We just emerged from the longest night of the year and the morning dawned grey, unseasonably warm, but with a true sense of winter to it and as we walked to the car, I felt myself inhaling it into my breast and I felt renewed.
During the long night, the Holly King dug in the earth, down through the forest mast, the rich loam, through the clay, until there, curled in the roots, he found his sleeping brother.
The Oak King.
Carefully, reverently, the normally cold and cruel monarch of winter lifted his sibling up in his arms and laid him in the leaves, acorns and twigs of the brown understory of the great ever forest.
His blue eyes fell on his brother’s face. He leaned there on the rim of the grave, his breath slowing, each exhalation coming in a bellows gush of mist, until he saw, finally with the sky growing pale in the east, his twin taking his first massive inhalation, taking in the cool, clear air that his brother offered him.
With the first breath that the Oak King took, the Holly King slumped and fell, sliding heavily down into the roots of the world trees, into the dark womb of their mother.
Opening his honey colored eyes, the Oak King looked around, expectantly, hopefully, the frost burning off of his brown curls, melting out of his beard, falling away from his broad, heavy antlers. He looked around for his brother, but knew where he would be.
He rose, stretching like the light that reached up from the horizon, his fingers brushing the clouds that swept by from west to east. Sighing heavily, he stepped over to the edge of the grave and looked down to see his brother, already withering, shrinking, becoming a husk, as he himself had been mere months before.
With a tear threatening to spill onto his cheek, he leaped down, taking his twin’s almost weightless form into his arms, he curled him into a fetal position, like a seed waiting within its shell and tucked him into the pulsing roots of everything.
As he leaned in to his brother’s brow, the Holly King’s antlers crumbled, falling to dust in a soft grey halo around his shaggy silver mane.
The Oak King climbed from the hole, up into the light of the first lengthening day, he stood, his chest filling with winter air and exhaling life, letting the sleeping green world know that he has arisen and that once again, the wheel had turned.
He paused, as his brother had done six months before, and sang. His voice a rich, deep baritone, made slightly hoarse by disuse and an eternity of laughter, he sang to the earth, to his mother, who swelled, heaved, contracted and swallowed the grave of her other son.
The Oak King sang until his tears made him choke.
He knew the way of things.
He knows how it must be.
But on this day, he misses their play, he misses their gamed, roughhousing in the shallows of a rumbling stream and eating from the land as they sang by the fire.
On this day, he wishes it could all stop.
He will grieve for a while, and so, in his brother’s honor, he will let it remain cold.
In six months, during the longest day of summer, the Oak King will come, he will dig, he will harvest his twin from the rich earth, and for a while, it will remain warm, as the Holly King mourns.
Blessed Solstice to you my friends, Blessed Yule, Hold your loved ones close.
Please take care of each other.