Veritas News – The Green Man – Part I

Veritas News Service Exclusive


By: Todd Stevens

The Green Man – Part I

When looking into the origins of the modern day environmental movement you can trace it back from multiple perspectives. There is much to be said and explained about the 19th and 20th centuries moves towards the sort of environmentalism that we see today. Extensive works can be done on the writings of the early back to nature crowd such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Howard Zahniser, Peter Schopenhauer, Wilhelm Heinrich Reihl, and Ernst Moritz Arndt. And they will be expanded upon later in this article. For a far more extensive outlook on the environmental and ecological movements it would be a bit more interesting to trace it back just a little bit further. There are deep psychological ties that carry thought back to a more distant age of stone and wood built cathedrals of fuedal times. Drawing on anciant memories of droidic and pagan symbology. Many will be familiar with the May Day mother goddess or the Earth mother Gaia; the personification of the birther of the Earth and the giver of life. There is also a King along side her or in some cases a child bore through this archetype known as the “Green Man” or the “Jack in the Green”.

The origins and birth of the green movement are much older than some might think. In historic cathedrals you can find the archetypal figure of the Green Man placed all over. As Lady Raglen describes in her article The “Green Man” in Church Architecture, after stating that she had found three such images in Stow Minster in Lincolnshire, “These three are by no mean the best we have seen, but they served to show that the motif must have a very wide distribution,…we have found examples in twenty-three counties of England” (45)


– Chancel Arch,Llangwm;                              Monmouthshire Wales, United Kingdom

– Lincoln Cathedral, Miserere Seat ;          Lincolnshire, England

– Norwich Cathedral, Cloisters;                   Norwich, England

– Southwell Minster, Chapter House;       Southwest Nottinghamshire, England

– Church of the Dominicans, Ghent;

– Janiform Bust, Rome

– Church of Semur-en-auxois, France   (Raglen, pg 46, 49, 52)

This “green man” image appears in varying forms. Sometimes a man with a beard or a man with a beard of leaves. At times it is just a face hidden in the leaves. One point that is interesting to note is the oak leaves as described by Mr. C.J.P. Cave who photographed hundreds of cathedral rook bosses “the only alternative to these leafy faces or foliate heads, as he calls them, is oak leaves” (qtd. In Raglen 47). It is also stated in the next paragraph “It is possible that there is no special meaning in the choice of foliage, but I think it is significant that oak predominates” (Raglen 47) The idea of the oak leaves will come up later and have interesting ties to it; but the myth of the “green man” is still unexplained.

Because of the realism attributed to these figures Lady Raglen is convinced that these figures are from a real figure “This figure I am convinced, is neither a figment of the imagination nor a symbol, but is taken from real life” (Raglen 50). She is convinced that these figures are spawned from the pagen rituals of the May Day which celebrates the spring time renewal period. This figure can be seen as the King of the May, Jack-in-the-Green, Robin Hood (Robin of the Wood),or the Garland (Raglen 50). The “Green Man” would either be the accompany (King) of the Mother Goddess of the May (May Queen) or it is the child bore from the virgin mother Goddess as described by Clive Hicks of Freemason Today in his article “The Green Man” “Ancient mythology tells…of the Mother Goddess bearing a son without a father…put on the earth in order to help humanity with what it needs…the Son is of divine origin he is not immortal and must therefore die. In some of the myths he is associated with a tree and this connection extends into Egyptian and Classical times. His death and renewal were associated with Spring-time regeneration…” (Hicks). There is also the example of the chimney sweep that would come to life throughout the May Day celebration and be sacrificed at the end of the ceremony for the rejuvenation of the spring. The Rosslyn Temples website describes this ceremony in there article entitled “The Green Man” “On May Day, a day associated with the return of life, a Chimney Sweep sometimes became a living Green Man, being decked in a wicker frame decorated with leaves and flowers, and paraded around. Or a man was led through the fields as a token of aiding their fertility, and then symbolically drowned. By his death he was thought to make life-giving forces available to the village.” (Rosslyn Templers)

So again we see the sacrificial King and the feminine and masculine forces being reunified with this sacrifice. The death of the May King or “Green Man” causes him to be sent back into the womb of the Earth or Mother Earth (May Queen) thus replenishing the Earth with a blood sacrifice so the Spring-time will be replenished once again. This King will rise again within the oak tree and protrude from the earth in a classic phallus depiction, only to be struck down in the spring a year later allowing the cycle to continue once more. This also being in concordance with what Sir James Frazer describes as the Priestly King ritual “…under the precipitous cliffs on which the modern village of Nemi is perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis…In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary” (Frazer 3). This story of the Priestly King of the Wood also being paraphrased as “man was chosen to represent the god, and he after conferring by the proper magical ceremonies his strength and fertility upon his people, was sacrificed, decapitated, and his head placed in the sacred tree” (Raglen 54). So this “Green Man” myth is a continuation of the Greek myth of Virbius to his Diana (Nemi), Adonis to Venus, Siva and Pârvat of India, and Attis. (Frazer). All of these stories have direct connections to the sacrifice of gods for vegetation, or the revival of spring. This also roughly parallels some of the facets of the Osirian cycle myth, of which there are many.

In brief, Osiris was born to the Gods Seb and Nut. Nut was the wife or Ra and when Ra found his wife to be unfaithful he put out a curse that Nut should deliver the child on no month and no year. Nut had a second lover Hermes/Thoth; he playing at draught with the moon won from her seventy-second part of everyday, and compounding these to five whole days he added them to the Egyptian 360 day year giving them there myth of the supplemental five days to balance the lunar and solar cycles. Osiris was thus born on the first of these days which was not on a day or a year (Frazer 309). Osiris then traveled the land diffusing the blessings of civilization and agriculture wherever he went; leaving the Mother Goddess Isis in control of the government in Egypt. Osiris returns to Egypt as the beloved deity but his brother Set or in the Greek Typhon, along with 72 others plotted against him. Set, being the same size as his brother Osiris, fashioned a coffin that was highly decorated and promise whosoever could fit to this coffin he would give it to them. They all tried and last Osiris fit into it, when he did they nailed it shut and sealed it with molten lead and sent it down the Nile river (Frazer 310). The coffer containing the body of Osiris had floated down the river and away out to sea, till at last it drifted ashore at Byblus, on the coast of Syria. Here a fine erica-tree shot up suddenly and enclosed the chest in its trunk. The king of the country, admiring the growth of the tree, had it cut down and made into a pillar of his house;

Thus again we see a God of rejuvenation, vegetation, and agriculture being sacrificed once again and rising up from the Nile as (or within) a tree and although unknowingly was again chopped down by another King.

What is it about these archetypal myths that fascinate the human psyche? Is it as C.G. Jung describes that our collective conscious holds them dormant in our minds thus giving man an affinity and connection to the primordial past? Are these the alternate Gods that rival the jealous God of the Abrahamic Judeo Christian religions? It is quite interesting to contemplate such matters and contributes to the mystery of life that we find ourselves in. These beliefs are on the rise and are either used or are brought forth once again in the opinions of people. The “Going Green” or Sustainability movement exemplifies this Spring-time revival of nature worship, under the false guise of good stewardship. This is certainly backed up in the statement from Freemasonry Today that “The Green Man archetype is seen as coming into manifestation in popular consciousness, periodically encouraged, in response to the circumstances of the time. Its current emergence is seen to derive from a widespread instinctive communal awareness of the ecological crisis being caused by our increasingly unbalanced way of life” (Hicks).

“Summerisle” (the maypole song) from “the Wicker Man” 1970

In the woods there grew a tree
A fine, fine tree was he

On that tree there was a limb                            On that bed there was a girl
And on that limb there was a branch                  And on that girl there was a man
On that branch there was a nest                        From that man there was a seed
And in that nest there was an egg                     And from that seed there was a boy
In that egg there was a bird                              From that boy there was a man
And from that bird a feather came                     And for that man there was a grave
Of that feather was a bed                                  From that grave there grew a tree


Original artikel:

Dit bericht is geplaatst in Veritas Nieuws Service met de tags , . Bookmark de permalink.

Geef een reactie

Het e-mailadres wordt niet gepubliceerd. Vereiste velden zijn gemarkeerd met *