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


This fantastic story was posted by COTGM member Leslie Melville

Several hundred years ago a group of monks came from France to the Cartmel Valley, in Lancashire. Their task was to build a great church. They were led by a monk whose name was Bernard.

Bernard climbed a hill, which he thought to be a suitable site, for churches are often found upon hilltops, overlooking the community who worship there.

He knelt in prayer, asking for guidance. When he looked up he saw the tall, bearded figure of a man dressed all in green. Not only was he dressed in green – he was green! Even his hair and beard seemed to made of tiny green leaves.

“This is not the place you seek”, said the man. “How do you know what I seek?” asked Bernard.

“This is a place of worship for those of the Old Religion”, replied the man in green, ignoring Bernard’s question. “You should build your church on land that lies between two rivers flowing in opposite directions – to build here will cause great offence”.

Bernard climbed to his feet and from his lofty viewpoint, surveyed the valley below. “Two rivers, flowing in opposite directions?” He had never heard such nonsense. He knew, as we all do that all rivers flow to the sea! He turned to say as much but to his surprise, found that the green man was gone, nowhere to be seen! Bernard wondered if he had imagined him. He nevertheless felt that he had to share his strange experience with his colleagues and he descended the hill to find them.

They were equally as puzzled but felt, as Bernard himself felt that the advice of the green stranger should not lightly be ignored. They knew that their God wanted them to build in this locality and so set out to find these rivers. If they existed, God would lead them to the place.

Two days later, an excited novice monk came running to Bernard. “Come”, he said, “this is amazing!” Bernard followed the young man who led him to a narrow river. “Watch this”. The young novice picked up a small stick and tossed it into the swiftly flowing stream. The stick was quickly picked up in the current and headed off down stream, towards Morecambe Bay.

“Now come and see this!” The young man began running towards another river, some half-mile further along the valley. Bernard had difficulty keeping up with the excited novice monk. “Now, watch!” he said when Bernard arrived by his side at the riverbank.

He picked up another small branch and threw it out into the centre of the river. Bernard was amazed to see the stick actually flowing in the opposite direction, away from Morecambe Bay and heading towards Lake Windermere!

Bernard fell to his knees in thankful prayer. Through the young novice monk, God had guided him to a place that he had not believed existed.
The land between the two rivers was flat and ideal for the building of a great church. His team began their work and two years later, Cartmel Priory was complete and stands to this day.

If you go to the village of Cartmel, you can see for yourself the two rivers that continue to flow in opposite directions. Throw a stick in each and watch them as they are carried along the currents, one heading for Morecambe Bay and the other speeding towards Lake Windermere.

If you care to visit the beautiful priory, you will be able to see an image of the green man, carved on a misericord in the choir stalls. You may also climb the hill where the green man dispensed his advice; there is a signpost that will direct you to Mount Bernard!

Leslie Melville

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