Green Man A pagan deity of the woodlands, usually represented as a horned man peering out from a mask of foliage, usually the sacred oak. The Green man, also called “Green Jack,” “Jack-in-the-Green” and “Green George,” represents the spirits of the trees, plants and foliage. He is attributed with the powers of making rain and fostering the livestock with lush meadows. He appears often in medieval art, including carved church decorations.
In spring Pagan rites, Green George, as he is usually called then, is represented by a young man clad from head to foot in greenery, who leads the festival procession. In some festivals, Green George, or an effigy of him, is dunked into a river or pond in order to ensure enough rain to make the fields and meadows green.
As the woodlands deity, the Green man shares an association with the forest-dwelling Fairies (green is the fairy color). In some locations in the British Isles, the fairies are called “Greenies” and “Greencoaties.” “The Green Children” is a myth of two fairy children, a brother and a sister, whose skin is green, and who claim to be of a race with green skin.
See Nature Spirits.
- Anderson, William, and Clive Hicks. The Green Man: The Archtype of Our Oneness with the Earth. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.
The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca – written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.
The Green Man
The Green Man is the Spirit of Irrepressible Life. Pave over Earth as much as you like: weeds will continue to poke through. That irrepressible urge to live and procreate is the Green Man. He personifies the regenerative powers of nature. He is the essence of the life-force, the libido, the male impulse to procreate. The Green Man is also emblematic of decay: the body returned to Earth, covered in foliage. The Green Man is lord of the eternal cycle of life and death.
The Green Man appears in the form of a tree man: a man completely covered in vines and leaves. If Earth (Gaia) is perceived as a fertile woman, then trees are big, hard erections eternally penetrating her. Tree sap was once equated with semen.
The Green Man names a spirit but also an architectural, ornamental motif. In terms of visual imagery, there are basically two forms of Green Men:
• A male head that is formed from leaves or extensively crowned with leaves (the oldest form).
• Foliage emerges from the Green Man’s mouth and occasionally through other orifices, too. (One way of interpreting this is the Green Man speaks through plants.)
The Green Man is an extremely Pagan-looking image: he’s a wild man of nature. However, although the Green Man predates Christianity, it is now most famous as an architectural motif featured on Gothic churches. Green Men are found in Bamberg, Chartres, Dijon, Norwich, and Fribourg, as well as many other cathedrals and churches. There are twenty Green Man carvings within Exeter Cathedral.
Images of the Green Man proliferated in conjunction with the cult of Black Madonnas. Many cathedrals were built over sites once dedicated to Isis. Dale Pendell, author of Pbarmako/Poeia, theorizes that if Isis is the Madonna and Horus is the Divine Child, then the Green Man hiding among foliage may be Osiris, who in Egyptian myth was hidden in foliage. Dionysus is sometimes considered the prototype for the Green Man. Others associated with him include Robin Hood and Saint George.
Meditate on the image of the Green Man or surround yourself with his images when you need a fertility boost or seek reinvigoration—physical, spiritual, or emotional.
Assorted art books compile historic photographs of the Green Man. The Green Man is a popular Scottish cemetery motif representing new life emerging from death. He is also beloved by Neo-Pagans, who incorporate his image into outdoor shrines.
Black Madonna; Dionysus; Faunus; Gran Bois; Horus; Isis; Kbidr, Al; Osiris
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.