Is there a cathedral where you live? If so, chances are it will be an old one … just how old, would you say? And when you crane your head up to look at the ceiling, its arches lost in shadows, what else do you see? You might need binoculars, though – but the older the cathedral, the more likely you are to find, nestling atop of corbels and capitals, a singular face with leaves and branches climbing out of its mouth; sometimes fierce, sometimes cheerful, mostly a trifle wild … this sculpted entity has been with us far longer than the cathedrals, and long before the Normans who built them, with a name that has only regained resonance in quite recent times: The Green Man.
Theories abound concerning his origins, both etymological and geographical; he turns up in a variety of guises, from Rome(Bacchus and Dionysius) to Mesopotamia and Egypt, (green-faced Osiris); he is Jack in the Green, Cernunnos, Pan, Silvanus, he can be found in Sumerian, Hindu, Aztec cultures – he exists everywhere, a source of life and natural force . Occasionally neglected, his image however has survived in nooks and crannies, a constant reminder of man’s reliance on his natural environment and of man’s constant struggle with the elements. Another of his many names is Robin – but is he Robin Goodfellow, the mischievous imp – or Robin Hood, woodlander and defender of the poor? Apparently both and more: a guardian, a powerful god, an impish spirit, a playful invoker of spring and sprouting seedlings; at once venerated and feared: for crops can fail too if you cause him displeasure … the corn dollies and harvest festivals are vestiges of something more than a ritual – they entreat the return of sun after winter, of growth after hibernation, they are offerings of supplication and penitence brought by children to their volatile father.
How has he fared with time, this father, this god of fertility and vitality? I mentioned he has gone through periods of comparative neglect, as when the Industrial Revolution stampeded across the countryside, bringing steam, iron roads and coal, blinding the people with its smoke, weakening his memory and perhaps also his strength and yet, something has struggled through, some collective memory perhaps, clinging onto the notion of one protective entity that will defend the very source of our food and means of survival. It is this protective aspect and this comparative neglect that I have focussed on in my mystery novel, Greenwood Tree. Here, the presence of the Green Man is hovering on the outer edges of dreams, occasionally manifesting himself (in more than one form) to warn and defend, his strength weakened by the frail memory of humanity. In addition he acts as the main linking figure in a multi-genre mystery, where detection meets mythology, in that foreign country called the past. In my mystery he has retreated, and his home is under threat, perhaps an indirect comment on his rather tenuous place in the cultural and social upheaval of the 1920s. I also tend to think of him as one of many Green Men, for to my mind there is something in the Ancient Greek idea that every tree contained its Dryad, every river and stream its Naiad : together unstoppable – but individually, vulnerable. In a similar way, the countryside from the time of the railway has been under constant, if gradual, threat, mirrored by England’s own very uncertain, susceptible condition in the aftermath of World War One. When Nature is attacked however, she has a way of fighting back, sometimes in unexpected ways.
The Green Man, in my treatment of him, thus becomes a metaphor for this vulnerable, while green and pleasant land. Disturb him at your peril.
(First posted as the Green Man Cometh on Dean’s Den)
Here it is… there it goes… and here we are. A new cover for Greenwood Tree. It was fun developing it, from its early days as a straight mask on black background, to deciding on the font (that took the longest time!) to choosing the colour…. after much to-ing and fro-ing, and tests, and re-runs, and tweaking and applying of curling tongs – we did it. I particularly like the font, as it combines that sense of decay, ancient and with a nice touch of mystery. I particularly like the effect of the T – sinister, with suggestions of an axe blade. Which has a certain relevance. A lot of very kind people will be posting this cover on their blogs. I do hope you will pop by them, to say hello and see what else they get up to. The full list is here : AuthorsAnon Newsletter – and we’ll be chatting (I hope!) on Google + and FaceBook so do add your pictures, links to anything related to Green Men, myth and mystery, 1920s, the Golden Age of Crime Fiction, 18th century manners and fashion …. there’s plenty to choose from once you start …. 🙂 I can’t feature images on this kind of template, so I have posted the banner as an image widget … it’s a bit odd… you end up scrolling to the right to view it properly. I might find another way of displaying it …. There will be all sorts of other stuff on the other blogs, so I am just putting a few favourites here, which I may or may not be posting at the various events as well…. Starting with a bit of Julia’s London: (I have posted this before, I do think the colour quality is amazing ) and some of the sort of life-style she felt a need to escape …: (Although I think she packed at least one of those cocktail dresses..) and a little something I just came across: the George Inn at Lichfield where the infamous ball takes place in 1783 …
I may well add more later. I’ll just pop one of the clips that will be circulating the web on here as well…
(Er, you will remember the name, won’t you ..? 😉 )
via The Green Man Cometh.
I am a guest this week – what a novel experience that was! Many thanks to Dean Lombardo for inviting me – here is the opening :
“The next time you visit a cathedral, crane your head up to look at the ceiling, where the building’s arches lurk in shadow. What else do you see? You might need binoculars—but the older the cathedral, the more likely you are to find, nestling atop corbels and capitals, a singular face with leaves and branches climbing out of its mouth. Sometimes fierce, sometimes cheerful, mostly a trifle wild … this often-sculpted entity has been with us far longer than the cathedrals, and long before the Normans who built them, with a name that has regained resonance only recently: the Green Man…”
Post continues here …