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The Myth of the Green Man

By Ana

The Green Man has become one of the iconic figures of the neo-pagan movement. No; I would go further -he has become the iconic figure; he has been ever since the 1930s when he had that name bestowed on him. Rather ironic, really, for the simple reason that he has nothing at all to do with traditional paganism. The Green man, rather, is a Christian symbol, a personification of evil, not of benevolence and fecundity.

No sooner had the latest issue of History Today landed through my post box with its usual reassuring and heavy thump than my attention was drawn to the lead article, Ballad of the Green Man by Richard Hayman, an excellent overview of the genealogy of a myth. It the whole thing fascinates me on a number of levels; but most particularly, and most immediately, in the way that history becomes myth and myth history, one feeding of the other in and endless cycle of reinforcement. Here we have ‘tradition’, here we have Olde England, where the Green Man walks hand-in-hand with Robin Hood, another figure of the wild woods, closely accompanied by the Queen of the May or the Lord of Misrule. I think it’s time to get back to basics.

The Green Man, as Hayman says, first made his appearance in the eleventh century, a face sprouting foliage from his mouth, to be found in church carvings and decorations. He was part of a Medieval iconography which disappeared with the Reformation only to make a reappearance during the nineteenth century Gothic revival. Modern interpretations-entirely alien to the Medieval mind-saw him as an earth figure. William Anderson in The Green Man, published in 1990, saw him as “the archetype of our oneness with the earth”, while John Williams in the more recent The Green Man Tree Oracle, says that he promises “ancient wisdom from the spirit of nature.” And thus something is conjured from nothing in a fog of cloudy an essentially meaningless words!

Read the original article at: Ana the Imp

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