The Green Man
Who is this mysterious face in the leaves, commonly known as the Green
Man? He is the personification of the spirit of nature itself in its
vegetation form; the living heartbeat in every cell of a plant, shrub or tree,
and the divine essence of the seasons. In fact the Green Man is the great
nature-god Pan or Cernunnos of the vegetative realm. He is the divine essence in
the world of trees and flowers. He is health through the plants and fruits we
eat. And he is the ongoing cycle of the year, the infinite wheel of life. The
druids, known for their vegetation cult, received prophetic messages and
inspiration through communication with the Green Man.
The Green Man usually has a human face, surrounded by leaves or grapes, and
he sometimes has the ears of a goat like Pan.
In other versions leaves sprout from his mouth, eyes, ears or nose. It is
said that he is naked, but actually no one really knows, since the leaves and
branches that surround him clothe this spirit. Often his face is surrounded by
oak-leaves; that's why he is given the name Oak-King, master of the heavenly
From old he is worshipped in regions covered with trees and woods, like
England, Holland, Germany, France and Italy in Europe (the Romans already
depicted him); but he is also known in India and Malaysia. You can find many
carvings of the Green Man in southwest England, like in the fantastic Exeter
cathedral. I have visited this part of England and was struck by the old and
mystical oak-woods, which seem to be his homeland. You can find his image on
churches, cathedrals, bars and country-houses.
The Green Man is a less challenging and direct form of Pan, the horned God.
He lacks the unabashed animal sexuality of this important Greek god of nature,
but emphasizes the fertility, regeneration and different life/seasonal phases as
shown by the world of vegetation. This leafy god-form was embraced by
Christianity, while the same church had done away with Pan by proclaiming him to
be the devil. The great forces of nature will find a way to come to the surface
anyway, and if the animal form is declared inappropriate, it will resurrect in
another form. And so the masculine energy has reached us as the Green Man, the
Green Knight, the Old Green Man of the Woods, Jack in the Green, or Green George
as he is also called.
In all cases his lovely image represents the great solar god; the one that
rises in spring, blooms in summer, declines in autumn and dies in wintertime, to
be reborn the next spring again. He is the great fertilizing force of the land,
which results in colorful paintings of flowers and rich harvests. He is our
long-lasting youthfulness by consuming large amounts of fruits and vegetables.
But he is more: he is the great masculine life-essence, the God, the Father, the
Shepherd, the Lord of Light and the Lord of Darkness, and the other side of the
receptive Goddess-energy of nature. Therefore the Green Man has become of
major importance to many men today as their return to their natural and divine
core - and I believe they are right. They regard the Green Man as one of the
various forms of the strength, boldness, independence and creativity of the God,
and they derive enormous power from this archetype.
Scientific evidence proves that deprivation from natural surroundings, for
instance staying in submarines, drives people crazy or makes them at least
highly stressed. When natural materials or imitations of such are added, people
feel much better. Nature is life, and the face in the leaves not only reminds
us of that, but also gives many men back their dignity of being a significant
holographic part of the regenerative and nurturing, wild and abundant
life-force. Embrace a tree, and I mean this very literally. Hail
Suggested News Resources
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- The other day I visited a psychic medium in Croydon, south-east London. Mavis Grimstick (not quite her real name) boasted an ability to hear the dead — 'clairaudience'.
- The Remarkable Persistence of the Green Man
- St. Stephen's Church in the Welsh town of Old Radnor bears a carving of the Green Man, a ubiquitous medieval motif of a head crowned with leaves and vines. Credit Photograph by Alex Ramsay / Alamy.
- 'Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man', by Nina Lyon
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- The temple at Hatra in Iraq, destroyed last year, featured a carved figure with an acanthus-leaf beard, a possible prototype of the Green Man.
- Shaftesbury's Green Man with a message
- The Green Man has been part of our mythology over the last 7000 years. He emerged as a counterpart of the Earth Mother and is the representative of all aspects of nature. There has been a green presence in all of our religions throughout history.
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