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6x12 relief carved English Holly tile
Holly trees occur almost everywhere in the world and are surrounded in myth and legends which are usually but not exclusively associated with winter and winter magic. It was sacred and favored among the Ancient Celtic Druids in whose tradition the Holly King rules the land from Summer to Winter Solstice sharing the year with the Oak King. Due to the widespread belief in it's ability to ward off evil, wreaths and sprigs of Holly would be hung indoors in the winter. As well as for general protection, Holly wreathes provided a safe place for fairies to shelter from the cold, avoiding friction between them and their mortal hosts. Also traditionally known to protect against lightening strikes Holly was closely associated with thunder gods such as Thor and Taranis. In Japan Holly is a popular New Years charm and there are a number of amusing and somewhat lewd legends involving Holly there. The seeds and berries of the Yaupon Holly were used by the early people of the American South to induce vomiting and hallucinations during purification rituals. In South America the Guarada have a tale of the bearded god Pa-i-shume who taught mortals to make mate, a stimulating, healthful beverage made from the leaves of the Paraguay Holly.