Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the official first day of winter, occurs later this month (December 21st). For most of us it passes without notice, but this wasn’t the case in ancient times. Many cultures had celebrations around this date, just as we celebrate Christmas very close to the solstice. Winter Solstice was, in Celtic lore, the time when the Oak King and the Holly King battled for supremacy. In this tradition, the Oak King rules until Summer Solstice, when the Holly King reigns until the cycle begins again.
Summer and Winter Solstice were important to ancient gardeners, who watched the sun, sky, and weather for warnings and portents. Old wives’ tales still exist (and many still go by them) that recommend planting by the light of the moon and other traditions based on a belief in myth and magic.
One legend that is still popular today is that of the Green Man, a figure often represented in carvings or sculptures. The Green Man is easily recognizable by the vines and leaves growing in and around his face. Although some representations of the Green Man can be quite frightening, with vegetation creeping out of every orifice, traditionally the Green Man symbolizes rebirth.
There are many myths and legends related to plants, and gardens have long been considered magical places. These books offer insights into garden legend and lore, both ancient and modern. What are your favorite garden legends? Do you practice any mystical gardening methods, and, if so, do they work?
Becke Davis is the senior writer for The Landscape Contractor magazine, a member of Garden Writers of America and the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association. She has written well over 1,000 published articles and is the author of five garden-related books in addition to being the moderator of B&N's Garden and Mystery book clubs.