The Green Man in History

Green MenThe Eternal Cycle

Bamberg Green ManThe “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.

Green Man Fountains AbbeyHe 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.

Green Man MarburgHe can be found in churches, chapels and cathedrals all across Europe. He dances in May Day processions in Britain. He appears on temple walls in India and in churches in Borneo.

He is Osiris, Dionysius, Odin, Tamuz. He is still very much with us today. He is a symbol of GM N-D  Paris.jpgthe 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

Green Man NorlfolkThe 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 Man RajasthanGreen 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.

Green Man RosslynIn 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 Green Man Rajasthan Jainhundred 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.


  1. This article has been really helpful; I’ve always admired this particular design, but never knew what the attraction was… now I believe I know why its been so appealing for me. I am a descendant of the DeFrance family; perhaps my ancestor, also an artist, instilled that wonder for this particular design in me.
    Take a look at my website which I have been developing with the Green Man as a helpful navigator throughout. Any suggestions?

  2. well i juss found a greenman necklace today on the ground… n i wanted to c wat it meant…..so i asked my sister about it n she said that it was the green man….and she asked me where i found it at….so i took her there and she said that i should go look it up on google so i did n it brought me to this sight!!!! thank you for all of this info….i know that i will never take it off my neck!!

  3. Great short history of the Green Man and excellent pictures, there are plenty in Cambdrigeshire I’m sure, it’s just finding them all!

  4. Just wanted to say very informative and thank you . All that has been written makes so much sence as if it has been always in my mind and life.

  5. I’d like your permission to borrow or quote from this post to help promote the planting and respect for trees globally.

    Marv Lyons

  6. I just read a very good book with his name a herne the hunter I looked them both up an I found this one which just help explain it more thanks

  7. this is to hard and complex to understand there is no one in this world who really uses formal english like that much i dont want to have hard words in there even though i am the third most intelligent person in this world. believe it or not! but i think you should narrow it down a little so other people can understand instead of using big words which some people cannot understand YGM? 🙂

  8. this is really helpful thank you and well apart from everything that jagzz said i think that i have to agree that you should put the context above into simpler words thanks 😀

  9. […] were blessed with a visit from both Superman and the traditional Green Man, a symbol of rebirth and Spring, as well as glimpses of rich costumes from other dancers later in […]

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  16. […] Aha! the Green Man! And with some research I find this quote… […]

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  18. […] course, along with other Christian images. Some of the more famous carvings include the reoccurring Green Man, the Apprentice Pillar (or “Prentice Pillar”), The Dance of Death, Lucifer, and […]

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  23. […] Architectural in Wooler, took out the screening and re-instated the gateway. Complete with a Green Man plaque which we thought was rather appropriate to […]

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  30. I’ve always look at carvings of the greenman but had not for years took much notice of them untill today I was in Glastonbury an saw the greenman in the form of a ring and felt compelled to buy it drawn to it I suppose,have never read about it before untill to nite and yours was the best and easiest to read,in lay mans terms,thank u.

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  32. […] course, along with other Christian images. Some of the more famous carvings include the reoccurring Green Man, the Apprentice Pillar (or “Prentice Pillar”), The Dance of Death, Lucifer, and […]

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  35. I seen the green man in leaves of a tree. I was watching the leaves dancing in the and it was very close to me. As we were leaving, I asked my son to drive by the tree, I wanted him to see. Then i noticed that the tree was way out in the field. Wow! The green man showed himself to me! Does this happen often?

  36. […] toilets. Art has no Glastonbury as such (and the “art” at Glastonbury tends to run to carved Green Man statues), but you can put together your own mini-visual arts festival from various enterprising […]

  37. My ancestors used to carve the green man and many Celtic crosses in the Dorset/Devon areas, I like the links between the green man and legends such as Robin Hood and King Arthur, these characters are in the new book TURNER TREES if you like family history. You might even be able to make out the verdant one in the foliage on the book cover.

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  40. Very interesting I bought a ring with the Grenadines man’s face I was drawn to it n researched the meaning behind it great detail and insightfUllapool information thanks

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  44. the greenman is Real. if not why does he exist. in my local wood Sonoma and glen Ellen California. 95476 95442. don’t disrespect your elders. or. your. tree all crack. ha

  45. Delight in the Royal, and take pleasure in that they’re accomplishing this. With any luck , some of the menu merchandise will turn into long lasting fixtures. Due for the idea.

  46. Good, well-written article, didn’t find what I was looking for: how did the geeen man become the April Fool? I had read somewhere that Christianity derided the adherents of the Green Man, calling them Fools for believing in such. Have you heard of this? Can you give me a reference? Thank you for any help.

  47. […] Fairy.  One of wing.  One of beauty.  One of queen.  One of rule.  A Fairy’s realm is that of Wood.  You’ll find me here, a nature spirit; answers “Green of Man“. […]

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