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The Company of the Green Man gathers and archives information, images  and folklore about the green man and the traditional Jack in the Green. It supports current traditions that feature the green man and the Jack-in-the-Green worldwide. It also promotes artists and writers who feature the green man and the Jack-in-the-Green in their work and assists where possible the protection and preservation of architectural images of the green man and traditions involving the Jack-in-the-Green.

 

The Company of the Green Man maintains the largest and most accurate gazetteer of green men ever produced and is also creating a gazetteer of historical and current Jacks-in-the-Green. The Company of the Green Man provides a point of contact and discussion for all those fascinated by the enigmas that are the Green Man and the Jack-in-the-Green through a twice yearly members  e-newsletter and a regularly updated BLOG.

 

The annual events page lists all currently known events involving the traditional Jack-in-the-Green and the Green Man throughout the world and is updated regularly.  There is also an online photographic Flickr archive .

 

Membership of The Company of the Green Man is free and  available worldwide. Please visit this page  for more details.


THE GREEN MAN

 

For many people their first experience of the Green Man is a chance sighting of a strange stone or wooden foliate face looking down at them from high above in a church or cathedral. Just what this supposedly pagan representation of fertility and the greenwood is doing in a Christian place of worship, has puzzled people throughout the ages.  Is it a subversive image placed by stone carvers as a link to a pre-Christian religion? A reminder that we all come from the earth and will one day return? A representation of Adam, or an image carefully placed by stonemasons to remind churchgoers to steer away from sin?

 

Images of the green man are predominantly found in England but they are also found in the rest of Great Britain, Europe and parts of Asia and North Africa. He may date back as far as the third millennium BC, and is still being reproduced in stone, wood, glass, metal, art, song, story and poem today. He may be found in his guise as dusty stone or wood carving looking down from pillars and ceilings in churches, cathedrals abbeys and secular buildings throughout the world. To some he is seen as a mischievous, sometimes dark figure found in Morris dances, or as the traditional Jack-in-the-Green leading or included in May Day processions each year, or bought to life in new and vibrant traditions. To others he is just a dusty stone or wooden figure brought across from the continent by French stonemasons as a personification of sin that would be seen and understood by the illiterate masses.

 

In “Wildwood A Journey Through Trees”  Roger Deakin wrote after seeing the Green Man at King’s Nympton in Devon:

 

“The leaves flow from him like poems or songs. He himself is a kind of folksong. Everyone knows it, but each singer has a different, personal version, a variation on the theme. ‘I am not elderly,’ says the Green Man in one of Jane Gardam’s enchanting stories about him; ‘I am the Green Man.’  He is the spirit of the rebirth of nature. He is the chucked pebble that ripples out into every tree ring. He is a green outlaw and he is everywhere, like a Che Guevara poster.”

 

Green Man expert Mike Harding writes on his website:

 

“His roots may go back to the shadow hunters who painted the caves of Lascaux and Altimira and may climb through history, in one of his manifestations through Robin Hood and the Morris Dances of Old England to be chiselled in wood and stone even to this day by men and women who no longer know his story but sense that something old and strong and tremendously important lies behind his leafy mask.”

 

Mark Ryan writes in “The Wildwood Tarot”:

 

“One of the most ancient images of the connection between mankind and nature, his face has looked out from the stones of temples and churches for centuries. Even in the dim and chilly heights of  Christian cathedrals he looks down , often sardonically, on the people far below. Constantly returning in thinly disguised ciphers such as the Green Knight, Jack in the Green and Robin Hood, his face, disgorging leaves, peers out from the rich, dark, fertile heart of the forest and challenges you to respect and revel in the joys of the natural world.”

 

And the late Ronald Millar founder of The Company of the Green Man wrote:

 

“Two millennia old or older, the Green Man is the vibrant spirit of the wild wood, of vegetation in leaf or bud, of spring, pool and river, earth and sky, indeed the totality of nature. His voice is the hiss of the high wind in ash and oak. And his profundity those sudden silences of a forest when all Nature seems to hold her breath. When we hear or feel him no more mankind will have run its course.”

 

Whatever your view, and whatever your interest in the green man, we welcome your thoughts….please visit our regularly updated  blog at http://thecompanyofthegreenman.wordpress.com

 

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

 

Our gazetteer is growing daily but we need help verifying many of the entries as well as discovering as yet unrecorded green men.  Please have a look in the gazetteer for any reported green men in your area that have not yet been verified or photographed and go out and check them for us, you will be credited in the gazetteer as the verifier.  The information  required is detailed on our gazetteer page. Hunting green men is a fascinating pursuit for individuals groups or the whole family and will get you out and about  in some fantastic locations. Entire walks can be planned around green men and there are many green men still waiting to be discovered. In the words of Clive Hicks author of “The Green Man: A Field Guide”:

 

“There are certainly many, many green men not known to us…..It might be you that identifies a gem of a green man who has been gracing a church for centuries, unnoticed until your visit” 

 

Those who discover a green man that has never been recorded will be credited in our gazetteer as the original discoverer!

 

 

JACK-IN-THE-GREEN

 

The Jack-in-the-Green was (and indeed is) a traditional participant in May celebrations and May Day parades. A large framework is covered in combinations of foliage and flowers and is often topped with an intricate crown of flowers. The Jack then parades or dances often accompanied by attendants as well as Morris Dancers, musicians and assorted unusual characters.

 

The tradition of the Jack-in-the-Green most likely stems from the creation of intricate garlands of flowers during the 17th Century which were carried by milkmaids during May Day celebrations. Over time the garlands became more elaborate until milkmaids would sometimes be seen balancing garlands on their heads covered in huge quantities of silver household objects.   As guilds and other trade groups became established they joined in and tried to outdo the other participants in an attempt to receive more coins from the watching crowds. It was probably the Sweeps Guilds intent on earning as many coins as possible to help them through what was traditionally the quietest part of their year who first expanded the size of the garland to such an extent that they came up with the idea of the all covering structure now known as the Jack-in-the-Green. Hence the continuing connection of the Jack in the Green with sweeps and May Day or “Chimney sweepers day.”

 

For more information about The Jack-in-the-Green both historical and current please visit THIS PAGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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