Friday, August 17, 2007

the Green Man

The Green Man is often claimed as a Pagan symbol (even in church guidebooks these days). Presumably this is because a very small number of them appeared on Roman and Greek temples. But then there was a huge gap before they reappeared on churches in the Middle Ages.

It could be argued that sticking leaves on something is a Pagan impulse, because Paganism "is" nature spirituality. Well, neoPaganism is focused on nature, but ancient paganisms were generally about propitiating hostile nature spirits.

The figure of the Green Man seems to me to be a little bit Sufi - it reminds me of Al-Khidr, the Green One who is a friend of the soul. On the other hand, it could be a little bit Hindu, since the heart chakra is often represented as green. Or it could be a little bit Christian, since Christ represents Tifereth (the equivalent of the heart chakra in Kabbalah) and is certainly the friend of the soul. Or the Green Man might represent the greening of the soul in response to Divine inspiration. The vines or branches coming out of the Green Man's mouth might represent the truth being spoken (and there is a saying that the Holy Spirit speaks through everyone who speaks the truth, and She certainly speaks through Nature). Or it may represent a renewal of spirituality.

So let's not be too quick to claim that the Green Man is an exclusively Pagan symbol - it has resonance for people of all religions and spiritual paths. Especially now, when we all need to get into right relationship with Nature.

6 comments:

Joe said...

And of course the Green Man is also often the symbol of a good village pub :-)

Yvonne said...

Indeed yes, how true - and the best pubs are shrines to friendship and community. I once worked at a pub where, each Christmas, they held a "waifs and strays" dinner on Christmas Day, for people who had nowhere to go.

And the Eagle and Child in Oxford is a shrine to the friendship of the Inklings (Tolkien, Lewis, Barfield & Williams).

laura said...

I'm introduced to a lot of things I knew nothing about when I visit your blog. :) I'd never heard of "the Green Man" either. But now that I have, I can remember seeing it in various places.

gratefulbear said...

Al-Khidr is often referred to as "the Green Man of Sufism," so you're right on target! Like most good archetypes, he can't be confined to a single tradition.

I've added links to all 3 of your blogs to my Blog of the Grateful Bear. Thank you for your wise and wonderful presence on the web.

Robin Edgar said...

The figure of the Green Man seems to me to be more than a little bit Egyptian. . .

Yvonne said...

Yes, I meant to mention Osiris - good point - though he doesn't have leaves sprouting from him.