The other night I dreamed of the holly bush. If you are a plant person, dreaming about plants is not so very unusual. I have often had dreams with plants or trees as the background to my imagining but this time, the holly bush was front and center. I have no holly growing in my yard and none in the house as seasonal display. Why would this plant would come to my dreams?
Holly has long been associated with this time of year for its evergreen leaves and the showy red berries. In Christian beliefs, the evergreen leaves, sharp and pointed, represent the crown of thorns worn by Christ and the red berries, his blood. The plant serves as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. In Pagan beliefs, holly was a protective herb to help keep evil spirits away. Witches could not dance on the hedges due to the shape leaves. http://treesforlife.org.uk/forest/mythology-folklore/holly/ In England, holly branches were brought into the home to provide fairies with a place to play. The bushes were often used as hedges to keep property lines easily marked, trespassers out and the sharp branches kept livestock in. http://www.paghat.com/hollymythology.html No matter the tradition or folklore, the contrast of the red berries and deep green leaves make a wonderful seasonal decoration in this cold and gray colored time of winter.
On more of a botanical note, certain varieties of the holly bush are unique in one very interesting way; the plant has both a female and a male species. The female will not produce the beautiful characteristic deep red berries without a male plant close by. A male plant can stimulate multiple female bushes to produce berries but they must be within a specific distance to one another. There must be the balance of both male and female for the plant to bare fruit.
As a general rule, holly is not a first choice medicinal but certain varieties can be used, usually Ilex aquifolium-European holly or Ilex opaca-American holly. Maude Grieves discusses using holly leaves either dried or fresh as diaphoretic or as a treatment for jaundice. The leaves were also used as a treatment for rhematism and had some tonic properties. The berries were a purgative and induced vomiting. The berries dries and prepared as a powder could be used as an astringent to treat excessive bleeding. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/holly-28.html. It also has been used to treat hypertension due to a calming effect. http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-holly.html.
After some thought, I still am not sure why holly showed up in my dreams. It could have come to my dreams as a reminder to maintain balance in my own life, health and activities. I also think it could serve as a reminder to the rest of the world about the importance of balance within our environment and our relationships. Maybe it was there to keep evil from my door or a new remedy for my winter weary joints. Maybe there was no reason at all just the simple meandering of my mind. No matter, holly is a lovely plant.