The Green Man
The Green Man represents the male aspect of nature, the virile male god. He begins his journey at Beltane as the Holly Lord, The Horned God of Winter.The Beltane procession carries the Green Man through his courtship with the May Queen, to his death at the hands of the May Queen's Hand Maidens. The Green Man is then reborn as the fresh young Oak Lord ready to join with the May Queen, consumating the ritual with the fertility that summer (and the Beltane) brings. The death of the Green Man of winter is required to bring about the rebirth of the Green Man of summer; only with winter's death can summer be reborn. The Green Man is the nurturing sun whose union with the earth (as represented by the May Queen) gives birth to new life.
Celtic cultures of pre-Christian Europe, and symbolized fertility, prophecy,inspiration and regeneration. By 400 BC E. such heads were being carved in stone,showing leaf foliage sprouting from the mouth. This art form spread into theRomanesque and Gothic chapels and cathedrals, and is viewed by scholars as theresurfacing of Druidic tree worship and Dionysiac mystery themes originallysuppressed by the church. Green Man is the husband man/caretaker of nature, themale counterpart of the Great Mother Goddess venerated since neolithic times.
Who is the Green Man?
In art and sculpture the Green Man is a composite image - a face formed out of a mask of leaves, or a face disgorging or devouring leaves and vines. He is an ancient figure, linked with the Great Goddess as son, lover, and guardian. Whether as a 'foliate head' carved in a European Gothic cathedral, or as a giant who tests the hero, challenging him to impossibletasks, the Green Man is the intelligence within the dark forest, in the tree of life. He represents irrepressible life, renewal and rebirth, inspiration; he is the guardian and revealer of the mysteries of Nature, and he is the union of humanity and the natural world.
The Green Man is the Lord of our Forest. He welcomes us to this otherworld realm and invites us to celebrate its life-spirit ....
The GREEN MAN is the connection to the deep ancient wisdom of the Earth. The essenceof the GREEN MAN is the cycle of death and rebirth -- continual renewal of all in theliving universe.
He is the son of the Goddess, and represents ALIVENESS! The GREEN MANhas many faces, and has been known as Osiris, Dionysos, Dumuzi, etc. to our ancestors.He is the pollinator, male seed, the garden and forest god, consistently benevolet. He isoften shown with leaves and vines sprout ing from his mouth, as his language is the livingvegetation itself.
Variations of his foliate face have appeared all over the world. Even now, images such asthis one from Bamburg, Germany, appear on churches and cathedrals throughout Europe.
The GREEN MAN archetype is the primal nature of all men and women who yearn to livein harmony with Nature and the Earth. He teaches us the lessons of nurturing and sharing.
A recent discovery on the Net from the On-Line library at Encarta, care of Microsoft network:
The green man. .
A stone face peers through the green ivy leaves on a garden wall. His features are human, but instead of hair, oak leaves cover his scalp. His mustache, too, is leaves, and branches grow from his nostrils. On an opposite wall, his stone companion wears a mask of leaves, greenery twining from his mouth. These are Green Men, symbols so ancient their origins are lost. Although the Green Man predates Christianity, he's often found in western European and British cathedrals that date from the eleventh century and later. Usually carved from stone, occasionally of wood, representations of the Green Man look down from ornamental carving at the joints of vaulting, watch from the lintels of Romanesque and Gothic arches, and peek from ornamental capitals high atop stone columns.
The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript written in eighth-century Ireland, shows a few Celtic-looking, leaf-decorated faces among its capital letters, and, centuries later, the title pages of many of Martin Luther's works printed in Wittenberg, Germany, are decorated with the Green Man's likeness. The earliest known representation of a leaf-surrounded head dates from 400 A.D. and survives on a tomb in France.
In ancient Europe and in England, individual trees, as well as whole groves, were sacred. Their worship was common, and no wonder, since trees provided shelter, fuel, and food. Many legends about them persist, and a few bridge the gap between the old ways and Christianity, as in the story of St. Martin of Tours. In his efforts to convert the tree worshippers, he decreed that a hallowed tree be cut down. The people agreed, but only if St. Martin would stand under it as it fell. He positioned himself in its path, and as the tree began to fall, he made the sign of the cross. The tree reversed its descent, arose, and fell in the opposite direction.
Later, there's Robin Hood, fabled hero of the British forest and benefactor of the poor. He didn't clothe himself in green by accident, for his name is a contraction of Robin-of-the-wood. Folklore has a way of weaving tales to suit the circumstances of the times.
Even today, usually at Whitsuntide, or Pentecost, in celebrations of spring in England and western Europe, one or several village youths, dressed head to foot in green leaves, comes dancing into the village. In some instances, villagers pluck the leaves, perhaps as lucky charms for the approaching growing season, but in others the wearer, or wearers, are symbolically sacrificed - just as trees have sacrificed their leaves to winter and have grown again in spring for our benefit. The essential importance, so long ingrained, of trees and other vegetation (including fruits and vegetables) represented by the Green Man seems to have remained even after Christianity was well-established. While he endures in folklore and in artistic ornamentation as interesting fragments of our pagan past, he may yet remind us to appreciate the beauty of our gardens, our crops, and our forests.
Green Man: The Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth, by William Anderson (1990, Harper Collins)
Spring won't come, the need of strife
To struggle to be freed from hard ground
The evening mists that creep and crawl
Will drench in the dew and so drown
I'm the green man
The green man
Sol in prime sweet summertime
Cast shadows of doubt on my face
A midday sun, its caustic hues
Refracting within the still lake
Autumn in her flaming dress
Of orange, brown, gold fallen leaves
My mistress of the frigid night
I worship pray to on my knees
Winter's breath of filthy snow
Befrosted paths to the unknown
Have my lips turned true purple
Life is coming to an end
So says me, me wiccan friend
Nature coming full circle
I'm the green man
The green man
I am born on May Morning - by sticks, bells, and ribbons
I am the sap - in the dark root
I am the dancer - with his six fools
I am the tump - behind the old church
I am the lost soul - under the misericord
I am the oak - against the stars
I am the face - that peers through the leaves
I am the fear - in a child' s mind
I am the demon - on the roof-boss
I am killed in October - and laid on church altars
I am the guiser - on the bright bonfire
I am the old grain - sown with the seed
I am the flame - in the pumpkin ' s grin
I am the spirit - in the kern-baby's bosom
© Phill Lister 1996