Folklore, History & the Study of Myth

The Writings of Gary R. Varner

Green Man Art

For those of you interested in Green Men and Wood Spirits please visit my wood art site at http://bluegrasswoodart.webs.com where a variety of my pyrographic art with Green Man/nature themes can be found.

The Face of Cernunnos

Along the craggy cliffs of Tintagle resides the Face of Cernunnos, carved by Nature to remind us of the watchfulness of the Horned One.

Tintagel, located on the craggy, wind swept cliffs of southwestern Cornwall is the traditional birth place of King Arthur, it is a wonderous place. Atop the stone island lies the ruins of Tintagel castle and village, built in the 12th and 13th century. This date makes it too recent to be directly related to King Arthur who reportedly was born around 480 C.E., but it is still a place of mystery and holiness. Although the existing castle was started by Reginald, the Earl of Cornwall in 1141, distinctive Mediterranian pottery, called Tintagel Ware, has been found there that dates back to the 5th and 6th centuries. Tintagel was obviously a wealthy trading post during that time and may, in fact, have been a stronghold of Arthur.

Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ash believes that the castle was constructed at Tintagel by Reginald to take advantage of the Arthurian lore that surrounded the site.(1)

In 1998, the English Heritage revealed that during that season''s excavations at Tintagel, a broken piece of Cornish slate was uncovered with an inscription reading, "Pater Coliavificit Artognou", which translated means "Artognou, father of a descendent of Coll, had this built". "Artognou" is pronounced "Arthnou". The inscription has been dated to the 6th century and the reference to "Coll" is interesting in that King Coel Hen (the Old) was the 4th century founder of the Royal Line of Dummonia. Dummonia is the kingdom that King Arthur is reported to have ruled.

A sacred well can be found at the top of the island crest, along with an underground passage which ends at a pool of water. Archaeologist have determined that this passage was used as a "cold storage" pit, but I believe that this is wrong. The site is located several hundred feet from the castle proper, and is confronted with the full fury of the winds that constantly sweep over the island. Most fortresses had storage rooms built within them, or closer to them, for easy access. The passage is instead obviously a ritual site that mimics the Earth Goddesses’ womb. The close connection between Tintagel and the Goddess is also evident in the two labyrinths carved in stone a few miles from Tintagel. These carvings have been dated to around 1400-1250 B.C.E. The mazes are identical to those found at Crete and among ancient Native American sites.

Below the castle ruins is a large cave with openings to the ocean and to a cove. Known as "Merlin’s Cave", it is "typical" of those caves believed to be representative of the Earth Goddess and the mysteries of fertility. It is lined in quartz crystal and exudes a sense of high energy within its walls.

Just outside the cave entrance and running up the left side of the cliff is a natural rock sculpture of a face. Researcher Paul Broadhurst notes in his book, "Tintagel and the Arthurian Mythos"(2), that the face is that of Arthur. Upon closer examination curved rams horns are seen sprouting from the rock forehead. The castle builders added on to this image by building stone walls connecting to the natural horn structure. Is this a representation of Arthur? No. It is rather an ancient, primordial, visage of the Horned God, Cernunnos. Literature on the rock face is almost non-existent. The scant mention of the horned image in Broadhurst’ book ignores the horned image, and the accompanying photograph is devoid of the horns. Perhaps it is more advantageous to maintain local tradition than to discuss the alternative, but more obvious, meanings of the image.

The naturally constructed face is known as a simulacra (a natural object which looks like people, animals or deities) which are found throughout the world. According to Rickard and Michell, "these spontaneous images are often prominent in local folklore, and in times of pagan religion they were symbols of the gods and other characters of mythology. They give hints about the spiritual qualities…of the country around them. Certain spots on earth are seen…as ‘generation centres’...because they are spots where nature seems to manifest the prototypes of Creation". (3)

The sense of wonder that one has when seeing such a marvel is profound. But are these simply natural oddities? I don''t believe so. I believe that these are direct links to Gaia, which indicate just how close to nature we once were, and how close we can again become. The face at Tintagel has been there for eons and is a reminder that the Horned God is still with us, watching over the wildlands.

The people of ancient Britain acknowledged the sacred power held at Tintagel and the areas around it by carving the labyrinths at Rocky Valley and digging the ritual cave at the top of Tintagel. If, in fact, this is the home of Arthur, what better place to build his castle. Arthur was a Pagan and worshipped the Old Gods. His teacher, Merlin, was a druid. The Face of Cernunnos, clearly sculptured on the side of the island by the forces of Nature, would give authority to the King who acted on behald of the Horned One. We can find that same sacred power where we live, wherever that is, if we but look and open our hearts and minds to it.

NOTES

1. Geoffrey Ashe. Arthurian Britain. Glastonbury: Gothic Image Publications, 1997, pg. 210

2. Paul Broadhurst. Tintagel and the Arthurian Mythos. Launceston: Pendragon Press, 1992, pg 158

3. Bob Rickard and John Michell. Unexplained Phenomena: Mysteries and Curiosities of Science, Folklore and Superstition. London: Rough Guides, Ltd., 2000, page 234

Photo by Brenna Varner


The Mythology of the Green Man

Green Man-Sacramento, California

Details: When we hear the word “mythology” we always think of stories, fables, fairy tales. But myth is not make-believe. Myth is based on true events and real people—somewhat exaggerated true—but not fairy tale. Mircea Eliade defined “myth” as “’living’ in the sense that it supplies models for human behavior and, by that very fact, gives meaning and value to life.” (1) It was only with the predominance of Christian thinking that myth came to mean “fiction” and “illusion”, and worse as “falsehood”. Eliade noted that myth came “to denote ‘what cannot really exist’” in our contemporary society. (2) The mythology of the Green Man is a living mythology. The “meaning and value” it gives to our lives continues to unfold and evolve for us.

The story of Gawain and the Green Knight, which is really a poem, was written in the 14th century—a time when many of the foliate heads were being carved on the cathedrals of Europe. Since that time a variety of myths and legends of a contemporary setting have originated. Some of these legends (some that can be defined as “urban legends”) have appeared in the later part of the 20th century—at a time when the foliate head has again become “popular,” occurring in mainstream society via jewelry, wall plaques, statuary and garden decorations. In this chapter we will look at a few of the older as well as more recent legends of the Green Man. Before we enter the realm of myth and legend let us consider the importance of green. Is the color itself important in our study? Does the color alone symbolize the underlying meaning of the Green Man?

The Significance of Green

Green has been known for untold ages as the color of the fairy. Green was so universally recognized, as the color of the fairy that many in Scotland refused to wear it as to do so would be to invite the anger of the fairy folk. “Greenies” and “greencoaties” were common euphemisms used in Britain for the fairy. Green was a color shunned by many as being associated with evil fairies and witches. But why green? Green is also associated with nature, with ripening life, with fertility and that is the reason.
During the formation of Christianity nature was seen to exist for the pleasure and consumption of man. That nature should exist as an entity unto herself, with powers beyond mans, was a thought that put fear into many. Later, nature was viewed as evil and anything associated with nature was seen in a similar way. That green represented the power and fertile life of nature slowly came to be associated with evil, and thus Pagan, forms bent on the torment of mankind. Thus fairies, who were mischievous entities of the underworld, part of the Old Race which inhabited many parts of the world prior to man’s arrival, became, if not outright evil, close relatives of evil. The December 28, 1850 issue of the English periodical Notes and Queries reported, “In a parish adjoining Dartmoor is a green fairy ring of considerable size, within which a black hen and chickens are occasionally seen at nightfall.” Black hens were often considered as embodiments of evil.

But, green as a color has been symbolic as well with the symbolism of new growth and greenness and it is this association which the fairy have their link. But it is also this link that humankind has lost over the centuries which has been reestablished through the Green Man, the Wild Huntsman and the other legends and images of the super-natural. Green is, according to the Doel’s, an “extension to the natural world—and the supernatural in both its ‘Otherworld’ and afterlife elements.” (3)

Brian Stone, a Reader in English Literature at the Open University, most succinctly defines the importance of the color of green in regards to the Green Knight, “it surprises me that no critic has picked up one very important medieval theological reference to green as the colour of truth…evergreen…is the colour assigned to ever-living and eternal truth.” (4)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

One of the best-known stories of the 14th century is that of the nephew of King Arthur, Sir Gawain. Written during the peak of popularity of the Green Man stone and wood carvings, the author of this famous poem remains unknown but is believed to have been a resident of north-western England. The poet is also a sophisticated and talented alliterative stylist, which was a common style during the older Anglo-Saxon period. The poetic story, as summarized by Richard Cavendish (5):
“At Camelot on New Year’s Day there rode into Arthur’s hall a gigantic green warrior on a towering horse, holding a holly branch in one hand and an immense battle-axe in the other. His skin was green, his hair was green, and even his horse was green. He had come to play what he called a game. Any champion who dared could strike him one blow with the axe, on condition that a year later the champion submit to a return blow from the green knight. Gawain took up the challenge and struck the green knight a blow that cut his head clean off his shoulders and sent it rolling to the floor. The green knight calmly picked up his head by the hair and turned the face towards Gawain. The eyelids opened and the mouth spoke, telling Gawain to meet him for the return blow a year later at the Green Chapel.”

Eventually the year passed and Gawain set out on his journey to the Green Chapel to meet the gigantic green knight.

“After a long journey he came to a noble castle, where he was welcomed by the jovial Sir Bercilak and his lovely young wife. He stayed there until New Year’s Day, royally entertained by Bercilak and, though sorely tempted, resisting the persistent attempts of Bercilak’s wife to seduce him.

On New Years Day Gawain went as he said he would to the Green Chapel. There “the green knight appeared and Gawain bravely bared his neck for a stroke of the axe. The green knight raised the axe high, but struck Gawain only a glancing blow, which nicked his skin. He then explained that he was Sir Bercilak, transformed into the green knight by the magic of Morgan le Fay, who had planned the whole adventure in the hope of discrediting the Round Table. Gawain had been spared because he had honorably refrained from making love to Bercilak’s wife and had shown himself to be the most faultless knight in the world.”

An interesting note about the Green Chapel, according to J.D. Wakefield, is that it was not a structure but rather a green mound situated in a valley beside a stream of bubbling water. Wakefield believes that the Green Chapel was, in reality, Silbury Hill—a sacred man-made mound in Wiltshire not far from West Kennett Long Barrow and Avebury—two other ancient sacred sites. (6)

How do we associate the green knight to the Green Man? This was obviously a test for Gawain, and one he passed, but this is also a story of “truth-bringing” through a mixture of pagan ritual and the confused teachings of medieval Christianity. The poem also is an alliterative telling of the turning of the year, taking place at a time between two winters, which signifies a time of death of vibrant vegetation, and then a changing back to life through renewed growth, and then again, returns to death. The green knight is beheaded and through his sacrifice he shows that life still goes on and, as John Matthews notes, “he challenges us to honor the sacrifice he makes every winter.” (7) In addition, according to Matthews, the poem tells us that “one of the gifts of the Green Man is that he instructs us in how to face our deepest fears and conquer them. In this way he becomes a companion as well as a challenger, a dual role that is present in the archetype in virtually all of its manifestations.” (8)

Other associations with the Green Man are found in the green knight’s long hair and beard, both green of course. His beard “is like a bush…his long green hair covers his chest and back…down to his elbows. He carries a holly branch in one hand…” (9)

As the poem reads:

“Men gaped at the hue of him
Ingrained in garb and mien,
A fellow fiercely grim,
And all a glittering green.

“And garments of green girt the fellow about –
And verily his vesture was all vivid green,
So were the bars on his belt and the brilliants set
In ravishing array on the rich accouterments
About himself and his saddle on silken work.
…Yes, garbed all in green was the gallant rider,
And the hair of his head was the same hue as his horse…” (10)

Brian Stone, in his essay on the Green Knight, also discusses this mixture of the Green Knight’s character:
“…the Green Knight’s combination of greenness, hairiness, energy, earthiness and mainly rough, imperative speech incline us irrevocably to think of two common medieval types, one an outcast and the other a rural deity.

The wild man of the woods, the ‘wodwose’, was often an outlaw who…had developed sub-human habits and the fierce unpredictable behavior of a wild beast. The green man, on the other hand, was a personification of spring, a mythological supernatural being who persists to this day in English folk dance and in the name of many pubs.” (11)

The green knight is a mixture of the heroic tales of knights, of Christian value teaching and of the lore of the pre-Christian god of vegetation. The tale of the green knight continues into “modern” times through the festivals of the Mummer Plays, which have been popular folk celebrations for at least 300 years and probably further back in time, and the Sword Dances. These folk festivals occur around Christmas and are known for the green leafed “Wilde Mann” and other green festooned figures such as the Burry Man who are an integral part of the celebrations. I do not believe that we can interpret the green knights actions in this poem as easily as Matthews seems to but Sir Gawain and the Green Knight does indicate that the underlying archetype was equally important in the 14th century to the literate and peasant classes in England, through storytelling and carved images, as he is universally important today among mankind as exhibited through carvings, novels and other forms of expression.

The Green Man of Fingest

The Green Man of Fingest was in reality a ghost. According to Daphne Phillips, in 1321 Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln, was granted 300 acres of land for the development of a park as well as a large “extent” of land which surrounded the Manor of Fingest which was designated as “free warren”—or hunting rights—to the bishop. However, this large tract of land had been land in common use by the villagers who had used it to raise beef and mutton to pay taxes to the crown. In 1341 over sixty families had resided in this area and had also used the land for their livelihoods. When the bishop had taken control only a third of the land remained in the villagers use. Phillips notes that “the bishop, not surprisingly, had ‘many a bitter curse in his lifetime and after his death” (12) at the end of 1343.

Legend had it that soon after his death the bishop was seen as a “keeper in a short green coat with…bow, quiver of arrows and horn by his side”. He was, by his offensive actions in life, doomed to be the park keeper until the land was again opened up to the people. Not long after this the “banks and pales (were) thrown down and the ditches…filled up again”, the land was once again open for public use. Is this the end of the ghost stories of the bishop? No. As recent as 1898 it was recorded that the ghost was still to be seen in the churchyard, dressed in the green keepers dress. He is seen in the role of a protector of the land and it is thought that the legends of the ghostly bishop have been reformatted as a more recent version of the Lord of the Wild, or, as Phillips believes, “a god (converted) into a repentant bishop.”

The Islamic Legend of Khidr

According to legend, Alexander the Great happened to obtain a copy of Adam’s will which mentioned that God had created a magical spring behind Mt. Oaf, the mountainous barrier around the world, which was located in the Land of Darkness. The water of this spring “was whiter than milk, colder than ice, sweeter than honey, softer than butter and sweeter smelling than musk.” (13) It also granted eternal life to those who drank from it. Khidr, taking Alexander’s army with him, entered the Land of Darkness and found the spring. He bathed in the water, drank of its sweetness, and became immortal. However, when he attempted to show Alexander his find it had become lost once again. Another version of this legend states that Khidir fell into the Well of Life, gained immortality and became the Green Man. (14) Khidr is regarded among the Sufi followers as the Guide to the Sufi Path and is said to appear before Sufi adepts, in their sleep or in person, to help them on their way.

Khidr was also, in legend, a companion to Moses. Khidr’s name, according to lore, is associated with the color green and it is said that even the rock upon which he prayed turned to green. (15) Like the Green Man, Khidr “is perceived as a representative of nature and as a source of supernatural wisdom who lives both inside and outside time and is therefore immortal.” (16)

The Green Man of Hughenden

The Green Man has reportedly physically manifested himself in England as late as 1986. An article in the South Bucks Star newspaper on September 26, 1986 entitled Phantom of the Forest read:
“A ghostly figure dressed in green startled two motorists as they drove past a crematorium just before midnight.
“The apparition suddenly loomed up at the side of the road sending shivers down the spine of driver Mark Nursey and his girlfriend Allyson Buleptt, who was in the car behind.

“Mark, of Hepplewhite Close, High Wycombe, said: ‘The most uncanny thing was the way it stood. It seemed to be wearing what I can only describe as a big green jumper. I couldn’t make out the head or hands. It seemed to be stooping but was about 5ft 11ins tall and well built.’”

The article goes on to theorize on the origin of the apparition:

“One theory is the figure was the spirit of the forest, a green man, as depicted on a number of pub signs in the Chilterns. He is also related to Herne the Hunter, spirit of the forest as depicted on TV’s Robin of Sherwood.”
The October 17th edition of the South Bucks Star saw an additional account of the “phantom”:

“Another witness of the phantom of the forest has recalled his terrifying ordeal. The seven-foot tall green ghost was seen by warehouseman Phil Mullett just yards from where 21-year-old Mark Nursey saw the figure on Four Ashes Road, Cryers Hill, near High Wycombe.
“Phil said: ‘It gave me quite a shock to read it (the previous report in the Star). The account was so close to my own. It was about 9.30pm when I drove into Four Ashes Road and on turning my car lights on full I saw this green person appear from the right hand side of the road. It drifted out to the centre of the road and turned towards me. It waved its arms, not to frighten but as if to warn me to keep back. It drifted into the hedge on the other side of the road but as I got closer it came out again to the centre, turned and lifted its arms. I knew I was going to hit it. I think I cried out or shouted something.’”

According to the news account Mr. Mullett did hit it but when he got out of the car to check, there was nothing to see. He described the apparition, as “bright green but appeared to have no legs or hands. The body was solid and it stood about seven foot tall. Instead of a face there was just a misty grey round shape.”

Green Children

One interesting report of Green Children has often been repeated over the years. The earliest account given is that of Thomas Keightley in his 1878 publication The Fairy Mythology.(17) Keightley notes that this story was “as quoted by Picart in his Notes on William of Newbridge. We could not find it in the Collection of Histories, etc., by Martenes and Durand,--the only place where, to our knowledge, this chronicler’s works are printed.”

The story, in its entirety:

"ANOTHER wonderful thing," says Ralph of Coggeshall, "happened in Suffolk, at St. Mary’s of the Wolf-pits. A boy and his sister were found by the inhabitants of that place near the mouth of a pit which is there, who had the form of all their limbs like to those of other men, but they differed in the colour of their skin from all the people of our habitable world; for the whole surface of their skin was tinged of a green colour. No one could understand their speech. When they were brought as curiosities to the house of a certain knight, Sir Richard de Caine, at Wikes, they wept bitterly. Bread and other victuals were set before them, but they would touch none of them, though they were tormented by great hunger, as the girl afterwards acknowledged. At length, when some beans just cut, with their stalks, were brought into the house, they made signs, with great avidity, that they should be given to them. When they were brought, they opened the stalks instead of the pods, thinking the beans were in the hollow of them; but not finding them there, they began to weep anew. When those who were present saw this, they opened the pods, and showed them the naked beans. They fed on these with great delight, and for a long time tasted no other food. The boy, however, was always languid and depressed, and he died within a short time. The girl enjoyed continual good health; and becoming accustomed to various kinds of food, lost completely that green colour, and gradually recovered the sanguine habit of her entire body. She was afterwards regenerated by the layer of holy baptism, and lived for many years in the service of that knight (as I have frequently heard from him and his family), and was rather loose and wanton in her conduct. Being frequently asked about the people of her country, she asserted that the inhabitants, and all they had in that country, were of a green colour; and that they saw no sun, but enjoyed a degree of light like what is after sunset. Being asked how she came into this country with the aforesaid boy, she replied, that as they were following their flocks, they came to a certain cavern, on entering which they heard a delightful sound of bells; ravished by whose sweetness, they went for a long time wandering on through the cavern, until they came to its mouth. When they came out of it, they were struck senseless by the excessive light of the sun, and the unusual temperature of the air; and they thus lay for a long time. Being terrified by the noise of those who came on them, they wished to fly, but they could not find the entrance of the cavern before they were caught.

“This story is also told by William of Newbridge, who places it in the reign of King Stephen. He says he long hesitated to believe it, but he was at length overcome by the weight of evidence. According to him, the place where the children appeared was about four or five miles from Bury St. Edmund’s: they came in harvest-time out of the Wolf-pits; they both lost their green hue, and were baptised, and learned English. The boy, who was the younger, died; but the girl married a man at Lenna, and lived many years. They said their country was called St. Martin’s Land, as that saint was chiefly worshiped there; that the people were Christians, and had churches; that the sun did not rise there, but that there was a bright country which could be seen from theirs, being divided from it by a very broad river.”

This story is interesting on several counts. The hidden world through which the children traveled through a huge cavern is reminiscent of those legends of passages to the Underworld through sacred wells and caves. (18) An unknown race of green skinned people whose total diet consisted of vegetable matter is a mixture of fairy lore and lore associated with the Wild Folk. That Keightley’s account claims that the children’s country was Christian and that they worshipped St. Martin is obviously a Christian elaboration of a possibly older tale. One similar group of earth spirits are the Daome-Shi, a subterranean form of fairy that “dwell in burning mountains, or occupy themselves in mining, and the storing of treasure” who also dressed in green. (19)

Green Women of the Woods

Legends of Wild Men and Wild Women are abundant around the world. While the Wild Man may be more directly linked to the Green Man archetype, the Wild Woman is also an important, and ancient, link to the primordial Mother Earth. The Green Woman, the Wild Woman, is seen in numerous carvings in both the Old and the New World. Alexander Porteous wrote that “Wood-Wives”, another name for the Wild Women, “frequented the old sacred forests or groves, and apparently it had been they who had formed the court or escort of the ancient gods when they sat enthroned on the trees. These Wood-Wives were principally found in Southern Germany, but varieties of them are mentioned in Northern Germany and Scandinavia. They were the quarry of the Wild Huntsman but were saved from him if they could reach a tree with a cross on it.” (20)

This story is another Christianized version of an ancient tale. The Wood-Wives are spirits of the forest, free spirits of nature. The Wood-Wives have many of the characteristics given to the fairy (21) and elves. They often give gold for food or kindness and may cause innumerable disruptions of human life through rapid changes in weather or other mischief. Porteous notes, “very often the colour of these spirits was green, and their skin of a mossy texture…”. (22)

Some of these wood-spirits were known to possess the secrets of herbal medicine and protected various species of trees. While Porteous states that these Wood-Wives, these Wild Women, populated the Northern Germanic and Scandinavian countries, in reality they exist in most folklore around the world. Matthews wrote, “they appear frequently as gentle spirits of trees and woodland, dressed in leaves, their flowing hair contrasting with their wizened faces.” (23) These female wood spirits are not depicted as often in architectural motifs as the Green Man but they are there. Chesca Porter, writing in John Matthews’ book Robin Hood: Green Lord of the Wildwood (24), believes that the ancient Sheila-na-Gigs carved in many of the old churches of France and England are representatives of the Wild Women and are “possibly a medieval manifestation of the goddess of life and death, a reflection of the feminine power of the land itself.” Many of the Sheila-na-Gigs have been destroyed over the years due to their overt sexual connotation and their direct linkage to Goddess worship.

Feminine faced Green Women carvings are rare, however there are many carvings of women who appear to be sprouting from the stalks of plants, their lower bodies actually part of vegetation. These are as meaningful as the imaginative Green Man foliate-heads, which are more common. These carvings of female human-plant beings are symbolic of our link to nature in its primitive and innocent beauty and Mother Earths life giving force.

A fine example of a Green Woman carving is that of the Spring Maiden created during the 14th century at Exeter Cathedral. Green Women were also goddesses. The Libyan goddess Neith is depicted with a green face as well as the symbols of fertility, the bow and arrow, which also represent lightning and rain. Likewise Green Demeter was the goddess of growing corn—an obvious symbol of fertility and renewed life. Another Green Woman carving can be found at Shepherdswell church in Kent which dates back to 944 CE.

The Wild Man

The Wild Man probably is based in reality. During the Middle Ages a sub-culture existed on the fringes of society made up of outlaws and social outcasts. At times individuals made their way into the towns and cities and the Wild Man, Wild Folk, stories began. At the same time the terms also were applied to the mythical race of dwarves who were also called “Moss-Folk”. One folklorist wrote, “they are considered to be dwarfs, and they live in communities. They are grey and old-looking, and are hideously overgrown with moss, giving them a hairy appearance.” (25)

There is another aspect of the Wild Man as a creature removed from accepted society more closely associated with the Green Man. It was Lady Raglan in 1939 who coined the term “Green Man” and who assigned the term to the Wild Man, Jack in the Green and Robin Goodfellow. The Wild Man subculture came to represent those things rejected by the “civilized” elements—those being natural elements found in animal and vegetable life as well as those more “primitive” aspects of humanity. These very basic characteristics of nature came to be those most feared by the Christian society of the day. The many illustrations of the Wild Man of the Middle Ages show a naked individual completely covered in long, shaggy hair with only the face, hands, elbows (and the breasts of the female) exposed. Other illustrations show this very same individual but covered in leaves instead of hair or fur. Matthews believes that the Wild Man “expresses as aspect of the Green Man that is angry”…angry due to the denial of humankind of the rightness of nature. Angry due to the attempts at dominating nature by Christian civilization which promotes the “divine right” of man to subdue the wild. In North America the Wild Man is seen in the ancient legends of Big Foot and Sasquatch—huge human-like figures covered in long hair and leaves. Nineteenth century American folklore tells of a family of Black Foot who attacked a group of gold miners in their California cabin one evening, totally destroying the building and tearing the men apart. Was this a response to the encroachment of “civilized” man? The characteristics of the two are very similar and the react in the same ways. As Matthews writes of the Wild Man that “he can only dwell in such wild spots and avoids those places tamed by humankind, retreating ever deeper into the wilderness to escape the excesses of civilization—its cruelty, greed, and hypocrisy”. (26) So too do these mythic figures in the North American lore.

Clive Hicks, however, noted that the Wild Men and Wild Woman “are not necessarily malevolent and are depicted as helping humanity in some cases…The wild man represents an asset in each of us, the whole reservoir of qualities with which each of us is endowed…”. (27)

Do these mythical “wild men” exist? I believe so. They are part of the mythos of nature and appear at times of stress in the world. They may not be an everyday event but they exist in two worlds at separate times. They are a part of the Green Man spirit and act and react to protect the small wilderness that is left in this teeming world.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Eliade, Mircea. Myth and Reality. New York: Harper Torchbooks 1963, 2

2. Ibid, 1

3. Doel, Fran & Geoff. The Green Man in Britain. Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing Ltd. 2001, 25

4. Stone, Brian. “The Common Enemy of Man”, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. by Brian Stone. London: Penguin Books 1974, 123

5. Cavendish, Richard. “Lancelot and Gawain”, in Legends of the World. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1994, 243

6. Wakefield, J.D. Legendary Landscapes: Secrets of Ancient Wiltshire Revealed. Marlborough: Nod Press 1999, 95-96

7. Matthews, John. The Quest for the Green Man. Wheaton; Quest Books 2001, 88

8. Ibid 90-91

9. Doel, op cit 79

10. Stone, Brian, editor. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. London: Penguin Books 1974, 26, 27

11. Ibid, 122

12. Phillips, Daphne. “The Green Man of Fingest”, in Strange Buckinghamshire, http://www.cleaverproperty.co.uk/strange’bucks/fingest.html 11/15/2000

13. Elwell-Sutton, L.P. “The Islamic World: The Two Horned One”, in Legends of the World. Edited by Richard Cavendish. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1994, 116

14. Ibid

15. Ibid

16. Matthews, op cit. 30

17. Keightley, Thomas. The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries. London: G. Bell Publishers 1878

18. Varner, Gary R. Sacred Wells: A Study in the History, Mythology and Meaning of Holy Wells and Waters. Baltimore: PublishAmerica Publishers 2002

19. Bonwick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1986, 90 (A reprint of the 1894 edition)

20. Porteous, Alexander. The Lore of the Forest: Myths and Legends. London: Senate Publishers 1996, 91 (A reprint of the 1928 publication Forest Folklore published by George Allen & Unwin, London)

21. Fairies were not always the diminutive and mischievous, green-clad folk of legend. Originally they were the People of Danu, the Tuath-de-Danaan who were the legendary, magical and learned inhabitants of Ireland. After the Milesians gained control of the island they became gods and over time became what we now regard as the Fey, or Fairies. Many of the kings and queens of the Tuath-de-Danaan became the Old Ones, the Gods and Goddesses of Ireland. The Dagda, the Good God, was one of their kings and Boann, his wife, one of their great Goddesses. After the Tuath were defeated by the Milesians, the Dagda became the King of the Fairies and the Fey melted back into the earth, living in the many Fairy mounds and other Otherworld locations.

22. Porteous, op cit, 90

23. Matthews, op cit., 110

24. Matthews, John. Robin Hood: Green Lord of the Wildwood. Glastonbury: Gothic Image Publications 1993, 201

25. Porteous, op cit 93

26. Matthews, John. Quest for the Green Man, op cit 110.

27. Hicks, Clive. The Green Man: A Field Guide. Helhoughton: COMPASSbooks 2000, 7 
           

The Green Man and the Church

Details: In North America Green Man carvings are not part of religious architectural motifs, but rather incorporated into old public buildings such as post offices, banks and apartment buildings. This is contrary to those carvings in Britain where a majority are found on and in church buildings. During the Middle Ages, as well as before this time, the buildings that were designed and built to last were places of power—those being castles and fortresses of the government and churches. We are familiar with many of the grotesque figures of gargoyles found on many of the cathedrals. So too do carvings of Green Men appear on and in these magnificent structures. The reasons for their appearance on these Christian shrines have been debated for years. They are considered by many to be Pagan survivals, which were either incorporated by the early church architects to show dominance over Pagan beliefs or intentionally carved by Pagan stonemasons as an intended statement of “we are not vanquished”. Some have suggested that the numerous carved foliate heads found in Churches represent the continuation of the ancient Celtic head cult into the Christian era.

Researcher Clive Hicks wrote, “commentators have found no mention of the Green Man in Medieval texts, and the image seems to have been used in a wholly intuitive way, accepted but not explained.”(1) While many of the carvings, according to Hicks, were intended to be purely decorative, he also believes that a great many were the result “of a deep, but probably intuitive, sense of symbolism.”(2)

There is also some indication that in the Christian church the Green Man is directly related to the Madonna and Child and to Jesus in particular. Hicks noted in his book, The Green Man: A Field Guide, that “one boss in the vault of the Lady Chapel in Ely might be seen as a green Virgin and Child, and another, at Lincoln, as a green Christ. Two of the most important we discovered were from Exeter Cathedral, where a choir corbel shows the Madonna and Child surrounded by the foliage pouring from the mouth of a Green Man, and from Frieburg im Breisgau, where the Easter Sepulcher, containing a carved figure of Christ in the tomb, is framed by weeping green men.” According to Hicks, “these were clearly intentional iconography, not customary decoration, not pagan survivals, not warnings against sin.”

Nicholas Mann, writing in His Story: Masculinity in the Post-Patriarchal World, notes that it may seem ironic that the Green Man, a very Pagan symbol, “makes his most frequent appearances in ecclesiastical architecture”. However, Mann believes that “in this case, the denial of a chthonic and daemonic immanent power by the Church…has led to its most vital expression in the elements of wood and stone which form the places of worship of the Church. There is irony in this, a quality much loved by the Green Man.”(3)

When did the carvings of the Green Men first appear in British ecclesiastical architecture? The evidence is that they first appeared in large numbers in the late Norman period, from the late 12th to the early 16th centuries.(4) The Doel’s note that the popularity of foliate head carvings was most evident in the 14th and 15th centuries following the Black Death. This would certainly make sense with the symbolism of life and fertility being associated with the Green Man—an intuitive response to the grotesque death that killed over a third of the population in Europe. Basford writes that the “history and development of the Green Man in the Church can…be followed continuously from the fourth or fifth century. Though pagan in origin, the motif evolved within the Church and, during the Middle Ages, became part of its symbolic language.” (5)

The Green Man may be identified more directly with Sylvanus, the Roman “country god’, the god of the oak. Thirlie Grundy, writing in her little book The Green Man in Northumberland and County Durham, notes that during the Middle Ages when the large stone churches began to replace the small wooden ones, stonemasons did not exist. It was the wood carvers who were called upon to fashion the extensive and ornate stonework. “On finding themselves in charge of stone-building projects”, asserts Grundy, the woodcarvers “had summoned the aid of their most trustworthy ally—the powerful, spiritual god of the oak, or today’s enigmatic Green Man.”(6) Sylvanus, also known as the “woodland god”, was a Roman-Celtic tree deity of ancient Britain. Basford wrote of a leaf mask carving on a fountain at the French Abbey of Saint-Denis. Dating back to 1200 CE the fountain has a series of heads carved on the basin, each head with the name of a particular deity engraved over it. The one Green Man face represented is named “Silvan”.(7) An altar dedicated to him was set up in Yorkshire, on Scargill Moor, by the occupying Roman army.(8)

The concept of the woodland god, the Green Man, appears to have followed the Roman armies as they trekked through conquered lands, eventually adopted by the early Christians who aided in the Green Man’s spread along trade and pilgrim routes. While early Christian authorities may have used the Green Man image to induce the Pagan community to go to church, it is also possible that the early Christian faith did not have a clear definition between the ancient Pagan traditions and the new Christian faith, which so heavily borrowed from the past. Because of this lack of definition, the two traditions became fused together—Pagan and Christian—co-existing in the same religious structures for hundreds of years. As researcher John Timpson wrote, “maybe in those days no one was quite sure they (the Pagan gods) wouldn’t make a comeback—so these medieval craftsmen were just hedging their bets.”(9)

Green Man researcher Mike Harding has estimated that there are five times the numbers of Green Man figures in Exeter Cathedral as there are of Jesus. This would certainly imply that they have held an important function and spiritual place in the Christian church for a significant period of time prior to the Reformation.

The early Churches’ obvious comfort with Pagan imagery is most noticeable on the tomb of Saint Abre in the Church of Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand in Poitiers. The tomb, dating from the 4th or 5 century C.E., is decorated with a variety of Pagan themes, including dolphins, and a foliate head. Basford notes, “it is a curious carving, quite unlike the Hellenistic leaf masks. The head is surrounded by contiguous and overlapping leaves which may represent the hair and beard, while large sprays of stylized foliage and flowers spring from the nostrils and extend on either side of the head, like fantastic moustaches.”(10) It is this carving, according to Basford, which may be the prototype of the Green Man images of the medieval period. The foliate head at Saint Abre is the first example of the sprouting head in Europe. It was from this same area in France that the Gothic style of Green Man developed.(11)

For approximately three hundred years, between the 10th and 12th centuries, the foliate mask became mutated to represent evil and sin—in fact; the foliate head became part of the exclusive realm of demonology. To this day, many examples of these demon masks exist—including some in the United States. The 13th century reversed this trend with a delightful focus on the lifelike and natural quality of the carved leaves. The obvious struggle between nature and man is shown in many of the Green Man images during the 13th to 15th centuries. Gladly it appears that this struggle, at least as shown in contemporary Green Man art, has changed to one of a symbiotic relationship between humankind and nature. The foliate head has given birth to such garden ornaments as leafy children, birdbaths and other items, which embrace life and the spirits of nature.

1.Hicks, Clive. The Green Man: A Field Guide. Helhoughton: COMPASSbooks 2000, 8-9

2. Ibid. 9

3.Mann, Nicholas R. His Story: Masculinity in the Post-Patriarchal World. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications 1995, 143

4. Doel, Fran & Geoff. The Green Man in Britain. Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing Ltd. 2001, 37

5. Basford, Kathleen. The Green Man. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer 1978, 19

6. Grundy, Thirlie. The Green Man in Northumberland and County Durham. Carlisle Cumbria: Thumbprint 2001, 3

7. Basford (1978), op.cit. 15

8. Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1991, 208

9. Timpson, John. Timpson’s Leylines: A Layman Tracking the Ley’s. London: Cassell & Co. 2000, 29

10. Basford, K. H. “Quest for the Green Man”, in Symbols of Power. Edited by H.R. Ellis Davidson. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer Ltd. 1977, 107

11. Harte, Jeremy. The Green Man. Andover: Pitkin Unichrome Ltd 2001, 2
           

The Validity of the Green Man Image

Details: The last few years have seen a boon in the number of books published on the Green Man. It has also seen an increased amount of words printed to dispute the Green Man’s symbolism and perceived history—much of it as presented here. I will discuss the points presented by others to invalidate the Green Man myth.

Historian Ronald Hutton argues effectively for the rather late development of the Green Man motif and as a Christian endeavor—not as a Pagan survival. However his argument is somewhat muddied when he states that the culture of the 12th century Renaissance, which he claims produces the images, “was a Christian movement, even though it drew upon ancient ideas and images.”1 His reasoning is technically correct but does not detract from the hypothesis that the Green Man, in fact, is based on ancient Pagan traditions.

Christianity as a whole is based on such Pagan traditions and borrows heavily upon them. Hutton also wrote that the Wild Man was a figure of the Christian Middle Ages—even though, says Hutton, he “was based on ancient models”.2 Hutton is attempting to compare apples with oranges. The actual workmanship used to create most of the Green Man images in Britain was, admittedly, from the Renaissance—but the underlying inspiration was indeed based “upon ancient ideas and images”. The earliest examples were created in Classical Rome and carried around the ancient world by the Christians along pilgrim routes.

The meaning of the Green Man has not been altered. Hutton has missed this important aspect. Regardless if the artisans were employed by a Christian Bishop during the Middle Ages, the fundamental quality and meaning of the Green Men continued to exist, to flourish and to regenerate. Early documents indicate that, while Church officials may have employed the craftsmen responsible for these Green Man images they did not necessarily approve of them or even know what they represented. St. Bernard of Clairvaux complained to the Abbot of St. Thierry in 1125, “What mean those ridiculous (carved) monstrosities in the court of cloisters?”3 Grundy discounts Hutton’s assumption that the carvings were Christian symbols of evil and sin, writing, “taking into account St. Bernard’s unfamiliarity with the carved imagery, it can…be anticipated that the subject-matter had little to do with Christian doctrine but much to do with the carvers themselves.”4

Kathleen Basford also believed that the Green Man image found on so many cathedrals and other ecclesiastical structures represented punishment and not life. Writing in her book The Green Man, she noted “although the Green Man was a much loved motif I think it is very unlikely that he was revered as a symbol of the renewal of life in springtime”5 that Lady Raglan had proposed.

The Green Man, according to Basford, “represents the darkness of unredeemed nature” and “the root of all evil”.6 While the Green Man does have a dual nature, it is certainly not evil but illustrates the very characteristics of nature—both of death and life and mankind’s fate if it chooses to abuse nature rather than live within the bounds of nature’s rules. It is perhaps our concept of “God”, and “good and evil”, which dictates for each of us what the Green Man is. Those who lived, or still live, in a “Pagan” society or values the powers of the natural world rather than view nature as evil and adversarial to humankind’s salvation will see the message of life, fertility, and renewal in the Green Man’s leafy visage. Much more importantly, the Green Man image shows the close relationship to nature that humans have—the leaf and vine growing from or into the Green Man’s face is the very life-blood that humans rely on. To sever those vines or to pluck the leaves from the face only creates a mortal wound.

These ancient symbols become important periodically throughout history at different places, different times and under different circumstances. However, the subconscious forces that act to create them are caused not by a Bishop commissioning them as silent images of sin, but of far earlier traditions that viewed them as part of the celebration of fertility and life and death. The very fact that these images are resurrected every few hundred years gives credence to the belief that some far older purpose exists for them. That humankind is found in need of periodic remembrance, through a gentle nudge by the spirits of life, indicate that forces are at play that are linked directly between Nature and Spirit and human beings.

Other writers seem to believe that cultural change caused by the stresses of our society also results in changes of popular folklore—in effect creating “one more veneer on the ever-changing nature of these ‘traditions’”7 that creates a false history and a pre-conceived meaning that is blindly accepted by those not educated in the sciences.

I agree that our society and related traditions do constantly change. But that is as it should be. If a certain aspect of history, art or religion becomes “paganized”, it is because our society has a need for it to be so. This very “paganization” is a result of the deep seated but unmet needs of humankind reaching out for meaning—a meaning that can only be satisfied by those primal feelings that were so abundant in the dim past.

The Green Man is an ancient symbol of life and renewal. There is little importance given if some of the images were the result of Christian, rather than overt Pagan, reasons. The final result is one and the same. What is significant is that the Green Man and other “Pagan” symbols reappear throughout time arising at a time of need among a variety of cultures and locations. These symbols appear to be ingrained in the human psyche and have not changed since the dawn of humanity’s existence.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw a veritable flood of Green Man images to secular buildings around the world. While at one time they figured predominately in ecclesiastical motifs, they soon became widespread on government, financial, educational structures, and even apartment buildings. Due to the destruction of religious iconography during the Reformation, the Green Man image became even more popular, migrating as they did from the church to the secular world. “Deprived of their traditional homes,” wrote Mercia MacDermott, “foliate heads re-appeared in all manner of secular settings from lintels to doorknockers.”8

Researcher Carol Ballard introduces an interesting theory in her booklet, The Green Man: The Shakespeare Connection. She believes that the many Green Man figures that can still be seen today in the area where William Shakespeare was raised and lived into adulthood were instrumental in the creation of some of his plays, particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream. According to Ballard, John Shakespeare, William’s father, “was instrumental in defacing and covering wall paintings in the Guild Chapel” the year of William’s birth as his part in the Protestant Reformation’s destruction of religious symbols. “The fact”, Ballard wrote, “that his own father was involved in the destruction of images, could well have made iconography such as those pertaining to the pagan world take on an accentuated significance in Shakespeare’s mind…”.9 Thus, we find the Green Man being moved from the ecclesiastic world and its illuminated manuscripts to the secular world as part of its daily entertainment.


1. Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers LTD.1993, 316

2. Ibid, 310

3. Grundy, Thirlie. Going in Search of the Green Man in Cumbria. Cumbria: Thumbprint 2000, 5

4. Ibid, 6

5. Basford, Kathleen. The Green Man. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer 1978, 20

6. Basford (1978), op. cit. 21

7. Trubshaw, Bob. “Paganism in British Folk Customs”. In At the Edge, No. 3 1996

8. MacDermott, Mercia. Explore Green Men. Loughborough: Explore Books/Heart of Albion Press 2003

9. Ballard, Carol. The Green Man: The Shakespeare Connection. Warwickshire: Self Published 1999, 11

St. George: Christian Dragon Slayer or Pagan Green Man?

Details: The gods of the Old and New World include a number of characters with various powers, secrets and origins. India has several thousand individual gods and goddesses, which rule the minutest aspect of life—from the rains and the flow of the water to the operation of machinery to luck and fertility. Popular American culture has reduced this number down to one but one with thousands of personalities, purposes and origins. Neither culture is that much different from the other in this regard. To see American high school and college football or basketball players stop after a touchdown or basket is made, kneel on the playing field and thank god for the point or hear musicians accepting awards but thanking god for their success is not any different from the shaman or animist thanking a god or spirit for things much more important. Such as surviving another day.

 



My point in saying this is that all religions treat their deities in the same way. It used to be the practice to cajole and even threaten the gods to ensure delivery of the expected event. The gods we worship today have evolved directly from those that our ancient ancestors worshiped thousands and thousands of years ago.

St. George certainly is not considered a god. However, he does figure prominently in Christian mythology as the slayer of the demon-dragon and the protector of the faith from Pagan ideology. But, what is he really? A simple answer is that St. George was created in the 4th century CE, as were most other Catholic saints, from a Pagan origin. Estonian folklorist Mall Hiiemäe wrote of St. George:

“Perhaps the richness of the tradition accumulated on St. George’s Day should rather be viewed in the light of the fact that the Greek form Georgius means a ploughman, a cultivator of land. And when trying to divine the ancient predecessor of the holiday, one should better consider such tradition that is connected with spring-time vegetation as well as the concentration of special customs on certain pre-Christian dates to mark the awakening of nature and the arrival of spring.”(1)

St. George’s Day has been celebrated all over Europe and Britain and has figured prominently in the various rituals of spring. St. George has also been called Green George—the spirit of spring—throughout that part of the world. Barbara Walker directly links Green George, or St. George, to the Green Man. She says, “his image was common in old church carvings, a human head surrounded by leaves or looking out of a tree trunk.”(2)

The importance of George in Eastern European countries cannot be diminished. Russian proverbs such as “George will bring spring” and “There is no spring without George” are common as they are in other Slavic countries. Finnish sayings of “St. George comes with his fish basket” alternate with others that indicate that he brings grasses. What George is, is fertility. He is the fertility of green plants, fish, game and people. He is directly associated with peoples ability to survive and to provide for themselves. This is no more evident than in France where statues of St. George were carried through the cherry orchards of Anjou to ensure a good crop.

East European lore also states that the earth of winter is poisonous and cannot be sat or walked upon before St. George’s Day. It is on St. George’s Day that the earth is reborn and is once again alive.(3)Frazer tells us “amongst the Slavs of Carinthia, on St. George’s Day…the young people deck with flowers and garlands a tree which has been felled on the eve of the festival. The tree is then carried in procession, accompanied with music and joyful acclamations, the chief figure in the procession being the Green George…”(4) Other rituals of St. George’s Day include the blessing of crops in the Ukraine where, after the blessing given by a priest, couples lay down in the fields and roll several times over the newly sprouted shoots. In Southern Slavonia childless women used to hang a chemise on a fruitful tree on St. George’s Eve hoping that a creature will sleep in it overnight or at least tread through it. The next morning the woman will put the chemise on once again in the hopes that her desires for a child will be fulfilled in the next few months.(5)

In the 19th and early 20th centuries shrines of St. George were sought out by women hoping to become pregnant. “…in Syria”, wrote Frazer, “it is still believed that even dead saints can beget children on barren women, who accordingly resort to their shrines in order to obtain the wish of their hearts. …But the saint who enjoys the highest reputation in this respect is St. George. He reveals himself at his shrines which are scattered all over the country…”.(6)

In England St. George is an important part of the annual Mummers Play. This event, normally held around Christmas, Easter or All Souls Night (7) has been part of the local landscape since the 14th century. These dates are important to examine. Obviously, Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, but it is also the birth date of many other Saviour Gods including Attis, Adonis, Dionysus, Osiris and the Syrian Baal and marks the winter solstice. Easter is named for Eostre or Ostara—Goddess of Spring and the celebration of the rebirth of vegetation. All Souls Night is, of course, Halloween, the Pagan New Year. The origin for these Mummers plays, according to John Matthews, probably date from pre-Christian, male society rituals. (8) As with all folkways, the play has changed over time and it is now a two-part event. The first part of the play is referred to as the “Hero Combat” and the second is the “Sword Dance”. “The Mummers plays recorded over the past 300 years”, wrote Fran and Geoff Doel, “have largely been intended for performance at the Christmas period and so have the Sword Dance Plays of the north-east of England…The swords of the dancers like into a magical symbol…They pretend to draw the swords together to decapitate,…the victim symbolically dying and reviving.”(9)

I do not agree with Matthews’s theory of the origins of these dances and plays but I do believe that the death and revival theme of the event is directly related to the rebirth and renewal of life afforded in the spring. The many bits of folklore from around the world associated with St. George’s Day give credence that this was, at one time, a very significant, worldwide event. An event that predated Christianity by untold ages. Ronald Hutton notes that the Mummers’ Play have been recorded from 824 different English communities, and while the “earliest definite one dates from the 1730s…the centerpiece of the action, a combat between champions in which one is killed and then revived, is an enactment of a theme so common and widespread that it must be archaic.” (10)

Janet and Colin Bord also link St. George, who appears in the Mummers’ Plays, with the Green Man. “The theme (of the Mummers) is generally the same”, they wrote, “as in the Green Man or Green George ceremony of May Day, that is, of death and rebirth of nature…These mummers’ plays had their origins in the same pagan times as the Green Man rituals when human sacrifice was part of the annual round of life, and in mankind’s attempt to regain the favour of the gods who seemed to have deserted them.”(11)

The ancient origin of the Day is indicated by the many Estonian customs associated with it. According to Hiiemäe, “more than one tenth of the reports concerning St. George’s Day customs in Estonia, have something to do with snakes. One would think that the image of George slaying the dragon would render snakes as the counterpart of evil. However, it is to the contrary in Estonian lore. The snakes, according to Hiiemäe, are “used in repelling and preventive magic to help the cattle thrive and people fare well and also to cure people’s diseases…”(12)It would appear that snakes are not indicative of evil but of good—as long as the snake used in ritual was killed before St. George’s Day.

Various other traditional rituals of Estonia and Eastern Europe have played some part in the creation of St. George’s Day. Hiiemäe notes, “interesting reports come from North-East Estonia where the cattle-magic practiced on St. George’s Day has merged with some traits of a woman’s holiday dating back to the tribal era”.(13)Other pagan holidays/festivals that have merged with St. George’s Day include Ploughing Day and the Shedding of Yellow Leaves.

Even though St. George continues to be an important folk-hero, appearing throughout the Old World in various festivals to mark important dates, the Church began to refer to him as “the imaginary saint” because he “was so shamelessly involved in fertility rites.”(14)

Another more direct link to the Green Man image is circumstantial. In some Bulgarian icons of St. George he is shown with a “Medusa head” on his breastplate—however the “Medusa” is in reality a face with two vine tendrils coiled on either side. Whatever George’s true origins it cannot be denied that he is intricately linked to nature’s resurrection every spring and the abundance of plant and animal life that results. He is part of the daily life and ritual of many peoples around the world that view him as the bringer of fertility and the continuation of life on earth. He is, in this way, the Green Man.

1.Hiiemäe, Mall. “Some Possible Origins of St. George’s Day Customs and Beliefs” in Folklore, Vol. 1, June 1996, published by the Institute of Estonian Languages, Tartu

2.Walker, Barbara G. The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Edison: Castle Books 1996, 339

3. Hiiemäe, op cit
4. Frazer, Sir James. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. 1993, 126

5.Ibid 120

6. Frazer, Sir. J. G. Adonis: A Study in the History of Oriental Religion. London: Watts & Company 1932, 60

7. O’Hanlon, Maggie. Customs & Traditions in Britain. Hampshire: Pitkin Unichrome 2000, 9

8. Matthews, John. The Quest for the Green Man. Wheaton: Quest Books 2001, 124

9. Doel, Fran and Geoff. The Green Man in Britain. Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing Ltd. 2001, 81

10. Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1993, 328

11. Bord, Janet and Colin. Mysterious Britain: Ancient Secrets of Britain and Ireland. London: Thorsons 1995, 270

12. Hiiemäe, op cit

13. Ibid

14. Walker, op cit