Green Man

Our remote ancestors said to their mother Earth, “We are yours.”
Modern humanity has said to Nature, “You are mine.”
The Green Man has returned as the living face of the whole earth so that through his mouth we may say to the universe: “We are one.”
– Anonymous.


Who or what is the Green Man?

The Green Man is, since many centuries, found in many places. It is remarkable that most of these places have a religious background or basis.

The Green Man appears in woodcarvings from before C.E. (Common Era). Also on the walls of pagan temples paintings and drawings of the Green Man have been found. Especially in the time that christianity started to appear, many images of the Green Man were made. They are found in churches and cathedrals, in monasteries and other sanctuaries. In the victorian age the symbol was even used as a decorational motive.

A lot of speculation goes on that the builders of the old churches, the people who were ‘converted’ during that time, still had pagan roots in their hearts. That would have been the reason that they wanted to retain part of their own conviction, by making imagery of the Green Man.

The mostly found image is a face from which foliage grows from the openings (mouth, nose, ears and sometimes also the eyes).

Green man of Sutton
The Green Man of Sutton

What does the Green Man stand for?

There is no written information about him. The name first appeared in 1939, when Lady Raglan made a connection between the leaf-covered faces in english churches and the folkloristic tales about the Green Man (“Jack in the Green”).
The name remained, although the connection is still debated about today.

Generally it is accepted/assumed that the Green Man used to be the image of rebirth and regeneration. These days the Green Man is connected to e.g. the Tree of Life, and more and more he becomes the symbol for organisations that aim to support and conserve nature.

Only a Green MAN?

No, certainly not. Although the Green Man is seen more often, there are Green Ladies also. The Green Man and the Green Lady are models of an archetype. They embody all aspects of nature. Male and feminine, hard and soft, friendly and agressive. You can find these and more traits on the many images of the Green Man and Lady. Wisdom, mockery, joy and sorrow, all these emotions are part of them.
Examples of Green Ladies are, among others, the goddesses Diana and Artemis. Artemis is always seen as a forest creature. The Dryads, the nymphs that inhabit the trees, are also coloured Green, so they too are Green Ladies.
In Italy there are thesilvani, in Sweden they are the swor skogsfru, with a beautiful front, but who are hollow and made of bark from behind.

The Green Man in the world.

The Green Man is not just a european figure. Also in the USA in several places pictures and images of the Green Man (and Lady) are found.
But the Green Man is not only known in the western world. Also in the far East, in India for example, images of the Green Man were found in several temples.

Green Man India
A Green Man, found on a temple wall in India.

Aspects of the Green Man.

The Green Man is not always an archetype on his own.

Cernunnos, de celtic god of the hunt and the woods. is often mentioned in relation with the Green Man. Cernunnos was honoured in England as well as France. Cernunnos
The earlier mentioned figure, Jack in the Green, also is an expression of the Green Man.
He represents the ever green, ever new growing and blooming part of nature. This is particularly well shown in evergreen trees like pines and thujas.
The greek god Pan, often depicted as a satyr with goat legs, is also often seen as an aspect of the Green Man. Pan is the god of the forest, and protector of herds and hunters. A very typical character, this Pan. He could raise panic and get the biggest kick out of that.
Pan is a joker and a trickster. He’ll confront you with what you approach him with. Are you scared, then he’ll make you more scared. Are you joyous, he’ll joke around to make you laugh even more.
The stag is also an expression of the Green Man. Huge, powerful, proud, carrying large impressive antlers, he treads through nature. Old celtic traditions speak of an initiation rite for young men where they have to wear antlers and run through the forest, outsmarting the ‘hunters’ of the village.
Herne the Hunter is a figure closely related to Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, England. Herne was a royal huntsman who saved the king’s live by stepping between the king and a charging stag. Herne got lethally wounded, but healed through the apparition of a wizard. This wizard said that Herne could be saved by binding the stag’s antlers to Herne’s head.
Herne was healed, but either through losing his libido as payment to the wizard, or through the loss of his job by jealous huntsmen (the legends go different ways here), he hung himself from an oak in Windsor Park.
Herne the Hunter
The Horned God. In many pagan orientations he is regarded the consort of the Goddess. He is the bringer of life, lord of death and resurrection, god of seed, fruit and fertility. Also he is the lord of the dance. Horned God
In Egypt, Osiris was the god of death, resurrection, vegetation and fertility. Osiris

As you see, there are many traditional associations with the Green Man. And all these examples show many of the different aspects of nature. Aspects that live in everything and everyone.

The Green Man now.

The Green Man is not easily recognised in modernday life. Many people are occupied with his presence without even knowing it. As many other things, knowledge of and the awareness of the Green Man have been snowed under in a society that is focussed more on artificial ways of life.

Many movements and institutions that make a stand to promote nature and the preservation hereof are actually representatives of the Green Man. The World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, English Nature, National Trust (U.K.), the american National Park Service are all good examples. And also here you can observe very well that these different groups all use different ways to help nature. Large scale, small scale, using force or no force at all.

The Green Man to me.

The Green Man ‘haunts’ me since quite a while. Time and again I ran into connections with him. Remarkable is that this usually was synchronous with the moments that I ran into Druidry.
The Green Man for me represents the omnipresent power of nature. The force that is hidden in there. Very recognisable and still not immediately visible. I think it calls for a certain personal attitude, a mentality, to recognise and feel him. I don’t know if someone can learn that. According to me it is important that on the inside something special lives inside the human being, something that is sensitive to the force of the Green Man and the Green Lady. Unfortunately this trait comes out in far too few people nowadays.

When I am in a forest or another natural area and I encounter the Green Man, it gives me a feeling of peace, quiet and strength.

Green Man Bamberg Germany
The Green Man of Bamberg, Germany.

Green Man Art.

Many artists are feeling the Green Man. Some depict him in painting, some in writing, some in art objects.
The following two images are examples of the work of Venessa Lagrand, based in Cornwall, UK.

Green Man Vine

Green Man Ash

You can learn more about Venessa’s work by following this link.

Sources.

In my search of the Green Man I found a lot of information.
* A good book is “The Spirit of the Green Man”, by Mary Neasham. ISBN 0-9542963-7-0
* The booklet “The Green Man” (the Pitkin Guide). ISBN 1-84165-045-5.
* The book “Greenmantle”, by Charles de Lint. ISBN 0-330-31111-5.

The following websites also offer a lot of information and inspiration:

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