Addressing the second question first, I bought amaryllis at Hedge (408 W Main, 434.817.9950), my favorite local flower shop. (As a child, I inspected amaryllis under my grandfather’s grow lamps, so I feel compelled to note, as he sometimes reads this blog, that these may be hippeastrum, which are often sold as amaryllis.) Wikipedia reports that the flower is named after Virgil’s shepherdess Amaryllis in The Eclogues, which seems appropriate for this very traditional holiday. And I do hope the word descends from the Greek αμαρυσσω (amarysso), which Behind thename.com translates as meaning “to sparkle,”
since sparkle our friend John, who is visiting us for the holidays, did. Upon being told that he would be representing the Holly King that night, John promptly absconded with some of the table greenery, which I helped pin into fetching headgear that made him look like Mr. Tumnus, the faun character played by James McAvoy in last year’s Chronicles of Narnia, who might have saved the film, but who made Lucy a very nice cup of tea instead.
We also added a brooch to John’s ensemble and I loaned Ben a necklace, continuing what may become a distressing pattern of Ben rocking my jewelry harder than I can (he wore a ruffled shirt and an earring of mine as a pirate on Halloween with great success).
Katrina borrowed a dress in the color scheme of the holiday and practiced Ani DiFranco’s “Swan Dive” on the guitar while John strategized for his coming battle with Ben, the Oak King.
Ben took a picture of us in our hair adornments, and I prepped the table with Ben’s grandmother’s addictive peanut brittle and my country buttermilk cake with crème fraǐche and berries before we opened the mead.
My friend Bradley brewed and sent the mead this summer; I’ve been saving it for just such an occasion. He instructed me to serve the “honeyed wine” chilled, and we determined that champagne flutes were the most correct glassware (our beloved set of silver goblets were ruined when the moat had some drainage issues last spring). In return for his generosity, I promised Bradley a label for when he markets this wonderful stuff; here’s my current iteration for Bradley’s “Shrieking Viking Mead” featuring his daughter Madelyn:
The key being to capture the moment before the potential shrieking from the little viking, I think.
Our friend Keicy arrived, left, deftly crafted a crown out of branches in the neighborhood, and returned, insisting that we form tableaux.
Rob arrived in full regalia, having transformed himself into what I can only describe as the Ivy King, a deity perhaps lesser known in ancient celebrations, but unsurprising to those of us who know this former Yalie.
Rob surveyed Ben’s costume, formed alliances, made celestial promises to his newly acquired constituents;
John responded to his new kingly competition with distaste;
the Ivy King asked that the Oak King let him fight the Holly King in his stead, and the Oak King graciously acquiesced. Meanwhile, the Holly King had Dana the Puissant divine his future and then Keicy the Capable’s, and Katrina discussed her reading with Stewart and Chris.
Eric even briefly considered doing battle with the Holly King , but decided to let Rob battle for the honor of this half of the year.
The battle began…
The Ivy King was transformed again, with Dana’s magic and the Holly King’s wand (made of ambrosia maple), into neomedieval American Gothic.
The Capable whispered to the Holly King it was time to proceed outside and send wishes out for the new year;
they alerted all of us keeping solstice and
outside, the Ivy King was solemn in his majestic deferral to the Holly King and troubled by Ben’s drinking red wine out of a white wine glass.
Katrina played as we sang together.
And after our guests left, we raised the drawbridge, smiling at the crown of berries still on the table and the remains of the cake on the longest night of the year.
Larger versions of the images in the Flickr gallery.