Dog Days, Holly, Spears and Swords by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne QuarrieWe are little more than midway in what are called the “dog days” of summer. Imagine that the ancients thought that Sirius (one of the dog constellations) was the cause of the extra hot and sultry days of summer  because that star rose with the sun each day during this time and they actually thought we received heat from it.  But no, there is no heat from Sirius, only the tilt of the earth, giving us more heat during.

We have come to equate these dog days of summer with high running emotions – especially frustration and anger.  Let’s face it, when we are hot and uncomfortable, our patience does run a bit thin! There are many aspects of our lives that warrant extra care during the dog days. When traveling with a pet, extra precautions need to be taken to keep your pet safe.  During all the fun and frolic of outdoor barbeques and picnics, steps need to be taken to assure that food is kept cold, as it will spoil much quicker in the heat.

In my spiritual tradition we celebrate the Holly tree, the starling, as well as swords and spears at this time.  The leaves of the holly are barbed and sharp which, mythologically, makes it have protective qualities.  The starling is offered to us to study because the starling is a bird that bands together with its own kind, having lookout scouts and coming together in defensive action.  The sword and spear are clearly weapons and are two of the four treasures fought for and won at this time of year in Celtic mythology.  Even our goddesses are warrior goddesses.

For goddess women, this moon can be uncomfortable with all the aspects of aggression.  This holly moon was preceded by the oak moon and these two trees are seen as twins.  It is thought that the holly was originally the holly oak.  They sit side-by-side in the year at the time the seasons change from light to dark. The oak first teaches us to be well grounded if we are to seek the lightning bolt. So it prepares of for these sultry “dog days.”

When something like these symbols make me uncomfortable, i.e. warlike aggression, I try to see a meaning for them in today’s time and as I would like for them to be more peaceful, at least not blood-letting!

When I first came to this path, I was given a vision. It came spontaneously and so I knew it carried a very important message for me.  In this vision I was presented with a sword.  It was in the hands of another placed horizontally into my hands.  Balanced quite carefully on the edge of this sharp sword was a pearl, a beautiful and lustrous pearl.  I am not sure how I knew but I knew that the sword was my voice and the pearl was “balanced wisdom.”  I am a very direct and out-spoken woman.  My directness quite often gets me in trouble because sometimes the truth is not always welcomed.  It serves as a mirror at times for others to see themselves.  This can be very uncomfortable and is not always received well.

I grew up under circumstances that were at times very educational but at the same time emotionally challenging.  I was an army brat.  I moved constantly, never living in any one place long enough to establish roots.  This generated a great deal of self-reliance on my part but also put me in a place of always being the new kid in town and subject to the accompanying bullying, especially once I started high school.  Boys are always very interested in a pretty new face and the girls, jealous.  This was very hard for an introverted teenager.  Thank goodness I was also blessed with that self-reliance and parents who always encouraged me to use my voice.

Because of this background, I seem to have become the voice who defends the bullied, the voice who stands up to unfair treatment, the voice who serves as an advocate for those who cannot otherwise speak for themselves.

I have come to see the sword and spear of this season, the holly moon and the “dog days” of summer to represent words of action, speaking one’s truth and the exercise of one’s voice.

I wrote this about myself one year…

Holly trees are rarely allowed to grow to their full height of sixty-five feet and are instead trimmed down as hedges or ornamental bushes.

I am a Holly Tree. Many of us are Holly Trees. As strong women, women whose voices want to shout out to the world, women who have a really hard time being silent in the face of injustice, women who rebel at being the fairer sex and those who rebel at being trimmed down or at being ornamental bushes!

Early in life the process of being “trimmed down” begins. We are silenced, shushed and trained to be “good little girls” and not assertive, bold or daring!

I am a Holly Tree who has not been trimmed – a Holly Tree who has grown to her full height – a Holly Tree with full spiky leaves – sharp barbs – rich color – full and robust berries – a battle waging spear – who will not – cannot – be silent in the face of injustice. A Holly Tree – strong and tall in service to Goddess!

Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of five books.   She is the founder of the Apple Branch and Beyond the Ninth Wave where she teaches courses in Druidism, Celtic Shamanism, and Goddess Spirituality and mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine. 

Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Feminism and Religion, Goddess, Goddess Spirituality, Nature, Paganism, power, Social Justice

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6 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing the correct derivation, Deanne, for “dog days.” Very nice. I just want to share my mistaken idea of what I thought was the derivation of the expression, which was seeing the dogs in my city, panting in the summer heat, while they were out being walked on those hot summer days. It is traditional for the storefronts in some sections of my city to leave bowls of water outside the shops, so that dog-walkers can give their canine friends a chance to drink. I don’t have a dog, but I do love the stores that provide the water bowls, and some of the cafes that do that too.


  2. Deanne, I resonate with your description of yourself as straightforward and even sometimes in-your-face when critiquing injustice. As you have, I’ve tempered this directness over the years, so that people can hear what I’m saying. Maybe that’s why I noticed that the sword in your vision was handed to you horizontally so that the pearl of wisdom would not fall off. You can still cut through all the bullshit with this horizontal sword, but it’s not being used as a weapon.


  3. I completely concur with that last statement, Nancy!


  4. hmmm, thinking about your post for days. here is my 2 cents. it is better to spiritualize the weapons of war than to use them to kill, but I long for the day when we don’t need them at all and can simply be strong and brave and stand up for justice on our own 2 feet and with others.


  5. I didn’t get a chance to read this yesterday. As your posts always are, this is very interesting. I’m feeling fairly hollied myself these days, so I like what Carol wrote just above. Spiritualize our weapons and be brave. Good for you to have been resourceful and courageous all your life! Brava!


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