Holly King, for He has won the crown from the frail Oak King and now rules over the (Southern Hemispheric) Waning Year!

Or so I’d normally proclaim at Litha.

(Firstly, yay for being back at a computer! We didn’t take it down with us on our “annual pilgrimage to Victoria” and there’s only so much you can type on a tablet. This is our second full day being back home, so the last week feels like a distant memory.)

I mentioned in my last post that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. That’s continuing, and it’s not something I wish to announce here, but those close to me have an idea of what’s happening and I thank them for their support. As hard as it is being 1,000km away from the rest of my side of the family, sometimes it’s for the best.


As annoyed as I am that “exactly” what I wanted to happen for Litha and Yule didn’t go to plan, I can hear my Pop’s voice in my head saying, “oh well love, at least you got to do something.” I had planned a somewhat more elaborate ritual to honour the 22nd and the 25th, but given the string of events that occurred I kept it incredibly basic, and in the end it’s all I had the energy to do.

Litha, 2014

These last few months I have been “running on empty” as my mother put it. Stressed out at work, stressed out with university, stressed out with family – I’m surprised I was getting myself out of bed. Once we arrived at my mothers house in Victoria, the tank was truly empty. I got a cold, I woke up tired after a 10 hour sleep, my body was exhausted.

Litha morning was spent at the beach I once considered my true home. But given time away, the more time apart the less I feel connected there. It now feels like the town I grew up in – somewhere to visit where I no longer feel a connection to. As sad as it was, I knew it was coming. We’ve been back in Sydney for three years now, and the memories of my time as a Water Witch are just that – memories.

Part of my rite while standing knee deep in the water (which still feels amazing, btw) was reading out a poem that was shared on Facebook earlier in the month. I thought I knew which page posted it, but looking again I can’t seem to find it. It’s about Midsummer and how to Oak King will lose his crown on this night to the Holly King.

The Oak King by Anne Stokes
The Oak King by Anne Stokes

Part of being a Daughter of Herne means acknowledging him as the Oak King. This I tend to do in June at our Midwinter- I celebrate the beginning of his reign at Yule, and celebrate the end of his reign at Litha. Him being, well, Him, had other ideas. After not completely understanding what he was trying to say, he put it simply:

“Just because your birthday on August 7 is in Winter in Australia, doesn’t mean it’s Winter in the North. Would you change your birthday to suit the season if you were to move to the North?”

Along with deciding to celebrate the 25th as Herne’s “birthday” of sorts, his words also changed my outlook on Litha, on the roles of the Kings of Oak and Holly, and how it is celebrated. For a tale, like most we honour within our Pagan world, it has its roots in the Northern Hemisphere. And once again, being a Pagan in the Southern Hemisphere, I look to change and adapt to suit the tides.

Rather than seeing the Oak King dying and the Holly King taking his place, I was given a different image.

The Holly King
The Holly King

The Oak King and the Holly King meet on neutral ground. They shake hands, get the other up to speed on how their reign went. They hand each other the keys (so to speak) and they exchange Hemispheres. The Holly King leaves the North and comes to the Southern Hemisphere to lead us into the darkness of winter and the waning year, while the Oak King leaves us for the Northern Hemisphere (or “home” as Herne told me) to help them out of the winter and prepare the land for new growth come the Spring.

This is a much gentler, less chaotic version of the old tale, but it is one that becomes easier to understand given that I’m a Southern Hemispheric Witch, honouring an old British God, who takes his role as the Oak King seriously, and wants it to be known as such.

As he once told me, “the hand that governs may change, but it’s the spirit and essence of the land that we fight for.”


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