(Quercus ilex) Holm, or Holly, because this is the tree that nourishes the kerm, a scarlet insect not unlike a holly berry. The ancients made their royal scarlet dye (and an aphrodisiac elixir) from this (Graves). The Bible furnishes the oldest evidence of the existence of a scarlet dye; there it is called tola, or tolaat, a word also meaning worm, which is what kerm means. So the eastern peoples were well aware of the animal origin of kermes, but the Greeks and Romans believed it to be vegetable, so the Greek name for kermes was kokkos, which means a berry. The fallacy has persisted into modern times; the specific name ilex is also the generic name for the hollies, and of course the common name means 'holly oak'
This is an evergreen tree, so, like all evergreens, it is a funerary symbol and at the same time a symbol of immortality. But it is also an unlucky tree, at least in the Greek islands, because, so the story goes, it was from its wood that the Cross was made. A miraculous foreknowledge of the Crucifixion had spread among the forest trees, which unanimously agreed not to allow their wood to serve, and when the foresters came, they either turned the edge of the axe, or bent away from the stroke. Only the ilex consented, and passively submitted to be cut down. So now mountain woodcutters will not soil their axes with its bark, nor desecrate their hearths by burning it (Rodd).
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