Who or what is the Greenman?
Probably various things to various people, but basically he is the Spirit of the Trees. The Goddess is permanent, where as the Greenman changes with the seasons. That's why we have a battle between the Holly King and the Oak King at each of the Solstices. The Holly King takes over at Summer Solstice and the Oak King reigns from Winter Solstice. He is the foliate face we see in the trees, that glimpse of a face you see amongst the trees as the sun shines through the branches leaving dappled sun rays on the ground. The Greenman represents death and rebirth, which is why along with the Solstice battles, he is also seen as part of the May Day celebrations, as a reminder that winter has gone and spring has arrived.
The Greenman is very much associated with British folklore, and is also recognised in many other countries around the world. There are celebrations with the Greenman as the 'star of the show' all over. In Hastings, Jack in the Green is a wonderful day celebrated with morris dancers, drummers people from all over the UK. This takes place around May Day, which is when the Clun Greenman Festival takes place in Shropshire.
The history of the Greenman goes back thousands of years, and his image can be found in churches all over. Carvings of wood and stone to be seen all around the country, on buildings, churches and as fountain decoration spewing water from his mouth. The Greenman image can also be seen on many pubs of the same name. It is thought that this started from around the 16th century.
There are numerous books to discover the history and past meaning of the Greenman. Our view is, more importantly, what does the Greenman mean to you today?
In this ever changing world, we feel it's vital that we re-connect with this beautiful planet, with Mother Earth. To ensure we do all we can to protect and understand Her. The Greenman is part of that. We need to protect the forests around the world, not just in our own beautiful land here in the UK. Fracking causes disastrous consequences to the Earth, and of course woods and trees are sometimes destroyed to allow this to happen. Areas of woodland are also being sold off for holiday parks and building on, and the public lose their facility to enjoy the peace and power of walking through the realms of the Greenman. The fresher air to be found in the trees, the beauty and wonder of nature, and the peace and connection that brings to us.
Yes, there is much history to the Greenman, but his ever changing face is still strongly here with us today. We need to work together to make sure it remains that way, his image and his spirit.
Whilst we build these pages, here are some suggested books to view.
The Green Man by Jeremy Harte
The Green Man in Britain by Fran and Geoff Doel (A history of The Green Man)
The Quest for the Green Man by John Matthews
The Green Man by John Matthews
A Little Book of the Green Man by Mike Harding
The Greening of Man, compiled by Sharon Zak and David Bradshaw (Look for the paintings by CK)