The Green Man in History
Green MenThe Eternal Cycle
The “Green Man” is the dimly remembered symbol of an ancient spirit of Nature, recognized and revered by many civilizations and adopted by many religions.
His name means the Green One or Verdant One, he is the voice of inspiration to the aspirant and committed artist.
He can come as a white light or the gleam on a blade of grass, but more often as an inner mood.
The sign of his presence is the ability to work or experience with tireless enthusiasm beyond one’s normal capacities. In this there may be a link across cultures,… one reason for the enthusiasm of the medieval sculptors for the Green Man may be that he was the source of inspiration.”
He is the symbol of the eternal cycle of Nature, the mysterious figure who dies and is reborn each year.
He is a part of interwoven beliefs and customs associated with ploughing and sowing, with harvest and the autumn slaughter of beasts – the seeming death of Nature in winter, followed by the miracle of rebirth in the Spring.
To the medieval Christian mind he became a symbol of rebirth after death.
From Britain to Borneo.
He is Osiris, Dionysius, Odin, Tamuz. He is still very much with us today. He is a symbol of the eternal cycle of nature. Where the Old Religion celebrated New Year with ‘Samhain’ in November today we have Halloween followed by All Saints’ Day. Beltane’ in May marked the beginning of new life in the spring; now we celebrate the reborn Christ at Easter.
4000 Years Old
The Green man is as old as four thousand years. He has become intertwined in folk tales with “Jack in the Green”, ” John Barleycorn” and even “Robin Hood”, but each and every “Green Man” is different in the way the craftsman or the age interpreted him.
The message of his image is always the same – there is life after death. So many amazingly designed images of the same icon, created all over the world long before communication could have influenced the earliest copies bear testament to a strong and long held belief.
Green men are found in so many places once you start looking. To be so widespread in comparatively modern cathedrals as St Paul’s and Notre Dame is an indication how closely he was linked to Christianity at that time.Green Men can be found all around the world. In France they are in Rouen Cathedral, in Bourges, Chartres, Sees, Auxerre and many smaller churches.
In Germany there are many more (See Mike Harding’s Book – LINKS) and in England they can be found in Exeter, Ely, Winchester, Lichfield and in hundreds of parish churches. The Chapter house at Southwell Minster has a dozen or more – but never a likeness of Christ or the Virgin.
In Roslin Chapel, (famous in Dan Brown’s book – The Da Vinci Code) a Templar church south of Edinburgh, there are reputed to be over a hundred Green Men – but they say you will never be able to count them all correctly! Where other pagan symbols were crushed under the weight of iconoclastic Christianity the sacred tree, the vine and the oak survived along with the Green Man, symbol of rebirth, irrepressible vitality and love of nature.
He will be with us forever.