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

Posts tagged “Green Man

The Mummers Play – A Midwinter Ritual

North Curry Mummers Play Copyright © David Lawrence

North Curry Mummers Play Copyright © David Lawrence

“There can be no Green Winter
All things have a Time and Place and Order.
So – Now that Winter’s here again
Come around and gather in,
We wish your favour for to win.
This handsome band is come today
To re-enact the famous play”

A very Merry Christmas to you all. If you decide you would like to escape the turkey the inlaws and the pudding why not head out to see one of the traditional Mummers plays that take place this time each year.  Both the Green Man and Jack in the Green or Green Jack appear in the text of many of the plays.

“For now comes a man all dressed in green
The ugliest brute you’ve ever seen

Green Man
Awake , Awake now hear me bawl
For I bring life and death to one and all
Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring
Essential to all of these I bring
Pagan ritual and fertility to all I do keep
As jack in the green and green man I do leap”

You can find details of dates and times by using the wonderful resource available at:  http://mastermummers.org/index.htm . Just enter the date range and the details of any Mummers Plays taking place will be shown.

Many of the Mummers Plays take place on Boxing day including In North Curry in Somerset where David Lawrence revived the tradition:

Their play tells the story of the battle between Summer (or Good) and Winter (or Evil). At one o’clock on Boxing day a troupe of strangely garbed figures processes into the village square led by assorted musicians playing some strange old melody. A man dressed in black and disguised with a mask (for this he is known as the Guiser) steps forward to introduce the characters:

‘You may wonder what is the Mummer’s play, and what is its meaning.

This is what there was before there was Christmas.

The Winter Solstice and the turn of the year was then celebrated by a play of ritual and symbolism.

Here we have the fight between Summer ( St. George), and Winter (The Black Knight). You shall see Summer killed by Winter and then Summer’s rebirth by extraordinary means. And then you will see the death of Winter. This is the story of the seasons.

There is (supposedly) humour in this play but its true meaning lies much deeper.’

For more information about the North Curry Mummers play and for details of the book and CD of their Mummers Play go to:

http://www.fromthegreenwood.com/About%20DL/Mummers%20Play.htm


Herefordshire Green Men

Hereford Cathedral Green Man copyright © Gary Truss & Jennie Miller

I have just uploaded a wonderful collection of pictures of Green Men from Herefordshire taken by Gary Truss and Jennie Miller to our Flickr site http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecompanyofthegreenman

There are twenty pictures from Hereford Cathedral and one from the Priory Church of St Peter and St Paul in Leominster


The Green Man Looks On

St Chads, Stafford © Jennie Miller

Many thanks to Eric Payne (see previous blog entry) for allowing us to reproduce his wonderful song “The Green man Looks on” and to Vanessa Piggott  for alerting us to Erics work. For more about Eric go to www.ericpaynefolksongs.co.uk thanks also to Jennie Miller for another wonderful picture.

‘The Green Man Looks on’

Dowse the lantern, new dawn is at hand,
The team is a-waiting to plough the good land.
Three abreast, they shall stumble and nod,
Heaving the share through the heavy clay sod.

The Green Man looks on,
And he smiles from the copse as the cycle of death and re-birth never stops,
The wheel of the year,
Turns again and the mythical man watches on.

Hour after hour the neat furrows climb,
Like the strings of a harp in a regular line;
Till needful of rest, all labour must wait,
The horses have nosebags, the ploughman his bait.

The Green Man looks on,
And he smiles from the copse as the cycle of death and re-birth never stops,
The wheel of the year,
Turns again and the mythical man watches on.

Yet steadily on until late afternoon,
The chains chack relentlessly into the gloom,
Till reins through the cringle, less urgent confirm,
The voice of the Ploughman to take the last turn.

The Green Man looks on,
And he smiles from the copse as the cycle of death and re-birth never stops,
The wheel of the year,
Turns again and the mythical man watches on.

Then away with the harnesses, off with the plough,
For sweet scented hay bids the steaming team now.
From their stable the low lantern light,
Passes out through the door with the Ploughman’s “Goodnight”.

The Green Man looks on,
And he smiles from the copse as the cycle of death and re-birth never stops,
The wheel of the year,
Turns again and the mythical man watches on.

…………………………………………………………………………

Copyright: © Eric Payne. January 2010


Yuletide Greetings

Salisbury Cathedral Copyright © The Company of the Green Man

Wishing all members of The Company of the Green Man a fantastic Yule. thanks to everyone for all the contributions and support during 2011. Here is a picture of one of the most seasonal Green Men I could think of from the roof of Salisbury Cathedral…He is wearing a Santa hat isn’t he?


New Green Man Sighting

Grave Slab in St Peters Church Northampton © Susan Doncaster

Suzie Doncaster has added this wonderful early green man to our current entry in the gazetteer for St Peter’s Church in Marefair Northampton. The finely carved Anglo Saxon grave slab dates to the 10-11th Century and shows beasts and birds entwined in some incredible foliage all sprouting from the mouth of  a Green Man. It is thought that the grave slab would have been in an earlier church that stood on the same site. The stone was found in a nearby ditch and was used as a door lintel and a mantel piece before finding its way back to the church.

The slab has been attributed to St Ragener an Anglo Saxon prince who was slain by the Vikings in 870. His grave had been forgotten until the mid 11th Century when visions of an elderley man drew a priest of Edward the Confessor to the burial site. Many miracles were said to have taken place at the church and the king had a shrine erected there decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. Sadly nothing of the great shrine remains.

Although the grave slab has been cut down by 3cm on one side the carving is remarkably intact and it is one of the erarliest carved stones in Northampton. St Peters Church is now a redundant Anglican Church and has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building, it is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. It is considered to be the most outstanding Norman church in the county.

Copyright © Susan Doncaster


The Green Man by Lauren Raine

I have included this poem before in the early days of this blog, but it is so beautiful and apt for the begining of the year and our blog is so regularly discovered by people entering it in search engines, that I feel it is time to publish it again. You can find Lauren’s website full of wonderful masks (like the one above) at: http://www.rainewalker.com/catalog3.htm.

“Remember me, try to remember.
I am that laughing man with eyes like leaves.
When you think that winter will never end,
I will come.
You will feel my breath,
a vine caressing your foot.
I am the blue eye of a crocus,
opening in the snow,
a trickle of water, a calling bird,
a shaft of light among the trees.
You will hear me singing
among the green groves of memory,
and the shining leaves of tomorrow.
I’ll come with daisies in my hands –
we’ll dance among the sycamores
once more.”
–  Lauren Raine, The Green Man


Wassailing the Apple Trees

Apple Tree Man © Andy Paciorek

I have reproduced COTGM member Bruce Eaton’s brilliant post on Wassailing the Apple Trees from January 2009 below. For those interested in attending an event Wassailing the Apple Trees will take place in many locations throughout the UK in January 2011. I would like to thank Andy Paciorek for the fantastic Apple Tree Man picture above. You can see more of Andy’s work at: http://www.batcow.co.uk/strangelands

In Carhampton, Somerset Wassailing will take place on Saturday 15th January 2011 (The Saturday nearest to the Old Twelfth Night 17th January). Wassailing will also take place in Brent Knoll at West Croft Cider on the same day.

At Carhampton the wassail celebration takes place in the old orchard behind the Butcher’s Arms, the villagers form a circle around the largest apple tree, hang pieces of toast soaked in cider in the branches for the robins, who represent the ‘good spirits’ of the tree. A shotgun is fired overhead to scare away evil spirits (seen by some as worms and maggots) Four wassailing veterans then line up near the apple trees and launch into a series of wonderful folk songs about cider, some adapted from traditional songs with the lyrics adapted to give them a cider theme! Then brandishing their traditional cider crocks, they sing the Carhampton Wassailing Song:

Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
For the Lord doth know where we shall be
Till apples come another year.
For to bear well, and to bloom well
So merry let us be,
Let every man take off his hat,
And shout to the old apple tree!
Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
Hatfuls, capfuls and three bushel bagsful
And a little heap under the stairs,
Hip, Hip, Hooray!

The last three lines are repeated and the whole crowd join in the chant. When the singing is over and cups empty, people retire inside to listen to a local folkband.

Feel free to add to this post if you have your own Wassailing event for 2011.

So here is Bruce’s article, after which I have reproduced a few more wassailing songs:

The ancient tradition of ‘Wassailing’ the apple trees on the 17th January (Old Twelfth Night) is particularly associated with Somerset and the South West of England, and is one of a number of folk customs termed ‘Wassailing’.  In this instance the aim of the wassail is threefold, to drive evil spirits out of the orchard, to invite the good spirits in and to wake the apple trees up from their winter slumber.  It is also a time to drink copious amounts of scrumpy cider and have a pig roast and a bonfire.

The evil spirits are dealt with easily enough by banging on pots and pans, blowing whistles and maybe firing off a shotgun or two.  This accomplished the wassilers now sing to the apple trees to wake them up.  There are many traditional wassailing songs and different localities have there own versions.  The song below is sung each year at the Butchers Arms pub in Carhampton, Somerset, where they claim to have the oldest continuous apple tree wassail in the country, and is a fairly typical example.

Old apple tree, we wassail thee
And hope that you wilt bear
For the Gods doth know where we shall be
Come apples another year

To bloom well and to bear well
So merry let us be
Let every man take off his hat
And shout out to the old apple tree

Old apple tree, we wassail thee
And hope that you will bear
Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stair

Three cheers for the old apple tree:
Hip, hip, hooray
Hip, hip, hooray
Hip, hip, hooray

Obviously the ‘little heap under the stair’ is more cider brewing.  In some ceremonies the trunk of the tree is knocked on hard with a stick to help wake the tree.  This may also have the beneficial effect of dislodging harmful insects.  Finally the good spirit of the orchard is invited in.  The good spirit is not, however, represented by our old friend the Green Man, but rather by the robin.  Toast soaked in cider is hung amongst the branches of the trees as an offering to the birds.  The robins are also very good at hoovering up any parasitic insects that were dislodged the previous night.

Wassailing the apple trees as a custom very nearly died out in the late 20th century, but clung on in Carhampton and a handful of orchards across Somerset.  In recent years, however, there has been something of a Renaissance in these folk customs and wassails have been cropping up right across the West Country and even further a field.  But what is the antiquity of this custom?  The term wassail is derived from two Old English components, namely ‘waes’ and ‘hael’, meaning literally ‘good health’.  The traditional reply to this ancient toast was supposed to be ‘drinc hael!’ and is first recorded in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain written c.1140.  Some authors dispute this and see ‘waes hael – drinc hael’ as a 12th century confection rather than a genuine Anglo-Saxon toast. In The English Year (2006) Steve Roud looks at the linguistic evidence.

‘Wassail as a general salutation existed in Old Norse as well as in Old English, but the use of the word as a drinking toast is not found in any of the Teutonic languages, and appears to be a peculiarly English formation from the Eleventh or Twelfth century… Later use of the word, in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, show that it had undergone a considerable extension of meaning, with wassail meaning a party, or the drink that was enjoyed there, or the words said when drinking, or even the songs that were sung.’

(Roud p.556)

This is no doubt the reason that we have a plethora of folk customs all termed ‘Wassailing’ and is why we cannot trace the antiquity of wassailing the apple trees through etymology.  My personal feeling is that the ceremony pre-dates the name given to it and I strongly suspect pre-Christian and possibly pre-English roots.* And where is my evidence to support this claim?  Well that, like the origin of the Green Man, is proving rather elusive.

[1][*] The expansion of the English kingdom of Wessex into the territory of Dumnonia, a British kingdom which encompassed south Somerset, Devon and Dorset, only happened late in the 7th century, by which time Wessex had officially converted to Christianity.

And here are another two Wassailing songs:

Gloucestershire Wassail (Traditional)

Wassail, wassail all over the town
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie
A good Christmas pie that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

And here is to Colly and to her long tail
Pray God send our master he never may fail
A bowl of strong beer! I pray you draw near
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

 

Gower Wassail (Traditional / Phil Tanner)

A-wassail, a-wassail, throughout all this town.
Our cup it is white and our ale it is brown.
Our wassail is made of the good ale and cake,.
Some nutmeg and ginger, the best we could get.

Al di dal – al di dal di dal
Al di dal di dal – al di dal di dee
Al de deral – al de derry
Sing too rel I do

Our wassail is made of an elderberry bough.
Although my good neighbour, we’ll drink unto thou..
Besides all on earth, we’ll have apples in store,
Pray let us come in for it’s cold by the door.

We know by the moon that we are not too soon,.
And we know by the sky that we are not too high,.
We know by the star that we are not too far,.
And we know by the ground that we are within sound.

Now master and mistress if you are within
Pray send out your maid with her lily-white skin
For to open the door without more delay
Our time it is precious and we cannot stay

Here’s a health to our Colley and her croo’ed horn
May God send her Master a good crop of corn
Of barley and wheat and all sorts of grain
May God send her Mistress a long life to reign

Now master and mistress – thanks to you we’ll give
And for our jolly wassail as long as we live
And if we should live til another new year
Perhaps we may call and see who do live here


The Green Man (A Carol)

I recently discovered Clive Andersons wonderful poem “The Green Man” has been put to music by Lynn Noel and is now sung as a Yuletide Carol by the Paperbag Mummers of Waltham Massachusetts. It seems a perfect way for the poem to evolve and hopefully wind its way into future generations.

A Merry Yuletide and Happy Christmas to all members of The Company of the Green Man

THE GREEN MAN

William Anderson arr. L. Noel 1990

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. (REFRAIN)

The hungry birds harry the last berries of rowan
But white is her bark in the darkness of rain
I rise with the sap…

The ashes are clashing their boughs like sword-dancers
Their black buds do trace a wild face in the clouds
I come with the wind….

The alders are rattling as though ready for battle
Guarding the grove where she waits for her lover
I burn with desire….

In and out of the yellowing wands of the willow
The pollen-bright bees are plundering the catkins
I am honey of love….

The hedges of quick are thick with May blossom
As the dancers advance on the leaf-covered King
It’s off with my head….

Green Man becomes grown man in flames of the oak
As its crown forms his mask and its leafage his features
I speak through the oak….

The holly is flowering as hayfields are rolling
Their gleaming long grasses like waves of the sea
I shine with the sun….

The hazels are rocking the cups of their nuts
As the harvesters shout when the last sheaf is cut
I swim with the salmon…

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….

The aspen drops silver of leaves on earth’s salver
And the poplars shed gold on the young ivy heads
I have paid for your pleasure….

The reed beds are flanking in silence the islands
Where meditates Wisdom as she waits and waits
I have kept her secret….

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….


Green Man Encounter

Sean Breadin drew my attention to a letter in the July 2010 edition of Fortean Times written by Nick Skerten from London:
One summer afternoon in 2007, I was returning from central London and my train had spent a few too many minutes idling at the platform in New Malden station. Lost in thought, I had been looking out of the window at nothing in particular when I suddenly saw something that made me gasp out loud. At the far end of the London-bound platform is a thick bank of trees and shrubs behind a fence. I was astonished to see what appeared to be an enormous face made up of the surrounding foliage looming out at the opposite platform and looking very similar to the typical appearance of the ‘Green Man’, as seen in church carvings. The face was about 5ft (1.5m) in diameter and about 7ft (2m) or so from the ground.
I was amazed how perfect the face seemed to be-though at the same time I knew it was just my brain demonstrating its knack for face recognition in random patterns. I probably gazed in wonder for 20-odd seconds before the most shocking thing happened.
Suddenly, and with tremendous velocity, the entire face withdrew backwards into the vegetation, which caused the surrounding bushes and trees to sway violently. Most strikingly of all, a branch that must have been under the ‘face’ swung upwards with immense force-as if a huge weight had been lifted from it-before smacking into the surrounding greenery and, I suppose, reassuming its original position. This whole motion took about a second and the face had completely disappeared! I could accept that a fox or even a human might have been sitting on the branches and had jumped off, causing them to bounce back into position, but this would not easily account for the very distinct retraction of the face, as if it was wrenched backwards into a tunnel.
The face in no way looked constructed or man-made and seemed to consist of a natural, though utterly remarkable, arrangement. The features of the thing were clear to see and I was particularly struck by the grinning mouth and staring eyes. Quite how the verdant visage was sucked backwards I have no idea. I have often wondered how, or indeed why, anyone would have achieved this bizarre effect for bored South West Trains passengers. The train drew away and I sat back in my chair feeling strangely unnerved. On all my subsequent journeys through the station I have never seen anything like this again.

I managed to get in contact with Nick to ask his permission to reproduce the letter and to see if there was anything else he would add. Nick commented that: “There was no-one near me when I saw this weird thing, which is slightly frustrating! I was travelling back from town after doing some shopping. It was a very sunny day and I suppose the train had been waiting for a good two minutes before I noticed the face in the leaves. I hadn’t been staring out of the window all of that time and it was, as I recall, the moment I looked at the bushes that I saw the face. I’ve always had a good look at that bank of trees whenever I pass through New Malden station on the train, but it’s always looked like a rather standard bush and nothing else. It was, though, the terrific suction that seemed to be exerted on the face as it was wrenched back into the shrubbery that I found so inexplicable. The violence of the exit and the massive swaying of branches and foliage was quite spectacular and just left me feeling really surprised and shocked. I only wish now that I had got out of the train and gone to investigate the opposite platform, but, alas, I didn’t, so I’m left with the mystery.”
Nick was also kind enough to sketch the drawing which is included on this post. Nick’s description is fascinating and I must admit that I can offer no rational explanation for his experience. This is the only record that I can find of a sighting of this kind, ghostly figures dressed in green and the children of woolpit don’t even come close, and the only image that I have seen that partially resembles this is of a brilliant piece of topiary in a garden in Wiltshire. If anyone else has heard of a sighting of this kind either present day or historical we would love to hear from you.

Cloudstreet

Cloudstreet is the Australian duo of Nicole Murray and John Thompson.  They play Australian, English and Irish traditional music, with original songs and tunes written in a traditional style thrown in.  Their music focusses strongly on the human voice, with tight two-part harmony being their trademark.

Cloudstreet have recorded The Green Man and made it available as a free download via the free stuff page on their website at:

http://www.cloudstreet.org/

 

The Green Man

The Green Man’s a traveller, a reveller, unraveller
Of dreams and of fancies, from first to the last.
Older than all men, living in all things
Son, father and sage,
Long live the Green Man!

 
First light of first morning saw the Green Man there waiting
He saw the creation and joined in the dance
All creatures grew ’round him, he grew with them singing
The first song of all, sing of the Green Man

 
Quietly watching and waiting and learning
The storms are his fury, the lightning his laugh
The first leaf of spring, his beauty and glory
His stillness his power, in the trees is his path.

 
There are fewer trees now, but the man is not sleeping
‘Though our ruin brings sorrow to time’s oldest heart
In our souls we may find him and remember his wisdom
And rekindle the flame; once again make a start.

 

© John Thompson

 

 


Greenmantle Returns

Paul Pearson has just re-launched the wonderful “Greenmantle” magazine that many will fondly remember from the 90’s. The Samhain edition features some excellent articles by some fascinating contributors including Ralph Harvey, Kelvin Jones and Graham King. There’s also a short introduction to The Company of the Green man set off with a wonderful Green Man picture by artist Tricia Gill.
Details of how to buy a copy can be found on Greenmantle’s facebook site at:
Picture copyright © Greenmantle

Green Men on BBC FOUR “Churches how to read them”

There’s an interesting new series hidden away on BBC FOUR at the moment. Writer Richard Taylor’s “Churches how to read them” on Wednesdays at 8:30 and then repeated a number of times before the next episode. Last week Richard visited early medieval churches to find out why the Anglo-Saxons and Normans continued to fill their sacred buildings with pagan images.

He visits the 12th Century church of St Mary and St David’s in Kilpeck, Herefordshire and highlights the Famous Green Man on the doorway. He correctly points out that there are over 1000 green men in British churches but that he only knows of two records  of green men that are not in churches (I am assuming that he means from this time period). Images are then shown of various green men including: The stained glass at Holy Trinity in Long Melford, Suffolk (15th Century) and Seton Collegiate Church in East Lothian (15th Century). He explains the ”pious” Adam and the seeds of the tree of good and evil theory of the green man  which he describes as not holding much water as an explanation and notes that the green man of Kilpeck is thoroughly vividly alive. This looks to be the beginnings of a thoroughly enlightening series.


Tim Healey on Questions Questions

Eagle eared listeners may have heard Tim Healey on Radio 4’s Questions Questions yesterday with his query relating to the possible eastern ancestory of the green man. Also appearing on the programme was Mercia MacDermott author of “Explore Green Men”. For those who missed it you can listen again at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00tgwlh/b00tgw75/Questions_Questions_26_08_2010/ I’ve also posted a discussion topic on the BBC discussion board.


The Spirit of Nature an Exhibition by Chas Alexander

 

Chas was born in Slough in 1952 and started painting at the age of 8. His career took him into the advertising industry where he worked as a designer, airbrush artist and creative director for some of the leading advertising agencies both within the UK and throughout the world. After leaving the industry in the late 1980’s he spent many years travelling the world, living with many native people, all of which had a profound influence on his work today. He started painting again in 2002. Since then his work has been published in various pagan journals and magazines and he is now working on a new exhibition entitled ‘The Spirit of Nature’ which will be showing in the Littlehampton Museum in West Sussex which runs from 9th June until 21st July 2010. The work will include images of the green man and spiritual places such as a series of Sussex Churches, the balance within nature and some more intricate work of wild flowers and animals. The media will range from oils to acrylic and from watercolour to pastels. This exhibition will be complimented with an outdoor exhibition running at Summer Solstice entitled ‘The Green Man in the Trees’

The launch party starts at 11am on Saturday 12th June in Littlehampton Museum. Admission is free and the proceeds from the sale of work will be donated to three women’s charities, The Goddess Foundation, Sussex International Women’s Day and Women’s Aid Worthing Branch.


Jacks-in-the-Green 2010

This year at least fourteen Jacks-in-the-Green were awoken and paraded through the streets (or woodlands) of England. These included the following:

  • Oxford Jack-in-the-Green
  • Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green
  • Rochester Jack-in-the-Green 
  • Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green
  • Deptford Jack-in-the-Green
  • City of London Jack-in-the-Green
  • Bristol Jack in the Green
  • Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • Knutsford Jack-in-the-Green
  • Brentham Jack-in-the-Green
  • London Jack-in-the-Green (Beltane Bash)
  • Highworth Jack-in-the-Green 
  • High Wycombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • And a Jack in private woodlands in Sussex

If anyone knows of any we have missed please let us know at greenman@virgin.net


The Hastings Jack-in-the-Green

First picture of the Hastings Jack-in-the-Green taken at the fantastic event earlier today. Plenty more to follow soon.


Merry May Day to one and all!

At the time this post appears, as the sun rises just after 5:30 on May 1st 2010 a number of Jack-in -the-Greens will be awoken across the UK. They will parade around towns, villages and cities bringing the summer and “Jacks Magic” with them. 

 A Merry May Day and a Happy Beltaine to one and all!

A Riddle

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


Jack-in-the-Green

Jack in the green am I and master have I none
for whilst there are trees upon this land the woods shall be my home
To the season’s kings I bow my head as they do bow to me
for my faces are as many as the leaves upon a tree


Green Man in Trafalgar Square

Green man spotters might like to look out for the Greenman in Trafalgar Square on the 24th April when The Lions Part celebrate St George’s day. The Greenman in his spring manifestation will be born out of the dragon. There will be six performances from midday until 6pm.


Annnual Events coming soon

We’re back! the temporary computer glich is hopefully resolved,  (shiny new laptop and a second mortgage!) and there’s a bit of web re-building to do but we’re back on track and ready for the spring. If anyone sent me an e-mail in the last couple of weeks I’d be grateful if you could send it again just in case it went down the virtual rabbit hole with the rest of my data!

As May draws closer another quick reminder that the list of events that feature the Green Man, Jack-in-the-Green etc is growing every year. The list below is our current list but we are always extremely grateful  to hear of any others that we may have missed including those outside of the UK. This blog has a worldwide readership so don’t hesitate to drop us a line. I’ve included links to all of the below as some have not fixed their dates as yet. If you would like to add details of an event here please e-mail us at greenman@virgin.net Please go out and support your nearest Jack and join in the wonderful and magical event, then send us in your pictures and experiences of the event.

April/May

Bristol Jack in the Green Saturday 1st May 2010
The Bristol Jack in the Green appears on the first Saturday in May starting from the historic Harbourside (outside the Arnolfini) and leads a magical procession through the streets of Bristol eventually ending the day on Horfield Common where he dies to release the spirit of summer. For pictures of the 2009 Bristol Jack in the Green visit our flickr site

Rochester Sweeps Festival and Jack-in-the-Green

The Rochester Sweeps festival still has a Jack in the Green Ceremony where the Jack is awoken on Blue Bell Hill on May Morning and is paraded through the streets during the three day festival attended by hundreds of Morris Teams 

Hasting Jack-in-the-Green Festival April 30th – 3rd May 2010
The Hastings Jack-in-the-Green festival was revived by Keith Leech in 1983 and is now one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country.  The Jack is “released” every year and is central to the festival.

Deptford Jack-in-the-Green May 1st 2010
The Fowlers Troop Jack in the Green goes out on the streets of South East London or the City of London every May Day

Brentham May Day and Jack-in-the-Green
Brentham has a big celebration every May which includes a Jack in the Green

Knutsford May Day and Jack-in-the-Green
May Day in Knutsford is celebrated over the May Bank holiday weekend. The main focus is the May Queen but there is a Jack in the Green

City of London Jack-in-the-Green
The City of London Jack-in-the-Green appears in the City on May Day

Oxford Jack-in-the-Green
A Jack in the Green who appears in Oxford on May Day

Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green
Oyster Morris organise the Whitstable Jack

Beltane Bash 30th & 31st May 2010
The parade in 2009 (Sunday 24th May) started from the Conway Hall Red Lion Square London WC1 at 10:30 Led by traditional giants, the Jack-in-the-Green, Thor & Holda, Herne and Andred, Naughty Fairies and The Bogies.

Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival
Edinburgh’s Beltane festival traditionally takes place on the 30th of April every year on Calton Hill. The Green Man begins in a dormant and inactive state in the form of the old Horned God, until he ‘dies’ when he touches the May Queen. Her Handmaidens tear his garments from him and he is ‘reborn’ as the young Green Man with a wild exhilarating dance that celebrates his youth and the new summer.

Clun Green Man Festival 1st – 3rd May 2010
The Clun Green Man Festival is a springtime festival, held over three days on the first May Bank Holiday of the year. The Festival takes place in the picturesque town of Clun in South Shropshire and features a modern interpretation of the Green Man

July

Green Man Day—Pilton Festival (Barnstaple)
The Green Man Day includes a stilt walking Green Man resplendent in foliage. The ritual enacted at the festival is believed to represent the initial antagonism of the Prior of Pilton and the Green Man and his subsequent inclusion within the church (The church of St Mary has it’s own Green Man) The festival is usually held on the third weekend in July

September

Carshalton Straw Jack 4th September 2010
A Celebration of Harvest this takes place in September each year. The straw Jack is ritually stripped in the evening so that all present can take a keepsake and then he is burnt in a brazier. It is hoped that he will be burnt as a complete figure one year

October/November

Edinburgh Samhain Fire Festival
Edinburgh’s Beltane fire festival organisers also put on a spectacular Samhain fire festival which also features the Green Man as the ‘Horned god’ or ‘Holly Lord’ who rules over winter.

New Year

Twelfth Night Celebrations
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. 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  Followed by wassailing a mummers play and other festivities

February 

Marsden Imbolc Fire Festival Feb 2011
Marsden Imbolc Fire Festival is a community festival of celebration, It is a fire festival; based around the Celtic ‘Imbolc’ marking the time when the earth begins to wake up after its winter sleep. The festival was started by Kirklees Countryside Volunteers about 18 years ago, primarily for the people of Marsden to come together at a quiet time of the year and to explore the environment around them and to be aware of the turning of the year. Jack Frost and a fabulous glowing Green Man battle for the spring each year.

If you would like to add details of an event here please e-mail us greenman@virgin.net


Green Man of the Month (March 2010)

Green Man of the month for March is an extremely unusual blue green man roof boss from St Mary’s Church in Sileby Leicestershire. The earliest part of this church dates back to the 12th Century, although the roof dates back to the 15th Century.

This picture takes pride of place for March  in The official Company of the Green Man calendar for 2010. All the photos have been taken by myself during 2009 and include some less well known green men that I’ve come across in my journeys. It’s available worldwide from our Cafepress shop at:

http://www.cafepress.co.uk/cotgm

Please be aware that holidays marked in the calendar are US holidays, we will be producing a full UK version for 2011


Green Man of the Month (February 2010)

Green Man of the month for February is from The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Langley Marish, Berkshire.  The earlist part of the church dates from the twelfth Century, but it has been rebuilt restored and extended many times since then. The pictured Green Man is on the northern side of the chancel pillars. There are three faces on what are described as label stops, and include a green man, a green women and a green beast (possibly a lion) all three are beautifully detailed. They probably date to the 14th Century.  There are also another two smaller less detailed green men on window stops in the chancel.

This picture takes pride of place for February in The official Company of the Green Man calendar for 2010. All the photos have been taken by myself during 2009 and include some less well known green men that I’ve come across in my journeys. It’s available worldwide from our Cafepress shop at:

http://www.cafepress.co.uk/cotgm

 

Please be aware that holidays marked in the calendar are US holidays, we will be producing a full UK version for 2011


Stilt Walking Green Man

Every July a giant green man walks the streets of Pilton (Barnstaple) as part of the Pilton Green Man Festival.  The festival is growing every year and more details can be found via the annual events page at the Company of the Green Man website: www.thecompanyofthegreenman.co.uk The pictures of Laurie above show just how much detail goes into the costume, including fresh foliage gathered on the day of the event. Laurence Wedge has been stiltwalking as the green man for over 10 years now, starting in Covent Garden. He has been performing at the Pilton Festival for over 6 years. The giant green man gives blessings with flower petals or leaves. For more information about Stiltskin you can go to  www.stiltskin.me.uk


Robin Unhooded? By Ronald Millar

 I hope that you are all having a fantastic Yuletide and that Boxing Day finds you without heartburn or a lack of batteries! 

After a number of e-mails regarding Robin Hood from our members, the release in 2010 of the new film starring Russell Crowe (come on it’s got to be better than the recent TV series hasn’t it!!!) My Yule tradition of watching the final scenes of Michael Praed’s Robin in Richard Carpenters fantastic series from the 80’s and some comments from fellow members of The Company of Maisters. I felt that I should re-publish this article from the archive of The Company of the Green Man earlier than I had intended. 

This article was first published by the late Ronald Millar in the Company of the Green Man March 2000 newsletter (number 7) I have reproduced it exactly as it was originally hand typed by Ron in his fabulous crumbling tower in East Sussex. For those who don’t know Ronald came to prominence as author of The Piltdown Men, a defence of the solicitor Charles Dawson, the alleged forger of the infamous human fossil from Sussex. He was also the author of a number of books ranging from military history to the lives of the Breton tunny fisherman, a venture in which he was nearly drowned when his sailing schooner was destroyed mid-Atlantic by a summer hurricane. Five of the crew perished. He wrote “For a writer there is nothing like first-hand experience. it should be avoided at all costs”  I’ll remember him as exactly the kind of person you want to be sitting in front of next to a roaring pub fire with a pint in your hand with nowhere you need to be for the next six hours! 

A number of members have commented about the connection between the Green Man and Robin Hood particularly when it comes to pub signs. Indeed it is known that some Green Man pubs changed their signs to foresters or images of a bow wielding Robin Hood from from the original image of the shaggy green men used as a symbol of the Distillers’ company in the 17th century.  As Ron comments and as I have also discovered (but am open to being corrected) there are no pubs in Robin’s own county of Nottinghamshire named the Green Man but there are many Robin Hoods!

The interconnection between Robin and the Green Man that arises through the mythology of the Lord of the Wildwood, of Puck and Herne etc may also add to this link. One to discuss on these pages I hope. Feel free to comment using the link directly at the bottom of this page or e-mail me directly at greenman@virgin.net

Robin Unhooded? By Ronald Millar (From The Company of the Green Man Newsletter Number 7  March 2000)

 ‘Legends, myths, fables, even fairy tales were the ways in which a non-literate society told its story. Distorted, emphasis changed to suit the talker’s purpose maybe, but here is real history. This is perhaps the greatest discovery by archae­ologists in the last fifty years’.

Introduction to Chapter Five of The Green Man Companion and Gazetteer By Ronald Millar 

WRINGING historical truth out of a medieval ballad must require similar optimism, one might suspect, to attempting to write an accurate history based on Hollywood film epics. Nothing loath, Professor John Bellamy of Carleton University, Ottowa, decided to try; after all when there is no alternative tool of research then a ballad it must be. In this case the ballad was called The Gest of Robyn Hode composed in the fourteenth century. 

The professor does not hide the fact that he leans heavily on earlier scholars at the same game, some of whom were not above ‘creative research’, giving the evidence a little twist and a nudge here and there to create a new and sensational theory. All of them eventually gave up, although some were hot on the trail of real discovery. Bellamy persisted and, through his endeavours with the Gest and antique charters and manor rolls, sheds new light on the famous but shadowy out­law with the heart of gold we call Robin Hood, Robin Hode, Robin-in-the-Hood, Robin of Locksley, Earl of Huntingdon and Uncle Tom Cobbly and All. From the faded and illegible pages Robin’s adventures come alive. 

The balladeer sang how the King comes to Sherwood in disguise. There he is captured but recognised by Robin, but all ends well with the outlaw and his merry men being granted a pardon and entering their royal master’s service. It had always been suspected that ‘the comely King’ was unlikely to be Richard the Lionheart, suddenly returned from the Crusades or ransomed imprisonment, as modern tales and films insist. That highly popular, but normally absent, sovereign would be hard put to remember where England was. Sure enough confirmation comes in a medieval chronicle that tells how Edward II, who reigned from 1307 to 1327 and was a great man for the hunt and also a ‘comly king’, became somewhat sore at the lawlessness and deer poaching in his royal forests and ventured to Nottingham to see what was up for himself. The year is 1323. Whether he actually ventured into the trees himself is not known but sure enough Edward’s wardrobe accounts for that year show that one Robyn Hode commenced to receive royal wages from November onwards. Well done the professor. 

But our historical sleuth sees a snag. Did you? When Robyn meets the dis­guised king in the forest he recognises who he is. This suggests that the outlaw knew him, must have seen him at close hand on an earlier occasion, an opportu­nity not afforded to lesser folk in the Middle Ages. Bellamy cannot help noticing Robin’s social graces. Where does his great courtesy come from? Bellamy concludes that he must at some time have served in the household of some noble, and when out­lawed have taken his social graces with him into the forest. And sure enough there is a Robyn Hode on the payroll of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster.

And now we know how Robyn or Robin came to be outlawed, hinted at as unjust but never categorised in the numerous songs and stories about him. During Robyn’s brief service with Lancaster that noble had rebelled against the King and was cap­tured and hanged, his land and property forfeit to the Crown as was the law in those stirring times. His retainers would also forfeit their goods and chattels and be outlawed to boot. Robyn could not have escaped the penalty for being on the losing side. 

In spite of all we and others have said about Robin Hood being the personifi­cation of a spirit of the wood we have to accept he was also a real person and that the outlaw depicted on the Green Man pub signs probably looked very much like him. All we need to know now from Professor Bellamy is why the pubs were not called the Robin Hood. He does not say, a great pity. 

During an idle moment the present author conducted an experiment that might have appealed to the professor for its unorthodoxy. He looked up all the Green Man pubs in the Nottingham area telephone directory. Was there one? If so he has forgotten it. Yet in London alone there were thirty -six. What did that prove? Absolutely nothing except it is incredible that a local hero did not receive the usual English accolade of having numerous pubs named after him. It puzzled the author but Bellamy took it in his stride. He knew better. Although the Gest concentrates on Robyn’s struggle with the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham- he identifies this character, too. And Guy of Guisborne, even Friar Tuck and many others – the outlaw’s rightful haunts were nearly a hundred miles further north in Yorkshire, in Barnsdale to the south of York. Somebody with access to a Yorkshire telephone directory should try the pub census there.

But if Robin Hood was a real person what of Robin-in-the-Hood? What of Jack-in-the-Green? What of the Green Man? Do not despair.. Professor Bellamy discovered several references to a Robin Hood who existed many centuries before the outlaw’s bow sang its lethal song in the glades of Sherwood. As a sur­name Robinhod or Robynhoud was quite common in places as far apart as Sus­sex and Cumberland. Bellamy cautiously provides no explanation. 

NOTE: John Bellamy’s book is Robin Hood: An Historical Inquiry published in 1985 by Croom Helm Ltd, Beckenham, Kent. Rather stuffy but otherwise a first rate demonstration of how historical inquiry is correctly and unsensationally carried out, an all too rare event these days.

You can purchase a copy of this book via Amazon.co.uk using the links on the Green Man Shop pages on our website at www.thecompanyofthegreenman.co.uk