Many of our members will know Ruth Wylie as the extremely talented photographer behind the wonderful images in Mercia MacDermott’s book “Explore Green Men” Others may know that Ruth has built an incredible gazetteer of green men over more than thirty years and that much of it was published in “The Green Man, a Field Guide”, by Clive Hicks.
After much planning, on a slightly soggy day back in October I had the absolute pleasure of meeting with Ruth Wylie and her husband Jim to talk green men and to collect Ruth’s incredible collection of green man photographs, documents and correspondence. Ruth has been building the collection since the 1980’s when she stumbled across Kathleen Basford’s book “The Green Man” In Ruth’s own words:
“On cycling tours, it was fun to visit churches, photograph carving, whatever caught the eye! Then, during the 1980s, alerted to Kathleen Basford’s book The Green Man, I became aware of his commanding presence. Henceforward, my attention was concentrated!
Five large, fat albums later, the hunt continues! Home processing of b&w photographs allowed for greater control, but was too time-consuming, so was reluctantly abandoned for colour. Thanks to personal exploration and generous contributions from friends and numerous publications, I have compiled a register of sightings worldwide, regularly updated.”
Ruth contacted me back in June 2020 to ask if I would be willing to provide a safe home for her wonderful collection for the foreseeable future. I was of course honoured and am now custodian of the incredible archive that you can see pictured at the top of this post.
Redundancy after over thirty years in the same industry sees me starting my own business at the moment and so unfortunately I cannot yet spend the time that I would like to digitise and catalogue Ruth’s collection. But when time and finances allow I will do so and will ensure that it is made accessible to all.
I could not of course resist delving into Ruth’s wonderful archive and was delighted at the wonders I have spotted so far, including some fascinating correspondence between Ruth and her friend the late Kathleen Basford.
If there is anyone out there who knows of any funding currently available or would be willing to contribute financially themselves to allow me to tackle this wonderful project on a part time or full time basis please do get in touch.
I have created a section on this website for Ruth’s collection and will do my best to begin sharing it with our followers soon.
And I would like to express my thanks to Ruth for entrusting me with her collection. Please rest assured that it is in very safe hands.
Sylvan is a handcrafted rag doll with moveable arms. She has a removable cloak made from handmade felt and a dress made to measure from vintage sari silk. Her eyes are Swarowski crystals and her hair is adorned with wonderful hand crafted trinkets and a few gifts from nature. You can purchase Sylvan from www.feralfibres.co.uk
Mistress Crowsigh also creates some wonderful poppets including Fraggle (above) and Herne (below) They would make perfect alternatives to top your Christmas tree this year.
The October Plenty happened! It took place online on Sunday October 25th 2020. It was proceeded by a week of wonderful events.
Videos of The Green Man in his Autumn guise and friends are available on The Lions Parts YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaOeeeEsDcPrKo2i_0Nvipw
And you can find more about October Plenty here:
Hopefully The Lions Part Twelfth Night Celebrations will still go ahead in some form in January 2021 (They have a cunning plan) I will keep you posted here on this blog.
It has of course been a very unusual year for The Traditional Jacks in the Green. It’s been sad that many of the Jacks could not go out but due to the wonders of technology some fantastic events have taken place online. So far this year at least four Jacks were sighted in the leaf:
- The Hammersmith Jack in the Green
- The Winchcome Jack in the Green
- The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green
- The Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack on the Green
Many new mini Jacks in the Green also appeared around Hastings and all over the country.
And the Cheltenham Jack in the Green sent his best wishes to everyone from isolation in the Hedgerow.
The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green organisers presented a brilliant weekend of entertainment bringing all of the usual events online including the waking and slaying of the 2020 Jack in the Green. The main procession can still be viewed by searching for it on Facebook (unfortunately Facebook won’t allow it to be embedded here).
The Evercreech Jack of Jack’s original beast head with a smaller body decorated in flowers and foliage went on display in the Old Stores Studio in Evercreech as part of a fantastic window display that you can see in the video below.
The Bradford on Avon Jack in the Green didn’t appear but the organisers created a wonderful online festival instead showcasing nearly all their planned dancers, musicians and venues. They used existing videos previously recorded by their performers as well as several specially made lockdown clips and many photos from The Company of the Green Man. There are over 90 separate clips and, as it lasts for over three hours. You can view the online festival below.
The Hammersmith Jack in the Green supported by The World Famous Hammersmith Morris Men brought tears to the eye with their beautiful video of the 2020 Jack that went live at dawn on 1st May.
The organisers of The Whitstable Jack in the Green put on a great show presented by the always wonderful Dixie Lee. As well as lots of dancing and music Jack’s route was still processed in isolation.
The slightly trimmer than usual Deptford Jack in the Green put in a great lock down appearance on May 1st as can be seen in the video below.
The Oxford Jack in the Green also appeared virtually from photos of Spring foliage sent in by members of Oxford University Morris Men from around the UK, and even from as far afield as Toronto and Pnom Penh.
I would also like to once again thank all those involved with Jack in the Green and Green Man events around the country and abroad this and every year. The organisers and participants put blood sweat and tears into keeping these wonderful traditions alive and The Company of the Green Man will always be here to support them. I will raise a pint of ale to you all and look forward to meeting up with you all again over the coming years. #jackwillbeback
And fingers crossed that the Carshalton Straw Jack might still parade in September.
It is as always with a mixture of joy and sadness that I announce the slaying of The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green at approximately 15:45 today. The Jack was ritually killed in a secret location somewhere in Hastings and by magical means his leaves were distributed virtually by his Bogie attendants. Jack gave up his life to release the spirit of summer as he does selflessly every year. Congratulations to Heather, Keith and everyone involved with the first Virtual Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green which despite the occasional technological wobble was a resounding success. I was lucky to get connected via Zoom this morning and took great pleasure in watching the whole event.
It has of course been a very unusual year so far for The Traditional Jacks in the Green. But due to the wonders of technology some fantastic events have taken place online. So far this year at least four Jacks have been sighted in the leaf:
The Hammersmith Jack in the Green
The Winchcome Jack in the Green
The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green
The Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack on the Green
The Cheltenham Jack in the Green sent his best wishes to everyone from isolation in the Hedgerow.
Many new mini Jacks in the Green also appeared around Hastings and all over the country.
And to remind us what it’s going to be like again next year when May 1st falls on a Saturday here’s Justin Lycett’s wonderful Hastings 2018 video again.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all those involved with Jack in the Green and Green Man events around the country and abroad this and every year. The organisers and participants put blood sweat and tears into keeping these wonderful traditions alive and The Company of the Green Man will always be here to support them. I will raise a pint of ale to you all and look forward to meeting up with you all again over the coming years. #jackwillbeback
The Hastings 2020 Traditional Jack in the Green is alive! This grainy picture taken via the wonders of technology shows Jack waking up in a secret location somewhere in the Hastings area mere minutes ago. He appeared out of a mysterious green fog to virtual cries of joy from his Bogies.
My thanks to Rose Blakeley for the wonderful and extremely poignant picture and poem below that remind us that #jackwillbeback
You can find more of Rose’s wonderful work at www.roseblakeley.moonfruit.com
May morning can always bring surprises but this year despite what’s going on around us May Day is already putting a big smile on my face.
If you had told my last year that I would not only finally get back to Hastings for May Dawn but would be experiencing it from Keith Leech’s front room I would have assumed that you had imbibed too much Walpurgis Night mead. But there I was along with all the other early risers watching the sun rise over the rooftops of Hastings via Facebook along with Keith and Heather, some wonderful Morris Dancers a drummer and viewers from around the world. Jacks are springing up all over Hastings and further afield and I shall post pictures of as many as I can on our blog.
Then just after 6am The Smiffs, The World Famous Hammersmith Morris Men posted this brilliant video on YouTube of them all separately dancing Bampton Sidestep along with The Hammersmith Jack in the Green
Then a text message came through with the wonderful photograph below of The Winchcombe Jack in the Green seeing in dawn on his own this morning.
This brilliant Jack saw dawn in from Usk in Wales and was brought to life by Marie Carter.
It’s a great start and I’ll post more pictures of any other Jacks as soon as I can.
It is 05:32 and the sun has just risen.
A Merry May Day to you all from The Company of the Green Man.
A Riddle – Phil Lister
I am born on May Morning by sticks, bells, and ribbons
I am the sap in the dark root
I am the dancer with his six fools
I am the tump behind the old church
I am the lost soul under the misericord
I am the oak against the stars
I am the face that peers through the leaves
I am the fear in a childs mind
I am the demon on the roof-boss
I am killed in October and laid on church altars
I am the guiser on the bright bonfire
I am the old grain sown with the seed
I am the flame in the pumpkins grin
I am the spirit in the kern-baby’s bosom
Green Man – William Anderson
Like antlers, like veins of the brain, the birches
Mark patterns of mind on the red winter sky;
‘I am thought of all plants’, says the Green Man,
‘I am thought of all plants’, says he.
The hungry birds harry the last berries of rowan
But white is her bark in the darkness of rain;
‘I rise with the sap’, says the Green Man,
‘I rise with the sap’, says he.
The ashes are clashing their bows like sword-dancers
Their black buds are tracing wild faces in the clouds;
‘I come with the wind’, says the Green Man.
‘I come with the wind’, says he.
The alders are rattling as though ready for battle
Guarding the grove where she waits for her lover;
‘I burn with desire’, says the Green Man,
‘I burn with desire’, says he.
In and out of the yellowing wands of the willow
The pollen-bright bees are plundering the catkins;
‘I am honey of love’, says the Green Man,
‘I am honey of love’, says he.
The hedges of quick are thick with May blossom
As the dancers advance on the leaf-covered King;
‘It’s off with my head’, says the Green Man,
‘It’s off with my head’, says he.
Green Man becomes grown man in flames of the oak
As its crown forms its mask and its leafage his features;
‘I speak through the oak’, says the Green Man,
‘I speak through the oak’, says he.
The holly is flowering as hay fields are rolling
Their gleaming long grasses like waves of the sea;
‘I shine with the sun’, says the Green Man,
‘I shine with the sun’, says he.
The hazels are rocking the cups of their nuts
As the harvesters shout when the last sheaf is cut;
‘I swim with the salmon’, says the Green Man,
‘I swim with the salmon’, says he.
The globes of the grapes are robing with bloom
Like the hazes of autumn, like the Milky Way’s stardust;
‘I am crushed for your drink’, says the Green Man,
‘I am crushed for your drink’, says he.
The aspen drops silver of leaves on earth’s salver
And the poplars shed gold on the young ivy flower heads;
‘I have paid for your pleasure’, says the Green Man,
‘I have paid for your pleasure’, says he.
The reedbeds are flanking in silence the islands
Where meditates Wisdom as she waits and waits;
‘I have kept her secret’, says the Green Man,
‘I have kept her secret’, says he.
The bark of the elder makes whistles for children
To call to the deer as they rove over the snow;
‘I am born in the dark’, says the Green Man,
‘I am born in the dark’, says he.
This is a call out for MAYDAY an online record of the May rituals and customs during lock down. Artists Dorothy and Stella are looking for people who take part in the customs of May, to have their photo taken via zoom/skype with an accompanied soundbite describing the custom of choice.
We would love to talk to someone before tomorrow who likes to take part in the May Dew custom of washing themselves with the 1st May morning dew. We are also interested in talking to people who take part in customs throughout May.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Customs all over Britain celebrate May for ushering new life after the long winter, with rituals for good fortune and health. These powerful expressions of identity exist through repetition. What does this break in the calendar mean for communities?
As self-isolation continues through May 2020 MAYDAY asks how might people at home preserve an affinity with natural cycles and hold onto the customs that bind?
We look forward to hearing from you,
Dorothy and Stella
I would usually be telling you about all of the Jacks that will be waking and parading over the coming days, but as we all know things are a bit different this year. It is hoped that some Jacks will still be seeing in dawn on May morning and I will report on them and post pictures as soon as I can.
There are also some wonderful virtual events taking place which are detailed below.
My thanks to Rose Blakeley for the wonderful Jack in the Green picture above.
Hastings Virtual Traditional Jack in the Green
This year’s Jack in the Green will go ahead as a virtual event online. On Sunday 3 May, revellers are encouraged to dress up, decorate their houses with greenery, and join in the virtual parade via the Facebook page:
“We are very pleased to say that during these difficult times we are looking to bring the town online and together to celebrate our beloved festival, Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green. We are working with local community facebook channel Isolation Station Hastings to run a series of events streamed live on our Facebook page and theirs including a sunrise ceremony at dawn on 1st May and morris dancing, drumming and music on Saturday May 2nd with the main procession taking place on Sunday 3rd via Zoom and Facebook.
Dress up in green, decorate your homes and join us on Zoom!
For the main event on Sunday we are asking the whole town to get dressed up in green as they normally would and join us online on Zoom. Here we will all be able to celebrate together watching footage of previous years’ processions as well as live performances from across Hastings including Morris dancing, drum performances, a ceilidh, live music, the slaying of the Jack and all of the wonderful people and characters that make this event what it is. The exciting part is we will be able to see everyone dressed up and enjoying the virtual festival from their homes.
To apply for spaces for Sunday’s Main Procession on Zoom, details will be announced on www.hastingsjitg.co.uk in the coming days. It will be simultaneously broadcast on Facebook so nobody needs to miss out.
May Day ‘Bang your drum for the NHS at 3.30pm on Sunday 3rd May’
We will end the proceedings at 3.30pm by inviting the whole town to go to their doorsteps, windows and balconies and bang their drums in a special Hastings May Day applause for the NHS, before we conduct the famous ceremonial slaying of the Jack.
RAISING MONEY FOR OUR NHS
It’s no small undertaking – we estimate there will be over one hundred people working and performing at this event, which will include as much of the actual schedule as is technologically possible. We are a charity ourselves and are of course losing money this year, but we hope everyone will come together and we are inviting those who can to donate to two local charities providing PPE and other support for our NHS: ‘Hastings Supports Our NHS Staff’ and ‘Friends of the Conquest Hospital’. Normally tens of thousands attend our event, so if everybody donated a small amount we could make a big difference.
Donation link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jack-in-the-green
Show us your decorations this week on social media
All details will be announced on our social media pages this week, but in the mean time we are asking everybody to start preparing their decorations and costumes and post photos & videos with the hashtag #hastingsvirtualjack2020
There will be a few hundred places available for the Zoom Procession, but it will be simultaneously broadcast to our own Facebook page and Isolation Station’s so nobody needs to miss out.
We believe this very special event belongs to our community, and we will work night and day to bring it online so that we can keep the spirit of Hastings alive during these difficult times.”
Whitstable Virtual Jack in the Green
This year’s Whitstable Jack in the Green will go ahead as a virtual event online on May the 1st – Go to the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Whitstable-Jack-in-the-Green-100375881612669 for a live stream from 12pm including a specially commissioned film compiling lots of lovely footage and photos of the procession over the years made by Dixie Lee’s grandson Josh, a live performance of the May Day Song by Cathy Lesurf and John Jones and an interview with Dixie, Cathy, John, Ian Telfer and Alan Prosser about the revival of this amazing tradition, the Whitstable Folk Club, music, morris and any questions you might have!
Evercreech Jack in the Green
Last year 🌿EVERCREECH JACK IN THE GREEN🌿 was dressed in his finery of flowers and foliage and although Jack cannot be processed by followers this year- to keep everyone safe- we are still honouring the turn of seasons this May with some exciting alternative plans that are afoot…
Evercreech Jack in the Green will be adorned in his greenery in a studio window display at The Old Stores Studio from this first weekend of May for people to enjoy as they go about their daily exercise past the studio and online. (If you have any spare flowers and foliage from your own gardens that you can offer to add to Jack please safely drop off outside the studio if you can. We can also arrange to collect safely from anyone locally if you can’t venture out- feel free to message us. All donations gratefully received! 🌿🌷)…
We are also really looking forward to teaming up with Garden Day UK and local florists, flower growers and community to celebrate Garden Day UK on Sunday 10 May and will be safely gifting 50 + beautiful free flower crowns to local people. If you know someone who deserves to be gifted a flower crown and relax in their garden (doesn’t everyone?!🌿💐👑) then please TAG them TO NOMINATE and tell us why they deserve to be crowned! 👑💐🌹🌼🌸🌺🌻🌷🌿(crowns will be safely delivered to doorsteps on Sunday 10 May).
STAY SAFE (stay home and enjoy your garden if you have one) AND SHARE THE LOVE! ❤️ 🌿
Another Life: Overview
Imagine: if we could combine dreams with reality in a world where we live forever.
Set in a secretive, hidden corner of Middle England, the novel combines folklore, legends and ancient beliefs with the contemporary issue of what it means to be human in an increasingly technological world.
Thirty years ago, Oliver Merryweather is intrigued by a woman who waves to him from the window of a house in a village he discovers by accident.
In the present day, Oliver believes his life to be a series of failures and regrets. When the same woman appears to him in a dream, Oliver embarks on an obsessive quest to find her. With the village inexplicably absent from all maps, all he has to go on is the unusual mark on her wrist.
Journeying back into his past, Oliver finds himself inextricably drawn into a decades-old mystery involving missing children, pagan beliefs and the Green Man of folklore, while coming face to face with the disappointments and tragedies of his own life. As the story draws towards its unexpected and uplifting conclusion, the line between reality, dreams and memory begins to blur and Oliver gains an insight into the true purpose of his existence.
About the Author: Owen W Knight
Owen W Knight’s books include The Invisible College Trilogy, an apocalyptic dystopian conspiracy tale for young adults and adults alike, described as ‘1984 Meets the Book of Revelation’.
Owen was born in Southend-on-Sea at a time when children spent their days outdoors, creating imaginary worlds that formed the basis of their adventures and social interaction. He has used this experience to create worlds based on documented myths, with elements of dystopia, mystery and science fiction, highlighting the use and abuse of power and the conflicts associated with maintaining ethical values.
You can purchase a copy of Owen’s book via his Amazon page: http://bit.ly/OwenWKnight
Almost all of the Jack in the Green and Green Man related events planned for May and the early summer have now been cancelled.
A few hardy souls have decided to go solo and will ensure that Jack in the Green will wake on May Morning on his own with appropriate social distancing and I hope to share pictures and details if they do.
There are also plans for some virtual processions (Whitstable and Hastings so far) and for other events to be postponed until later this year. Please do let me know of any virtual events I may have missed.
I would like to thank Justin Lycett for kindly giving me permission to post the above link to his wonderful video of the 2018 Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green to keep our spirits up in these unusual times.
As almost all of the events planned for May and the early summer have now been cancelled I thought it best to remove the events list for now. Although incredibly sad it is of course completely understandable. If things do change in the next month I will of course let you all know.
A few hardy souls have decided to go solo and will ensure that Jack in the Green will awake on May Morning on his own with appropriate social distancing. I hope to share pictures and details if they do.
There are also plans for some virtual processions (Whitstable and Hastings so far) and for other events to be postponed until later this year.
I will of course be doing my best to promote and support them this year and in the years to come.
For those self isolating (or bored) I have also opened up our online archive of 45 downloadable Company of the Green Man newsletters for everyone to access completely free of charge over the coming weeks you can access them HERE.
I am getting queries about changes or cancellations to other customs and events beyond my normal remit. I would advise checking with the organisers websites and would also highly recommend Calendar Customs a guide to British calendar customs and local traditions.
I wish all our members and followers all the very best at this time.
I shall do my very best to keep our Annual Events Page up to date over the coming weeks and months with regards to cancellations and changes to this years events. I would be grateful for a heads up if anybody hears of any that I may miss.
Although incredibly sad it is of course completely understandable that this years May events are being cancelled.
However a few hardy souls have decided to go solo and will ensure that Jack in the Green will awake on May Morning on his own.
There are also plans for some virtual processions to go ahead (Whitstable looks to be one) and for other events to be postponed until later this year (Highworth “May Day” has a possible new date of Saturday 22nd August to be confirmed.)
I will of course be doing my best to promote and support them.
Oxford Jack in the Green and May celebration has been cancelled.
Hever Castle May Day Festivities have been cancelled.
Evercreech Jack in the Green and May procession has been cancelled.
Whitstable May Day procession has been cancelled sadly but they are just putting the finishing touches on plans for a virtual procession with a specially commissioned video of archive footage and various community efforts.
Guildford Summerpole has now been cancelled
Grimspound Morris (Bovey Tracey) Green Man festival and Jack in the Green has been cancelled
Oak House Green Man has been cancelled
Bristol Jack in the Green has now been cancelled
Bradford on Avon Green Man festival and Jack in the Green has now been cancelled
Rochester Sweeps Festival has been cancelled
Highworth May Day postponed with a possible new date for “May Day” of Saturday 22nd August to be confirmed.
Ilfracombe Jack in the Green has been cancelled
Brentham May Day has been cancelled
Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green has been cancelled
Knutsford Royal May Day and Jack in the Green has been cancelled
“DUE TO THE ONGOING CORONA VIRUS ISSUE, THE DECISION HAD BEEN MADE TO CANCEL THIS EVENT”
Postponed with a possible new date for “May Day” of Saturday 22nd August to be confirmed.
Very sadly this years Bristol Jack in the Green has been cancelled.
The organisers have announced that sadly but understandably this years BOA Green Man festival and Jack in the Green has been cancelled.
Statement from the organisers
“It with enormous regret that the Knutsford Royal May Day Festival Committee has taken the very difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Festival, which was due to take place on Saturday 2 May.
“Having taken on board the advice given by the Government, Public Health England and the NHS, we are left with no other option than to cancel this year’s Festival,” says Steve Wilkinson, Chairman of the Committee.
“We realise that this decision will leave a lot of children disappointed in and around the town, but we feel that this is the correct decision given the current circumstances and for the health and welfare of all concerned, both children and volunteers.”
Statement from the organisers of the Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green:
“It is with great sadness that Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green has decided that in the current circumstances it would be both impossible and irresponsible to go ahead this year.
This is not a decision we have come to lightly and know that many people will, like us, be devastated. Not only is this for many of us a major high point of our year, it is also vital to kick-starting the local summer economy. We will be meeting regularly to discuss the situation as advice from the government evolves.
We would like to thank all of our supporters, volunteers and local businesses for their continued support. Please keep safe everyone, look after yourselves. 🌿”
In light of the current situation it is highly likely that some of this years annual events involving the Traditional Jack in Green may be cancelled or changed. I will do my best to keep our annual events page as up to date as possible but would really appreciate a heads up if anyone hears of any changes before I do.
The appropriately named Foliate Head Press has just published a guide to the Llanthony Valley, which runs between Hay-on-Wye and Abergavenny, in the Black Mountains. The Enchanted Valley is a guide to the myths and legends of this beautiful area and notes all the ancient and mystical spots along the route. It also features four green men, in Abergavenny’s Priory Church.
‘Be prepared to lose an hour as you explore the Priory Church because it is home to many beautiful monuments and tombs, one of which boasts four green men. They are tricky to spot on this highly decorated 16th century monument, but once the first is identified, the others become obvious to the eye. The choir stalls date from the 14th century and host several charming carvings of dragons and other mythical creatures.’
There are a surprising number of fascinating places in this valley, which is only twenty miles long, and as the book description says: ‘Driving along the only road through the Llanthony Valley is a joy; the landscape never disappoints. But to experience the Valley properly, one must leave the car and explore, seek out those old places where a certain sense of timelessness tugs at the heart. Taking you on a journey from Hay on Wye to Abergavenny, this book will introduce you to all these places and also the folklore and myths associated with them. It should come as no surprise that this landscape is home to fairies, that the oldest buildings harbour ghosts, or that holy wells have stories of miracles attached to them. Many tales which are firmly rooted in history also sound like folklore — but who are we to deny that they happened the way the storytellers say?’
The author Melanie Warren, has collected British folk tales and ghost stories for almost four decades. She lives in Lancashire but visits the Llanthony Valley each summer, along with family and assorted friends. In a decade of such visits, she has collected a wealth of fascinating information about the area and delights in introducing first-time visitors to the places in this book.
The Enchanted Valley, by M. E. Warren, is available now from Foliate Head Press,
for £9.99 plus postage.