The Green Man

johnnyboy1968

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#2
Green Men

I've got a great book (which unfortunately I can't find at the moment) which is stuffed full of beautiful photos of green men from all over Medieval Europe. Euro-green men seem to be mostly of the leaf mask type, where the face itself is composed of leaves. The "classic" face surrounded by and disgorging foaliage seems to be a British thing. There are also a few green men, mostly leaf masks, from antiquity, and some from later centuries.

Sorry to be so vague, but I can't find the book at all! Maybe the fairies have got it:)
 
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Anonymous

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#3
I live on the edge of one of the biggest city (Sheffield) parks in the country, which is based on the remains of a much older country estate that kind of got swallowed up. If you go far enough, it's still possible to see the remains of moorland and farmland. There are ancient villages reborn as modern suburbs and ancient Saxon remains.

And I'm coming to the point: over the last thirty years, a number of people in the oldest part of the area (bang next door to a church on an apparently pre-Christian worship site) claim to have seen a seven foot tall green figure wandering the more lonely places in the area. Now I know this isn't exactly what you were looking into, but it is interesting that an area with such history (and a fair bit of evidence for nature worship of the Green Man type) should attract this kind of spookiness?

There's also a long tradition of eerie May Day celebrations still ongoing; up till a few years ago, one of the city pubs used to disturb people with a guy in full Green Man costume dancing about outside. The Cathedral even features a carving of him!
 
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Anonymous

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#4
Green Man

Some books on the Green Man: The Quest for the Green Man, John Matthews

Green Man: The Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth, William Anderson, Clive Hicks

The Green Man, Kathleen Basford (I think this is photos)

The Green Man in Britain, Fran Doel.







-----
I was a reference librarian in a previous life.
 
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Anonymous

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#5
The Green Man is from pagan folklore...

There is a bos of him on the ceiling of a very old church in Widecombe-in-the-moor here in devon.
 

johnnyboy1968

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#6
...over the last thirty years, a number of people in the oldest part of the area (bang next door to a church on an apparently pre-Christian worship site) claim to have seen a seven foot tall green figure wandering the more lonely places in the area
Fascinating, not to say spooky! Do you have any links to reports of this, I'd love to see them. I know from my own experiences that the moorlands around Sheffield can be beautiful and eerie places, with lots of weirdness about!

As for the good old Green Man, the thing that always gets me is why the church tolerated carvings of such an obvious pagan deity! As most of central England was covered in dense forests at that time, it seems only natural that the people would worship a being who embodied all that. Poor old Jack-In-The-Green got absorbed into folklore, along with the Padstow Hobby Horse, the Abbots Bromley Antler Dancers, and so many other relics of the old religion!

One of my favourite depictions of the Green Man was in the Hellblazer comic, where John Constantine encountered him, sick and dying due to the destruction of the wildwood and pollution of the land.
 

carole

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#7
Is the Green Man any relation to Herne the Hunter or is that a totally different thing?

Carole
 
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Anonymous

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#8
there are links between the green man and herne the hunter but really the two are completely different....Herne the Hunter was orginally a kings hunts man who was killed trying to protect the king. he is said to return at a time of national crisis, and also leads the wild hunt, chasing souls accross the sky.

the green man is now considered to be the personification of the life/death/rebirth cycle and also appears the the arthurain legend of sir gawain
 

johnnyboy1968

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#9
carole said:
Is the Green Man any relation to Herne the Hunter or is that a totally different thing?
They may well come from the same basic source, but Herne has always struck me as a more baleful figure than the Green Man, though some of those medieval GM carvings have got pretty horrid expressions on their faces. The Green Man seems to me to be a fairly benign force of nature (though not to be taken lightly), connected with forests and woodland. Herne is the frightening Master of the Wild Hunt, and is said to appear when England is in great peril. It's a shame that the story of some teenagers in the 50s encountering Herne after finding a horn hanging from a tree in Windsor Great Park, probably isn't true.

One school of thought suggests that one or both of these may have evolved over the centuries, into the legend of Robin Hood. Any thoughts on that, People?

Cheers,

John (who's got a Green Man on his wall!)
 
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Anonymous

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#11
i've read theories about the green man evolving into robin hood but not herne the hunter...
 

carole

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#12
cyberangel said:
he is said to return at a time of national crisis, and also leads the wild hunt, chasing souls accross the sky.
Thanks Cyberangel! I had vague memories of Herne being something like that, but couldn't quite remember. Shame he couldn't lead the wild hunt at present, but what with foot and mouth and all that . . .

Carole
 

JamesWhitehead

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#14
Johnnyboy asks why the Church tolerated the Green Man
carvings. They may have been relieved to have one instead
of a Sheenagh-ma-Gigg!

Often these pagan elements sit with a profusion of other
imagery, old tombs and private pews etc. The worldliness of
the Church as a place of social gathering has been to some
extent obscured by the outburst of enthusiasm for its more
spiritual side. The Oxford Movement, for instance, was regarded
as a very unEnglish and priggish thing at a period when ministers
would spend more time hunting and shooting than praying.

Earlier centuries were often extremely pragmatic. There was a
fascinating piece in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago in which
a scholar found evidence that gay couples had been celebrated
on tombs in Westminster Abbey in the 17th Century.

As with so much Easter symbolism, the church tended to absorb
earlier imagery and pagan habits without choking. The Green
Man would sit quite easily among foliage carvings which could
illustrate the flourishing vine or the more English oak. :cool:
 

johnnyboy1968

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#15
Sheelaghs and Exhibitionists

James Whitehead said:
Johnnyboy asks why the Church tolerated the Green Man
carvings. They may have been relieved to have one instead
of a Sheenagh-ma-Gigg!
Yeah, a Green Man was more likely to survive the 19th century "restoration" of many of our churches, whereas there are supposedly quite a few Sheelagh-na-gigs which were replaced by something a little less offensive to the Victorian mindset, or destroyed completely (such as the female exhibitionist on the west front of Rochester Cathedral, who has had her naughty bits hacked away at some point).

Images Of Lust by Anthony Weir and James Jerman (Routlege, 1986), is an in-depth look at the various types of sexual carvings found on medieval churches, and some of them make the Kilpeck Sheelagh look comparatively restrained! No mention of Green Men though, so my apologies for going off topic.
 

FelixAntonius

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#16
The Green Man may also be connected to a Celtic "cult of the head".

If you cut off a warriors head because you think that it contains his spirit &/or strength, then stick it on a post, later ivy, woodbine or other plants may grow up the post & through the skull & eye sockets. Hence the representation of the green man!!!

The Victorians also not just tolerated, but also added carvings of green men, there is one on the south inside wall of the south transept of St Alban's Abbey, in Hertfordshire, which must have been carved during Lord Grimthorps restoration of the late 19th Century, as he seems to have replaced that entire end wall.

A few years ago, I also came across a Victorian referance to the carving of the Sheenagh-ma-Gigg at Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire. in which the commentator discribed the figure as that of a woman opening her chest to show that her heart was pure!!! It was even accompanied by a subtlety altered engraving purporting to show this .
 

The late Pete Younger

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#18
Re: Green Men

Johnnyboy said:
I've got a great book (which unfortunately I can't find at the moment) which is stuffed full of beautiful photos of green men from all over Medieval Europe. Euro-green men seem to be mostly of the leaf mask type, where the face itself is composed of leaves. The "classic" face surrounded by and disgorging foaliage seems to be a British thing. There are also a few green men, mostly leaf masks, from antiquity, and some from later centuries.

Sorry to be so vague, but I can't find the book at all! Maybe the fairies have got it:)
Thanks, I'll ask them.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#19
Linking the green man, the cult of the head and the horned
hunter, the Reader's Digest Folklore, Myths & Legends of Great
Britain has an illustration on page 103 of some heads which were carved on
the crown-side of a stag's antlers. The serated edge formed what
the text calls the hair and beard of the head, but it also has
a corona effect. It could equally be interpreted as the sun or a
leaf. Very similar to later carvings of the green man. :)
 
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Anonymous

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#20
i read on one page on the net that early christians included carvings of the green man in chirches to encourage the somewhat reluctant natives into the church as it was a symbol that they were familiar with, and i suppose it could represent jesus' life/death/rebirth too.
 
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#22
In response to the original question Ruth Wylie states in her article in At The Edge (Issue 4, Dec 1996) that the earliest known examples of Green Men are in the art of classical Rome - so no, it doesn't appear to be a uniquely British thing. She also states that the name "Green Man" was not coined until 1939. If she's right it would be interesting to know what name the artists and masons who carved these figures knew them by. I have to confess that I have the Kathleen Basford book but have never read it so I don't know if she agrees with Ruth Wylie on either of these points.
 
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Anonymous

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#23
Bit of a Celtic thing, isn't it?

I've always been under the impression that The Green Man started out his career as a forrest-dwelling Celtic deity called Cernunnos (my spelling is suspect here).
Later known as Cerne, which became Herne...
...which became Father Christmas, via Odin!

Any link with a similar Roman tree-type-hunting-chap could be the result of a meeting of beliefs during the Roman occupation.
 
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Anonymous

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#24
From what I know of Celtic Folklore, Herne the Hunter is linked to Cernunous, the god of the Druids, while the green man is more like the Oak King, a more generic figure, but one I know less about.
 

HappyGlades

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#25
Is the Green Man/Herne the Hunter anything to do with Wotan, who was also a hunter who wore green? :confused:
 

JamesWhitehead

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#27
The popularity of the Green Man, at least as a title, was given a
boost in the 1950s or 1960s when Kingsley Amis wrote a spooky
tale. It was dramatized for television - actually it might even have been
a telly play originally.

I was far too young to see it but I gather it was about a couple who
experience a time-shift event at a country pub called the Green Man.

Quite how much mythology was woven into it, I don't know but Amis
was generally a sceptic. :monster:
 

gordonrutter

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#28
Green Man examples

For some excellent examples of green man carvings visit Rosslyn Chapel just outside of Edinburgh.

Over 100 green man carvings in one small church

There is a Rosslyn discussion group on http://www.yahoogroups.com

Gordon
 

Breakfastologist

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#29
For some absolutely awesome Green Man related fiction its worth reading some Robert Holdstock books from the Mythago Wood series. They are amazing stories, beautifully told and full of deep mythology. I don't know where the research ends and the fiction begins, but several of them have the theme of the Green Man as quite central to them, especially Lavondyss and The Hollowing. I think the whole series is due for a reprint and anyone who is interested in british mythology is pretty much guaranteed to enjoy them.

I kind of see the Green man as a forest god, probably extremely old in origin, whose name has been forgotten over the centuries and whose imagery has been caught up among other more recent figures (the vine-surrounded face as a dionysian mark, perhaps?) and diluted.
 
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