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

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Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival 2020

If any of our members or blog follows are heading off to Whittlesea next weekend to see the wonderful Straw Bear Festival please do send us some photos of the event for the blog and archives. More information about the event and timings can be found at www.strawbear.org.uk

The festival of the Straw Bear or “Strawbower” is an old custom known only to a small area of Fenland on the borders of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire. On Plough Tuesday, the day after the first Monday after Twelfth Night, a man or a boy would be covered from head to foot in straw and led from house to house where he would dance in exchange for gifts of money, food or beer. The festival was of a stature that farmers would often reserve their best straw making the bear.

The custom died out in about 1909, probably because the local police regarded it as begging, but it was resurrected by the Whittlesea Society in 1980.

The festival has now expanded to cover the whole weekend when the Bear appears not on Plough Tuesday but the second weekend in January. On the Saturday of the festival, the Bear progresses around the streets with its attendant “keeper” and musicians, followed by traditional dance sides (mostly visitors), including morris men and women, molly dancers, rappers and longsword dancers, clog dancers, who perform at points along the route

Twelfth Night Celebrations Sunday 5th January 2020

Twelth Night

Happy New Year to all of our members and blog followers.

If you need to escape the post Christmas and New Year blues I would highly recommend the Twelfth Night celebrations on Bankside outside Shakespeare’s Globe starting at 2pm on Sunday 5th January 2020.

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 (and an honorary member of The Company of the Green Man) decked in fantastic green garb and evergreen foliage is piped over the River Thames, with the devil Beelzebub.

With the crowd by Shakespeare’s Globe, led by the Bankside Mummers and the London Beadle, the Holly Man will ‘bring in the green’ and toast or ‘wassail’ the people, the River Thames and the Globe (an old tradition encouraging good growth).

Mummers will then process to the Bankside Jetty, and perform the traditional ‘freestyle’ St. George Folk Combat Play, featuring the Turkey Sniper, Clever Legs, the Old ‘Oss and many others, dressed in spectacular costumes. The play is full of wild verse and boisterous action, a time-honoured part of the season recorded since the Crusades.

Cakes distributed at the end of the play have a bean and a pea hidden in two of them. Those from the crowd who find them are hailed King and Queen for the day and crowned with ceremony.

They then lead the people through the streets to the historic George Inn Southwark, for a fine warming-up with the Fowlers Troop, Storytelling, the Kissing Wishing Tree, Dancing and Mulled Wine.

If you go please do take some pictures and send them to me for the blog and if possible perhaps send me a short piece on your experience for the next e-newsletter

You can find more details via the Lions Part website below:

Twelfth Night Celebrations

Yuletide Greetings

Salisbury Cathedral Copyright © The Company of the Green Man

It’s that time of the year when the Santa hatted green man from Salisbury Cathedral puts in his annual appearance on our blog!

Wishing all members and followers of The Company of the Green Man a Very Merry Yule. My thanks to everyone for all the contributions and support during 2019.

The next newsletter is being lovingly crafted and will hopefully be with you some time over the festive period.

Featured Artist – Iris Compiet – Faeries of the Faultlines

I stumbled across Iris Compiet’s wonderful art a while back and was instantly mesmerised by her work and wanted to share it with our members and website visitors.

In Iris’s own words:

“I’m a traditional artist and Illustrator from the Netherlands. At the age of seven I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up… paint and draw fantastical beings. I enjoy working on projects ranging from picture books to gallery art, concept art and even sculpting.

Storytelling is an essential part of my artwork, and as an artist I strive to lure in the spectator, to make them feel a connection to the work and open a gateway to their imagination to ignite it even further. I created a world called Faeries of the Faultlines. A glimpse into that world can be seen in a book with the same title. Drawing inspiration from European folklore, mythology, fairytales, ghost stories and anything from tombstones, Victorian photography to popular movies and music.

Let me tell you about Faeries, let me take you away on a journey, an adventure…

The Faultlines is an ancient name given to those places where the veil between This world and the Other is thinnest. It is the place where faeries dwell, creatures creep and magic oozes through the cracks. Recently the Faultlines have been stirring, opening up to all who wish to see and to all who dare to venture… “

Iris published the book Faeries of the Faultlines after getting it successfully funded through Kickstarter. It was so popular that it is now sold out. A new edition of the book will be released in September 2020. The secrets of the faultlines and beyond sketchbook is still available in Iris’s shop as are print sets, sticker sets, postcards and more – including the fantastic Greenman pin badge above – one of my new favourite Green Men! A perfect Yuletide gift for any green man hunter!

You can see more of Iris’s incredible art and visit her online shop at: www.eyeris.eu

Please note that Iris’s shop will be closed from 13th December until 13th January.

Sighting – Sherborne Abbey

Intrepid Green Man Hunter Derek Penrose visited Sherborne Abbey in Dorset and noticed on a postcard in the Abbey shop that they had a number of Misericord carvings including one that contained a “Foliate Mask.” He spoke to the really helpful staff in the abbey who allowed him to go and photograph the misericords which were not normally accessible to the public.

This Green Man is listed in our Gazetteer

Green Man in the Garden – By Charles Causley

GREEN MAN IN THE GARDEN

By Charles Causley

 

Green man in the garden

Staring from the tree,

Why do you look so long and hard

Through the pane at me?

 

Your eyes are dark as holly,

Of sycamore your horns,

Your bones are made of elder-branch,

Your teeth are made of thorns.

 

Your hat is made of ivy-leaf,

Of bark your dancing shoes,

And evergreen and green and green

Your jacket and shirt and trews.

 

“Leave your house and leave your land

And throw away the key,

And never look behind,” he creaked,

“And come and live with me.”

 

I bolted up the window,

I bolted up the door,

I drew the blind that I should find

The green man never more.

 

But when I softly turned the stair

As I went up to bed,

I saw the green man standing there.

“Sleep well, my friend,” he said.

 

My thanks to Steven Sherratt for reminding me of this wonderful poem that I last posted nearly ten years ago. As the seasons turn and winter fast approaches I think it is the perfect time to remind ourselves of Charles Causley’s wonderful verse.

Removal of the 4th May Bank Holiday 2020 – Your help is needed!

This is an important message for all of our members and blog followers. You may not be aware that the government has announced that they intend to move the next early May bank holiday from Monday 4th May to Friday 8th May in order to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE day. Whilst we should of course commemorate the victory of democracy over fascism this is an event worthy of a one off additional holiday to honour those involved rather than just moving the traditional bank holiday Monday.

Removing the Monday holiday will affect many traditional events some of which have been carried on since time immemorial across this country. Such events rely upon the availability of participants and audiences, many of whom will be unavailable if the Monday is a working day. For many individuals, businesses and groups planning for the May bank holiday has been  underway for quite some time. Some involve engaging with groups from other countries, who will have their own holiday on 4th May as it happens to be international workers’ day.

May Day was celebrated by working people across Britain and elsewhere long before modern political parties; in fact it is the ancient feast of Beltane. Dancing in the May and celebrating spring predate the Roman Empire.

Across Britain there is a rich collection of events related to the beginning of May; Morris dancing of course on May morning and also Jack in the Green processions, hobby horse processions and others. There is also a standing programme of folk events and festivals around that time. These events provide important income for cafes, pubs, shops, hotels, camping sites at the very beginning of their season after a long lay off for some. They deserve to be allowed to continue without disruption.

John Major’s Conservative Government tried to remove the early May Bank Holiday in 1993. A group made up of representatives of all the active Jacks protested at Parliament. The Rochester Jack danced in Downing Street and the Hastings Bogies (Jack’s mischevious attendants) were allowed access to Parliament in full Bogie costume. It worked and the government of the day backed down.

Please help us send a message to the current government by signing the petition calling for the preservation of the 4th May bank holiday and the adoption of 8th May as a separate one off holiday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE day. You can access the petition HERE or by clicking on the petitions banner below.

Morris teams, individuals and others involved in May traditions will be gathering on College Green Westminster at 11am on 23rd July to protest, dance, meet with MP’s and request that the early May bank holiday is preserved.

MP’s are already taking notice, Helen Whately MP, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, has agreed to meet Gordon Newton, founder of the Rochester Sweeps Festival and reviver of The Bluebell Hill Jack in the Green in the lobby of Parliament on 23rd July. Keith Leech MBE reviver of The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green will be there and has confirmed that Amber Rudd will come outside the House to meet the group at noon.

You can also write to your MP. You can use THIS LINK to find out your MPs details.

Your support would be very much appreciated, May the 4th be with you!

Green Man – by Tina Negus

TN

 

Green Man.

By Tina Negus

He speaks, and the sound fills the void
with living green, life which sustains all life,
sunlight and leaf: our food.
He tastes the air, savours his speech,
his tongue flicking across the foliage from his gaping mouth.
He recites our stories,
licking myths and legends into existence.
He sings our tunes for us, our wordless songs.

He looks down on his creation from above,
sees all things dependant on his utterance,
regards us with impassivity or amusement: his creatures.
He weeps with us, and his tears nourish our being.
Within his sight, we live our little lives,
relying on his artistry.

He hears our cries, our laughter, listens to his own words,
and to our inadequate imitations of his creativity.
His ears receive our music, our rhythms and rhymes,
make whole our melodies and harmonies.
He tolerates our limitations,
circling, with us, our May-time pole.

He scents the honeysuckle in the woods,
perfumes the rose and the down-land thyme;
spreads the spring-time hedgerows with pungent sweetness.
He breathes, and his breath gives birth,
his respiration flourishes and bears fruit;
our feeble inspiration is derived from him.

He touches the stems arising from his face,
points to his mouth and tongue, and we touch him,
where we can reach, stroke the leaves, and the chiselled edges
of his nose and brows, finger the fronds and vines,
removing blackened spiders’ webs,decades of neglect.

Our hands linger on his beard and hair.
we ponder his origins, his meaning,
wonder at the unnamed sculptors,
question their intentions.

 

My thanks to Tina for allowing me to reproduce her wonderful poem and the incredible picture above. Tina wrote:

“ I thought you might like this Green Man! As far as I know it is my discovery and I think it ranks as one of the most beautiful. There are other Green Men in the church which are well-known, but this one is in hiding. If anyone wants to find him, I can reveal his whereabouts.”

I know where he is! – but if anyone else wants to know they’ll have to drop me a line!

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