Friday, May 12, 2017


I have always had a fascination with the Green Man, most often depicted in sculpture as a man's head surrounded by foliage, but occasionally depicted as a whole man.  This name only came into popular use after 1939 when Lady Raglan was researching these characters for an article she was writing, The Green Man in Church Architecture.  Until then he was known as a foliate head.
A new Green Man arrived in my garden this week. A Mother's Day gift which now graces the wall in my English garden and is a more modern depiction of a Green Man  He deserves to have his story told.

Original art by Milo Re
His origins will always remain a mystery although much has been written about the meaning of the faces. One interpretation is that he represents our connection with the earth and therefore the renewal of the plant life every spring. As I now have several presiding over my gardens I think I like that interpretation. Multiple depictions of this character date back to medieval times and before. He is found in too many cultures not to have significance, but is very prevalent in medieval churches and cathedrals of Great Britain and France, carved into the stone work. Also in carvings in India and the Middle East.

Sometimes he has a friendly face like this one on the wall in my Spanish Oak garden.

Foliate head
And less friendly faces of these smaller ones which are attached to the metal supports on an awning over a doorway. Where else would you put fringe magnets? I picked them up in England over 10 years ago and had been waiting for just the perfect place. It came last year.

Disgorging head
Foliate head

Disgorging head

Foliate head
These are all depictions of the Foliate head with leaves surrounding the head, and Disgorging head with leaves coming out of the mouth. A Bloodsucker head has leaves coming from all the orifices and probably represents death and burial.

England abounds in pubs called The Green Man, this one in the village of Grantchester.

The sign here may represent Jack-in-the-Green, a character sometimes linked to the Green Man. He danced through the streets in 16th and 17th C Britain on May Day, covered in leaves and garlands of flowers. The practice eventually met with Victorian disapproval and Jack was replaced with the May Queen. Currently there is a revival of Jack's character in many towns celebrating May Day.

I have Kingsley Amis novel, the Green Man which was also turned into a BBC production. It bears no relationship except for the fact the the pub the character ran was called The Green Man and has some supernatural experiences in which a ghostly apparition conjures up the apparition of a nasty green man. My green men are much more friendly.

1 comment:

  1. I have 2 green men in my garden as well, both of the friendly variety and both simpler in construction than yours. I've always thought of them as kindred spirits looking after the garden when I'm not around to do so. A very happy Mother's Day to you, Jenny!