Holly - The Trees

The Magic of Trees: A Guide to Their Sacred Wisdom & Metaphysical Properties - Tess Whitehurst 2017

The Trees


An extremely ancient and widespread plant, the holly (Ilex) is drenched in mystery and tradition. The Druids decorated with holly at the winter solstice, the Romans employed the branches in their Saturnalia celebrations, and to this day Brazilian rainforest inhabitants enjoy a sacred, energizing tea from the leaves of a holly species called yerba mate. (Do be aware that many holly varieties are poisonous to humans, however.) Even in the mainstream imagination, holly is associated with magic; her wood was used to fashion Harry Potter’s wand.

Magical Uses


Since very ancient times, glossy-leaved, red-berried holly has been magically employed during the coldest, darkest time of the year as a way to ignite the spirit and feed the inner flame. Yerba mate, an energizing tea, is made from a variety of holly leaf containing caffeine and theobromine (which is also in chocolate), as well as minerals and amino acids. Luckily, this tea—which bestows not just energy but also a mildly euphoric state—can now be purchased at most health food stores. (When purchasing, do make sure it’s organic, fairly traded, and sustainably harvested.)


An ancient belief states that fairies inhabit holly trees and that bringing a branch into the home brings fairies in with it. Similarly, planting a holly tree in your yard can summon fairies, and spending time with a holly tree can align you with the realm of the fae.


Flower essence pioneer Edward Bach described the holly flower essence remedy as being helpful for “those who are sometimes attacked by thoughts of such kind as jealousy, envy, revenge, suspicion…Within themselves they may suffer much, often when there is no real cause for their unhappiness.” Flower essence therapists recommend taking the essence regularly to support an open heart and a general attitude of positivity and openness.

Additionally, simply spending time with a holly tree or bringing her leaves, branches, or berries into your home (or placing them on your altar) can help infuse you and your household with this purely positive vibe. This can be particularly helpful when it’s your intention to banish bickering, arguing, gossiping, resentment, negative expectation, or any other indication of discord.


There is a long-standing and widespread tradition of employing holly to repel all forms of negativity, danger, and ill intent. It’s said that throwing holly in the direction of a wild animal will cause the animal to stop attacking, and that a holly in the yard will protect from both evil and lightning. In ancient Persia and India, water infused with holly bark was used to bless newborn children; as a modern incarnation of this ancient practice, you might gently anoint the head of a newborn with a little water into which you’ve added a drop or two of holly flower essence.

Interestingly, birds sometimes use spiky-leaved holly trees as literal protection from predators by taking refuge in their branches. This is especially convenient for the species of birds that thrive on the tree’s fruit, which is toxic to humans but not to birds.


In both myth and history (and in both Europe and the Americas) holly wood has been used for arrows and spears. With little berries (actually “drupes”) that resemble—both energetically and literally—the warrior planet Mars, holly has a fierceness that lends itself to victory.


To achieve victory on behalf of any sort of worthy cause, place nine holly berries in a red drawstring bag during the full moon, then carry it close to you.

Magical Correspondences


Element: Fire

Gender: Masculine and feminine

Planet: Mars