Green Men

The Green Man,

Foliate Head, `Jack o’the Green’, `Green George, The Sacred Oak’.

A malign spirit,
“Jack o’ the Green”
fairy folk call.
Spring meadows sweet, tis a joyous time,
His leaves do grow and foliage shall fall.
Shooting growth from leaves that crown,
Regenerated face weathered and fine,
“Rejoice for Green George”
A parade fills the town,
As light retreats, life withers and decays.
The tree of life from death to rebirth
Shorter nights bring longer days.

Candid mystery surrounds the Green Man, a spirit of inspiration, rebirth and death. Chiselled in wood or carved out of stone, beckoning from ornate pillars, doorways, benches and roofs throughout cathedrals, churches, buildings and ruins of the world.

Foliate head (designated in 1939) is a green leaved man predominant throughout the British Isles and Europe. A prominent figure in Medieval art and as an ornamental motif throughout the Norman and Gothic period. He is commonly moulded as a motif of oak leaves, sprouting from the ears, nose, mouth, and sinisterly through the eyes. He appears happy, sad, mournful, scornful, wise and evil.

The Green Man bears a religious and spiritual signification of death and rebirth. Some designs are in the infinitive figure of eight symbol (which signifies infinity) can be seen in Ripon Cathedral and Dorchester Abbey. His appearance can also be seen in Roman art dating back to the first century A.D. Green is the colour of the little people, referred to as “Greenies” or “Greencoats” He is prevalent to spring, magic and is eminent amongst folk rituals, as a figure head for May Day, amongst the merry making Morris dancers. Performers dressed in mosses and ivy known as `wild men’.

The 29th May is marked as ‘Jack - in - the -Green’, ‘Oak Apple Day and `Royal Oak Day, which takes place in Castleton, Derbyshire. An appointed king and queen carry a garland of flora and branches through a celebratory parade proceeding to St. Edmunds Church. The garland is hoisted up the tower and remains there for some weeks.

Pagan rites refer to him as Green George, represented by men laden from head to foot in greenery and ducked into a river or pond ensuring the abundancy of rain and growth for the harvest.

Eighteenth century pub names and signs are popular emblems of the green man, although many are replaced by popular and modern characters.

One of the best painted examples can be seen at Theologian Rahanus Maurio (784-856) stating the leafy sprays to be a representation to the fleshy lusts of depraved men heading for damnation.

The Green Man has also become recognised as a male medusa and may be a connection to the festive revelling of Dionysus a similar significance to the cult of Bacchus and his glorification of wine, merriment and debauchery.

I personally view the Green Man as a spiritual guardian, remnant of time, with each passing season. In death and of rebirth, the calendar cycle of annual new life descending into death.

Nature does not differentiate between man and beast, the inevitable will happen, the fact that we are dying with every passing day, and death for us all, is final.