Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Green man

I am the face in the leaves,
I am the laughter in the forest,
I am the king in the wood.
And I am the blade of grass
That thrusts through the stone-cold clay
At the death of winter.
I am before and I am after,
I am always until the end.
I am the face in the forest,
I am the laughter in the leaves.

Mike Harding

I spotted this plaque on the wall of a house on Albert Road, Saltaire. (People have all sorts of interesting things in their gardens if you keep your eyes open.) I think it's a Green Man - an archetypal image found in many cultures throughout the world. It symbolises rebirth and renaissance - specifically the arrival of spring after winter. The carvings and images take several different forms. Though apparently pagan, they are found in many ancient churches and cathedrals, carved in stone or wood - I think the early Christian church sought to 'borrow' symbols from the pagan society around it, to help people feel familiar and imbue the symbols with 'safer' overtones. Some say it has links to Jack in the Green, a 'Lord of Misrule' character that dances in front of the May Queen in some May Day celebrations and appears in some Morris Dances.

Mike Harding (better known to me as a folksinger and comedian aka 'The Rochdale Cowboy') has researched and written about the Green Man - his book makes fascinating reading.

As it's the beginning of March, perhaps the Green Man might usher in some signs of new growth?....It was a crisp, cold, sunny day here yesterday. I fancied I could smell a faint herald of spring....something seemed a bit different.


  1. That's a beautiful plaque.

    My Dad always loved Mike Harding - I grew up listening to his songs and comedy :o)

  2. I like it...wouldn't mind having it in my garden! And the poem is perfect!

  3. Wonderful poem! I love the various Green Man images and what he stands for.

  4. This was really interesting. I've seen seen the Green Men before but didn't know the meaning. What a neat plaque!

  5. There is no known link between the Jack in the Green and the Green Man. The term Green Man was only applied to the foliate heads (as your picture) in 1939 although obviously they have been around for centuries in churches.

    The Jack in the Green is first recorded at the end of the 18th Century and was associated with chimney sweeps originally. Now there are several Jack in the Green traditions including ours in Deptford: Fowlers Troop and the Deptford Jack in the Green: http://www.deptford-jack.org.uk

  6. Sarah - that's interesting info, thanks - you obviously know more about this.

  7. I just wanted to say something about this poem. I read it on a wall in the bathroom of a pub 8 months ago in North Carolina and I've been home in New York since. And I've been trying to find out what "I am the face in the forest, I am the laughter in the leaves" was from. I've searched it on google a few times and never found it until now. It's beautiful so thank you.


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