All Things Green Man & The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

Archive for Jan, 2013

Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year

A Journey Through The English Ritual Year

Cecil Sharp House, EFDSS, 2 Regents Park Road, London 
NW1 7AY 16 January – 31 March 2013

 During opening hours

Since encountering Deptford Jack-in-the-Green in 2006 photographer Sara Hannant began a journey to explore seasonal rituals as they occur throughout the English year.  This touring exhibition, which coincides with the publication of a book of the same title, mingles folklore, myth and tradition. The images give a real sense of what it was like to be there; jostled by crowds at the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, or listening to the clink and rustle of the milkmaids, decked out in silverware, who parade with the Deptford Jack. The photographs are compelling, at once capturing the vividness, excitement and mystery of costumed processions, fire rituals, traditional dances and mumming plays that are held in rural and urban locations throughout the country.

While some folkloric customs claim ancient origins, others are recent revivals or re-inventions.  Regional traditions also vary, incorporating local and transnational influences. However, all the featured traditions mark significant times within the wheel of the year, from the spring ritual dances in Bacup to the lighting of mid winter fires in Sussex.

Photography, like ritual, charts a moment in time, yet nothing is fixed: traditional culture is shown as a continual communal process of evolution, forging a dynamic connection between past, present and future.

Janet Vitmayer, Director of the Horniman Museum and Gardens says, “We are delighted to present this fascinating exhibition, which gives a unique insight into Englishness.”

Professor Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol “Sara has a rare gift for capturing peak moments in such celebrations … the human participants emerge as vivid characters in their own right, adding depth to the drama and humour of the local seasonal rites in which they are involved. She is a genuinely talented artist.”

“Sara Hannant’s remarkable photographs convey, with joy and compassion, the mystery, charm and exuberance of traditional English ritual.” – Shirley Collins, President of the English Folk Dance and Song Society

This is a Horniman Museum touring exhibition. Promoted by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) in association with the Horniman Museum

The Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival 11th-13th January.

In Whittlesea, from when no one quite knows, it was the custom on the Tuesday following Plough Monday (the 1st Monday after Twelfth Night) to dress one of the confraternity of the plough in straw and call him a ‘Straw Bear’. A newspaper of 1882 reports that “… he was then taken around the town to entertain by his frantic and clumsy gestures the good folk who had on the previous day subscribed to the rustics, a spread of beer, tobacco and beef”. The custom was revived in 1980 and procession now contains over 250 dancers, musicians and performers from various parts of the British Isles

This years Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival will take place on 11th – 13th January

For more information go to

The Green Man at the Twelfth Night celebration events: Sunday 6th January

Twelth Night 2013

The 2013 TWELFTH NIGHT Celebrations will be held from 2.45pm on Sunday 6th January 2013.

Twelfth Night is an annual seasonal celebration held in the Bankside area of London. It is a celebration of the New Year, mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity. It is free, accessible to all and happens whatever the weather.

The Holly Man from the Thames

To herald the celebration, the extraordinary Holly Man (the Winter guise of the Green Man from pagan myths and folklore) decked in fantastic green garb and evergreen foliage, appears from the River Thames brought by the Thames Cutter, Master Shipbroker (boat subject to weather!) rowed by hardy volunteers.

The Bankside Wassails

With the crowd, led by the Bankside Mummers, the Holly Man ‘brings in the green’ and ‘wassails’ or toasts the people, the River Thames and the Globe – an old tradition encouraging good growth.

The Mummers play

The Mummers then process to the Bankside Jetty, and perform the traditional ‘freestyle’ Folk Combat Play of St. George, featuring the St George, Beelzebub, the Turkey Sniper, the Doctor, Clever Legs, the Old ‘Oss and many others, dressed in their spectacularand colourful ‘guizes’. The play is full of wild verse and boisterous action, a time-honoured part of the season recorded from the Crusades.

King Bean and Queen Pea

At the end of the play, cakes are distributed – a bean and a pea hidden in two of them. Those who find them are hailed King and Queen for the day and crowned with ceremony.

They then lead the people in procession through the streets to the historic George Inn in Borough High Street for a fine warming up with Storytelling, the Kissing Wishing Tree and more Dancing.

More information at:

Happy New Year

St Michael and All Angels Ledbury Copyright © Jennie Miller & Gary Truss

St Michael and All Angels Ledbury Copyright © Jennie Miller & Gary Truss

A very Happy New Year to all our members and followers of this blog.  As special treat here’s a previously unseen Green Man from St Michael and All Angels in Ledbury from Jennie Miller & Gary Truss. I have uploaded the entire set to our Flickr pages