Known to most Pagans as the Holly(or Ivy) King, he represents the waning year, and reigns from midsummer to midwinter, at which point his brother must slay him.
Don’t worry – the Oak King gets his own back come midsummer.
The symbolism of the twin gods has come down to us in quite a few ways.
The killing of the wren still occurs in some parts of Ireland, where the wren is taken as the spirit of the Holly King, who must die. The robin then succeeds him.
“The wren, the wren, the king of the birds,On Stephen’s Day was caught in furze;Up with the kettle and down with the pan,And give us some money to bury the wren.”
The wren/robin pairing comes at us again as dark Bran/bright Bron twin gods of my ancestors
The duel is actually fought out in circles and groves across Pagandom twice a year at the solsticial points. Two men representing the kings, or gods, get to hack at each other with swords or clubs to illustrate the handing over of the year reign from one to the other.
In all probability, these practices, once nearly extinct but revived through the recent rise of NeoPaganism, hark back to a time when we did kill the king.
To ensure the turning of the wheel, or for the good of the land, the king was the sacrifice of choice. The heartier the man, the more powerful the sacrifice of course.
It has echoed down the ages, too.
From Mithras, Attis and Dionysius to the Christ, the land has demanded that a male pay the price for life.
And the Goddess grieves, and calls him back to her, where he is reborn of her womb, in time.