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Woodcarvings by Maura
Greenman. What is a greenman? The image of a green man is usually a male face. There have been female forms but is rare. The facial hair of green men is formed by leaves, vines, twigs or other forms of foliage. There are hundreds of thousand of greenman carvings, located all over the world. Green men have been wood carved, stone carved, painted and drawn. the greenman origins and meanings are no longer known. The Green Man legend is over 5000 years old and without question he is the King in Garden Lore. Pagan festivals honored him as a wild man who reveled in bizarre behavior which celebrated the act of procreation and merriment. Men, women and children had nothing to fear from him as long as they treated the earth respectfully.
The search for the meaning of the greenman led many to seek clues in myth, legend and religion.
John Barleycorn - celebrated in song - shows the same themes of death and
rebirth, as does the Green Knight in the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain. Medieval
legends of the Wild Men- dressed in leaves, living in the forest and venturing
forth to take food, have been connected with the Green Man. In some stories of
Robin Hood - the robber and hero dressed in green - he attains godlike status
and links with the Horned God Herne. Present-day Western pagan thought
identifies the Green Man as the symbol of the qualities of godhood within the
male, as well as being an expression of the life/death/rebirth cycle and its
relationship with the transcendent life-force, the Goddess, the female
expression of godhood.
who is the Green Man?
The answer to this riddle is certainly not straightforward.....
Some theologians say they represented the sins of
the flesh- lustful and wicked men doomed to eternal damnation. They
continued to be used as tomb carvings long after the church masons stopped using
them inside their buildings.
This link with death has led some to describe the Green Man as the symbol of
the natural cycle of mortal life- birth, life, death, decay. To Christians it is
this cycle that the soul can overcome, with Faith. To some others the cycle
continues - from decay back to the soil, to food from the soil, back into life-
a symbol of the continuous regeneration of life and the interdependence of all
Another direction we can take when looking for the meaning behind the Green Man
is to study the character known in England as 'Jack-in-the- Green'. This was a
figure who joined the May-Day revels in the 19th C, becoming particularly
associated with the chimney sweeps who along with many other trades, used this
national holiday as an opportunity to boost their lean income with a little
begging. In return, they provided some entertainment of rowdy variety. This
involved them dressing up in gaudy tinsels and ribbons, with blackened faces
and performing a rough and ready dance around a
Jack-in-the-Green to the music of shovels, sticks, drums, and whistles. The Jack
was a man inside a conical framework of wicker covered with leaves. A stall gap
was left in this, through which the occupant could peer- very like some of the
Green Man figures in the churches.
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