World Mythology: Who was the Green Man of the woods?

There are many theories surrounding the identity and origins of the green man. Despite this, he is still an enigma, a mystery that countless scholars have tried and failed to unravel through the ages. This mythical deity is most commonly associated with European medieval churches, often finding himself perched between his closest cousins – the gargoyle and other gruesome sculptures.

He appears significantly during the height of the Roman Empire, often depicted in carvings and statues of the time as entangled vegetation, suggesting perhaps a correlation between man and nature. Similar figures can be found in the Middle East, central Asia and the Far East. In the temples of Rajasthan for example we often find the green man carved into their ancient stone.

In Europe, he is most commonly perceived as a symbol of fertility, marking the beginning of spring and is often associated with May Day celebrations. He is that strange, wild man of the woods who appears, with foliage sprouting from his mouth, as the cycle of life is about to be renewed.

We often find him portrayed as the Devil too, a reminder if you will of man’s constant struggle between good and evil. To the pagans he is a symbol of resurrection and rebirth. To the Christians our man represents the life giving breath of the Holy Spirit.

To the vast majority perhaps he is simply the colourful painting which adorns the hanging billboards of their local drinking den, the green man being one of the most common names given to a traditional English pub. What is clear is that he was known throughout all the ancient civiliasations, from the Sumerian’s Humbaba deity to the Tibetan’s Amoghasiddhi. I myself believe we shall never truly discover the origins of this mysterious deity. He is simply a part of our collective consciousness, a figure our ancestors were all too familiar with.


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