Around the Cauldron · Celebrating the Sabbats · For the Gods

Herne as the Oak King

Litha is at the end of this week, so I thought I would write (another) post about the Oak and Holly Kings, and why I associate Herne with the Oak King.

Herne has a connection to the Oak due to how his death came about, hanging himself from it. Some may wonder why a God who’s often associated with winter, and Samhain, and the hunt, can be seen as the Oak King; the King who brings this land into the light and prepares it for spring and rebirth.

Life is cyclical, death and birth, night and day. Within our wheel there are two cycles happening simultaneously; both life and death happening at once. I was first introduced to this concept years ago when with a group run by Julie Brett as she was developing her Wheel for Sydney, and which is detailed in her book Australian Druidry.

The Oak and Holly Kings can be seen in the same aspect – both light and darkness happening within each cycle. A seed cannot come to light without first beginning in the darkness of the soil; nor can snow sparkle on the tree limbs without the rays of sunlight. Most of Australia does not see four seasons – my region has five, Darwin has two, Melbourne has seven. Within the waxing year we can have death and destruction of bush fires, which can also clear for new life. This waxing season within two weeks much of the country was being battered with fires in the north-east, flash-flooding in the south-east, and damaging winds with hail in Sydney.

When you move away from the fluff and pomp of “Oh, the Waxing year is all new life and butterflies; while the waning year is all death and destruction” and delve deeper, you will find more of a balance. It’s gritty, and raw, and the Kings certainly aren’t all light and fluffy as many like to think of them. Traditionally, one kills the other at each Solstice. They battle and fight with swords drawn for control of the land. They tear and wound one another until the final blow is drawn.

So if their battle and final death is brutal, why can’t their reign be seen in a similar light? The Waxing year is coming to an end here in Australia, and boy has it been a brutal one. But no reign is easy.

Herne is the Oak King for me not only because of his connection to the Oak, but because of the role he has not only played in my life and how he’s taught me over the years, but because of that duel aspect. He is the Oak King from Midwinter to Midsummer, then during the Waning Year he has another role to play – in that time he needs to prepare for the Wild Hunt.

This Friday I will be honouring Herne in two aspects, both as it’s the end of his reign as Oak King here in Australia, as well as the birth of this Reign in the Northern Hemisphere. He said to me once, “your birthday doesn’t change when you move overseas”, so I keep that in mind each December at the Solstice.

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