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Origins | Origins Photo Gallery | Folk Traditions | More Photo Galleries

Folk Traditions
"Rejoice oh English hearts, rejoice! Oh lovers dear!"

The Two Kings | Fire and Water | Midsummer Day
Country Summer Traditions | Fairies | Midsummer Games
John Barleycorn | The Six Days of Midsummer

The Two Kings

It's never failed -- every year on December 21, the Oak King is born along with the sun; he springs to life, grows high and strong, loved for his optimism and youth.

Crowned with lush green leaves, the Oak King strides toward his destiny on June 24, St. John's Day. And on that Midsummer Day the Oak King is wounded in battle -- some even say he dies. The young Oak King is taken in battle by his twin the Holly King, who grows to rule in age and wisdom as the year grows darker.

By the end of the year the beloved old Holly King looks a lot like Father Christmas: wise, jolly, generous and magical. He meets his destiny on December 21, Midwinter Day: wounded, perhaps killed in glorious battle by the young Oak King who rules in expanding majesty until Midsummertide.

"The King dies!
The King lives forever!"

This is the story all the village children heard in the very old days, long before even great grandmother was a baby: this was how they explained the long summer days turning to long winter nights: and they all knew the precise moment when it happened.

When Midsummer Day comes each June 24, the villagers still faintly remember the two kings in one way or another: there are pageants about the two giants in battle, and processions to honor the fallen young king of day and the jolly old king of night.

Next: Fire and Water


 

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