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Category: Green Man

A green face surrounded by leaves and flowers.

The Green Man in the Modern World

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In the last entry in our series on the Green Man, we look at this figure from folklore as people encounter it in the modern world, including its appearances in art, music, performance, and spiritual practice. We especially look at enactments of the Green Man as they occur in the folk revival, renaissance faires, and faerie festivals. Following other scholars, we suggest that the Green Man in modern contexts often suggests creative resistance to environmental destruction, the modern, and the mundane. The post includes many photos of Green Man enactments and artworks.

A painted sculpture of a face covered in golden leaves

The Green Man, Vernacular Christianity, and the Folk Saint

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This post is part of an occasional series about the Green Man, a figure from European folklore. In this post we approach the Green Man through the lens of vernacular religion, suggesting that in the Middle Ages he was an element of vernacular Christianity. We suggest the folk saint as a frame of reference for understanding the Green Man. This allows us to understand how a figure rooted in paganism, which once appeared on pagan temples, could become, for medieval Christians, a focal point of religious ideals.

The Green Man: Pagan or Not?

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In this sixth post about the Green Man, a figure of British and European folklore, we suggest the figure, while it had roots in pagan belief and iconography, had by the Middle Ages become a Christian image. In this post we look at pagan antecedents, including the Roman god Silvanus and foliate heads found on Roman temples. We also carefully examine the 1939 statements of folklorist Lady Raglan concerning the Green Man's status as an old pagan image with a new meaning in its Christian context.

The Green Man and Calendar Customs

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This is an entry in our occasional series on the Green Man, a figure from traditional folk culture. Among the traditional meanings shared by the figures of the Foliate Head and the Wild Man or Green Man seems to have been that humanity, like vegetation, must follow and adapt to the changing seasons. This traditional meaning could well have given rise to a connection between the Green Man and calendar customs, which goes back to some of the earliest appearances of the figure. In this post we’ll look more closely at the Green Man as an element of seasonal celebration.

A painting of a May Day procession including a Jack in the Green

Green Man Connections: Jack in the Green and More

Posted by: Stephen Winick

For many years, people have drawn connections among several figures in traditional art: the traditional English Green Man (a wild man clad in leaves who was part of pageants from the mid-sixteenth century); the drawings and carvings of faces covered in leaves (sometimes also called Green Men but previously known as the Foliate Head); the Jack-in-the-Green of Mayday celebrations; the similar figure known as the Garland; and the popular folk hero Robin Hood. This post looks at the history of these connections, from the late Middle Ages to the twenty-first century, illustrated with pictures of the Foliate Head and Jack-in-the-Green.

Green Man Connections: The Foliate Head

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In this post about the Green Man, a figure from traditional folk culture, we look at connections between the Wild Man figure known as a Green Man in sixteenth-century England and the Foliate Head, a carved image of a face surrounded by or disgorging leaves. We demonstrate that this connection was made by artists in the Middle Ages and Renaissance before it was suggested by scholars.

Two views of a Green Man on the exterior of St. Lorenz Church, Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Germany. The carving shows a man's face with branches emerging from his mouth, growing into a bush that surrounds his face with large flowers.

What Was the Green Man?

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This is our second post about the Green Man, a figure from traditional folk culture. It traces the meaning of the phrase "Green Man" from the 16th to the 20th centuries, providing a wealth of historical references to "green men," which were wild men covered in leaves, often armed with clubs. The post is richly illustrated with appearances of the Green Man in paintings, sculptures, engravings, and other artworks.

A foliate head carved into a stone corbel in a church in Llangwm, Wales. It's a human face with leaves coming out of the mouth to the left and right, then curving up around the head.

Introducing the Green Man

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The Green Man, a character from traditional folk culture, has captured the imaginations of many in the modern world. Books, articles, and websites on the Green Man abound, each of them looking at the figure from its own perspective. Those who have commented on or employed the image of the Green Man range from historians to neopagan worshippers, from festival organizers to novelists, and from folklorists to participants in Renaissance fairs. Recently, though, some scholars have been asserting that the Green Man is not really a figure from older folk culture at all, but a modern invention. This post will begin an examination of this question: what is the Green Man, and what are his traditional meanings?