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The Green Man. 1) What is ‘The Green Man’? 2) What different styles of ‘Green Man’ are there? 3) Where are green men found? 4) What do they mean? 5) How does the ‘Green Man’ link with art Nouveau? Task Create a powerpoint on the Green Man, answering these questions.

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The green man l.jpg
The Green Man

  • 1) What is ‘The Green Man’?

  • 2) What different styles of ‘Green Man’ are there?

  • 3) Where are green men found?

  • 4) What do they mean?

  • 5) How does the ‘Green Man’ link with art Nouveau?

  • Task Create a powerpoint on the Green Man, answering these questions


What is a green man l.jpg

A modern interpretation of the Green Man as a garden ornament carved in stone

A Green Man as a name for a sculpture, drawing or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves

Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face, and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found on carvings in churches and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical).

"The Green Man" is also a popular name for British public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on inn signs, which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.

The Green Man motif has many different faces and variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance", representing the cycle of growth being reborn anew each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.

What is a Green Man?


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Usually referred to in works on architecture as foliate heads or foliate masks, carvings of the Green Man may take many forms, naturalistic or decorative. The simplest depict a man's face peering out of dense foliage. Some may have leaves for hair, perhaps with a leafy beard. Often leaves or leafy shoots are shown growing leaves from his open mouth and sometimes even from the nose and eyes as well. In the most abstract examples, the carving at first glance appears to be merely stylised foliage, with the facial element only becoming apparent on closer examination. The face is almost always male; green women are rare. Green cats, lions and demons are also found. On gravestones and other memorials, human skulls are sometimes shown sprouting grape vines or other vegetation, presumably as a symbol of resurrection (see Shebbear, England).

Although the Green Man appears in many forms, the three most common types have been categorized as follows[original research?]:

the Foliate Head — completely covered in leaves

the Disgorging Head — spews vegetation from its mouth

the Bloodsucker Head — sprouts vegetation from all facial orifices.

The term "Green Man" was coined by Lady Raglan in 1939. It appeared in her article The Green Man in Church Architecture, published in The Folklore Journal. The figure is also often referred to (perhaps erroneously) as "Jack-in-the-Green" or "Jack o' the Green".


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What does the Green Man Represent?

  • Superficially the Green Man would appear to be pagan, perhaps a fertility figure or a nature spirit, similar to the woodwose (the wild man of the woods), and yet he frequently appears, carved in wood or stone, in churches, chapels, abbeys and cathedrals, where examples can be found dating from the 11th century through to the 20th century.

  • To the modern observer the earlier (Romanesque and medieval) carvings often have an unnervingly eerie or numinous quality. This is sometimes said to indicate the vitality of the Green Man, who was able to survive as a symbol of pre-Christian traditions despite, and at the same time complementary to, the influence of Christianity.[citation needed] (Rather than alienate their new converts, early Christian missionaries would often adopt and adapt local gods, sometimes turning them into obscure saints.)

  • Whatever his original significance may have been, many modern churchgoers characterise the Green Man as "the archetype of our oneness with the earth".[citation needed]


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