Green Man, a mysterious pagan figure with leaves for hair and twigs
sprouting from his ears, has crossed the Atlantic and is gaining fans in
Sculptures of his usually sinister but sometimes smiling
face decorate many medieval Christian churches in Britain, where he has given
his name to more than a few village pubs, and in Germany.
English stone carvers Martin and Oliver Webb have made
miniatures of 20 different images of The Green Man found in various churches,
mostly in the UK and one in Germany, which they say is "surely one of the most
famous Green Men in the world. His face emerges from the stylised acanthus
leaves - his human features actually quite subtle - and it is almost possible at
first glance to mistake him for a normal piece of stiff leaf foliage."
He gained a toehold in New York City some 15 years ago.
Sculptures of The Green Man began to appear as decorations on several important
new buildings. In the 1990s, Dr. Asher Derman, an early leader in NYC's green
design world, published a book containing photographs of many of them.
Now the Green Man has crossed America to Nevada, where
he's the art theme for this year's Burning Man festival in August.
"Peering outward from behind a mottled screen of vines and
leaves, the Green Man does not speak or sleep; he waits," says a promotional
"His meaning and his origins are largely lost to time —
the Green Man wasn't named till 1939.
"We know, however, that this type of enigmatic figure was
the work of artists, anonymous craftsman whose unsigned work adorns the crevices
and walls of medieval cathedrals.
"This year we will appropriate the Green Man and the
primeval spell he casts on our imaginations for a modern purpose. Our theme
concerns humanity's relationship to nature. Do we, as conscious beings, exist
outside of nature's sway, or does its force impel us and inform the central root
of who and what we are?"
The Green Man may have been known also as Green George,
Jack-in-the Green, the Green Knight, Green Man Pan, Cernunnus, and Robin
Goodfellow, says Pip Wilson, in Wilson's Green Man Almanac (a small
section of an amazingly comprehensive Australian website).
"The Green Man is a symbol of uncertain origin common in
the British Isles," says Pip. "Classic examples are most frequently found among
the stonework in and on churches, though it is more likely pagan in nature.
"It depicts a man with foliage for hair, usually with
either a leafy beard or with leaves growing out of his mouth and nose."
Mystic Earth, says:
"Foliate head images were central to the ancient Celtic cultures of
pre-Christian Europe, and symbolized fertility, prophecy, inspiration and
As the world's people become aware of our huge
environmental problems, more and more electors are supporting Green political
parties.. Perhaps they should adopt the enigmatic Green Man as their icon.