RICHMOND, Va. -- For thousands of years, holly has been thought to protect from evil spirits and promote long life.
Wednesday afternoon, a holly tree may well have protected a driver from serious injury or worse when she ran off Interstate 95 during rush hour in Richmond.
According to Virginia State Trooper Michael Parham, the Chevrolet Tahoe was southbound on Interstate 95 south of the Boulevard exit when the driver swerved to avoid traffic stopped suddenly in front of her.
She lost control and ran off the road, striking a road sign and post, dragging the concrete footing out of the ground and then sailing into holly trees beside a fence and service road.
The SUV came safely to a stop, perched in the arms of hollies beside a fence and service road. Traffic was squeezed down to one lane and snarled for about an hour. The driver was taken to VCU Medical Center to be checked out.
"Nothing life-threatening," Parham said.
The trooper said the tree may well have kept the SUV from crashing into the building behind it.
Did he think the holly played a role in diminishing injuries?
"Absolutely," he said.
Long before we decked the halls with boughs of holly, the druids believed it invited fertility and eternal life, as well as protection from evil spirits.
The ancient Romans collected the branches to celebrate this month's Saturnalia festival.
Later, Christians celebrated holly for symbolizing both Christ's blood and his crown of thorns.
Wrapped up together, holly has long represented life and protection
Wednesday afternoon, it would seem, it was more than just symbolism.