One of my favourite carols as a child was ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ – it still is. I come from a declining number of people who experienced a school assembly every morning of their educational life. And that meant communal singing. Yeah, it meant other things too – a coming together as a community, an act of worship, a chance to be given messages, a chance to be reprimanded and a chance to be entertained by a morally-lead piece of performance which was known as ‘doing assembly’. But to end it all was a big ol’ sing-song. That was the best bit as far as I was concerned.
I liked “The Holly and the Ivy’ for various reasons. A rollicking good tune that was played not too slowly and not too high (I had major problems with ‘Morning has Broken’). But the part that really touched my soul was:
the rising of the sun and the running of the deer
The darkness of the forest, the white of the snow, and the red-as-a-drop-of-blood berries. It spoke to an ancient instinct, and still does.
I have found the same feeling in Terry Pratchett’s novel “The Hogfather” – a must in the depths of winter.
So with that feeling I went looking for holy and ivy on my daily walk and I was not disappointed. Front gardens full of holly bushes, variegated holly hedges and ivy clad walls.
Looking for these two plants has made me think about mid-winter, the dark, the tradition of bringing evergreen leaves in to the house and of lighting up the darkness. It has also made me think about the winter solstice next week and the ceremonies that will be held at ancient stone circle sites. So that is my new topic – stone circles.