The Green Man – An Anchient Celtic Symbol Of Rebirth

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As part of my ongoing Celtic Symbols article, the Green Man has been one I have been looking forward to writing about for quite some time. 

Researching this article, you do come across some pretty strange videos and information.

To make things a bit easier I have broken down some key points below: 

The Green Man A Celtic Symbol Of Rebirth

  • The Green Man is mainly associated with the symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of growth each spring.  Some say he is the ancient guardian of the forest.
  • Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.
  • The Celtic tradition was highly revolved around the fertility of the land, and lush vegetation was a sign of prosperity.
  • Instead of repurposing the Green Man, the church embraced the Green Man through architecture.
  • In fact, most European churches have Green Men hiding all around the walls and ceilings. Next time you are in one be sure to look around.
  • You will be amazed as to just how many are scattered around from Ireland to even many parts of Russia!
  • The reason the Catholic church didn’t seem to mind this Celtic symbol was because of Jesus Christ. As the symbol is of death and resurrection(rebirth), the church saw it as a way to spread the word of Christianity through symbology. 

Just who is the Green Man?

Just who is the Green Man?

Okay, it is great to know some meaning behind the symbol and where you can find it but where did this Green Man originate from? 

The earliest example of a green man disgorging vegetation from his mouth is from St. Abre, in St. Hilaire-le-grand, c. 400 AD.

The tradition of the Green Man being carved on to Christian churches exists across Europe, including examples such as the Seven Green Men of Nicosia in Cyprus, a series of seven green men carved in the thirteenth century on to the facade of St Nicholas Church in Nicosia.

On a side note, when I was researching for this article, I was quite amused by the fact that an episode of the series “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” comes up over and over again.

One of the characters Chalie appears in the green man outfit time and time again over the series. Very entertaining show if you haven’t seen it. 

green man costume

Let’s get to some examples from around the world:

Green Man at a door
At Dore Abbey, the former Cistercian abbey at Abbey Dore, Herefordshire, England
Painted wooden roof boss from Rochester Cathedral, Kent (medieval)
Painted wooden roof boss from Rochester Cathedral, Kent (medieval)
Medieval misericord; abbey-church of VendĂ´me, France
Medieval misericord; abbey-church of VendĂ´me, France
The Green Man in England
A stone carving of a Green Man from Dore Abbey, Herefordshire, England

Aren’t they just lovely!? Haha 

There is also a Green Man festival which is a mixture of folklore, dance and music. 

Just take a look at this giant Green Man from last years festival.

Giant Green Man At green Man festival
Just a small green man.

The Green Man as a symbol in modern day

It is no surprise to see the Green Man has made his way into many pieces of jewellery and wall plaques. 

It has also recently become a symbol of eco-lovers and anything trying to show it’s a connection to nature.

I guess this is mainly because of the relationship to nature and people wanting to emphasise this. 

The most common being some of these lovely wall plaques:

A Green Man face plaque

Another varient of the Green Man

 

Final points on this ancient Celtic Symbol

If you do wish to do more research on this ancient Celtic Symbol, there is plenty of books available such as this book.

It seems that the Green man is open to all sorts of interpretation.

It feels very much like the man part of the Green Man is subservient to green; in other words, nature is a much more powerful force than we perhaps realise in our day to day lives. 

Other associations to this symbol include Robin Hood and the axe-wielding giant in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Let’s not forget the many pubs are called the Green Man. He is undoubtedly a mystical symbol; what else do you know about the Green Man? Comment below. 

The Green Man An Anchient Celtic Symbol Of Rebirth
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Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

Thanks for reading and be sure to share.

Stephen 

P.S Subscribe and get your weekly dose of Irish straight to your inbox here.

Other Celtic Symbols: 

The Awen – The Three Rays Of Light

The Celtic Cross – The History And Symbolism Behind This Inspiring Symbol

Celtic Tree Of Life (Crann Bethadh) – Meanings, Symbolism And History

 

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