I still can’t quite believe that 2018 marks 20 years of The Company of the Green Man! Ronald Millar wrote the book “The Green Man Companion and Gazetteer” in 1997 and in a note at the back of the book invited interested people to join The Company of the Green Man. Keen and eager upon reading his freshly printed book and with an avid interest in Green Men I wrote to Ron in early 1998 and asked to join the Company, to be told that I had caught him slightly unprepared. The book had gone out earlier than he had anticipated and the Company did not yet officially exist. And thus (with a little bit of encouragement) in 1998 The Company officially began. Ron’s first newsletter was published in September 1998.
20 years and 43 newsletters later The Company is still going strong with nearly 800 members worldwide. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our members and followers for their contributions and encouragement over the years, without you The Company of the Green Man would not exist.
Here’s to the next 20 years!
My Traditional Jack in the Green article has gone live today on the wonderful #FolkloreThursday website www.folklorethursday.com
My thanks to Dee Dee and the team for featuring it and helping to raise the profile of this magical living tradition #jackinthegreen
Amanda Bates is an artist, based in Kingsclere north Hampshire, with a growing interest in the tradition of the Green Man. One of the things to spark that interest was a chance visit to St. Peter’s in Upper Wolhampton, West Berkshire, where she found a delightful pair of Victorian Green Man stone carvings on the exterior of the church that were previously undiscovered.
Amanda didn’t have a camera with her so instead recorded them in pencil (above). Amanda then created the wonderful pictures accompanying this post using Acrylic Ink on rough watercolour paper, entitled Green Man & Green Lady.
Amanda wrote: “The faces are Victorian (the church was rebuilt in 1857) and, with their surroundings of leaves, the gentleman’s leafy moustache and the vegetation emerging from the lady’s mouth, are in the Green Man tradition. I fancy that they might represent the local landowner and his wife.”
My thanks to Amanda for getting in touch and sharing her incredible work with us. You can see more of Amanda’s work on her website: www.amandabatesart.co.uk All pictures copyright © Amanda Bates
I’m grateful to Derek Penrose for letting me know about this Green Man with a fascinating history and for sending in this wonderful picture. St Telio’s Church was originally located at Llandeilo Tal-y-bont, Glamorgan in Wales. It was built in the late 12th century and furnished in 1530. Between 1984 and 1985 the whole church was dismantled and moved to St Fagans National History Museum.
The following is from St Fagans own website:
“St Teilo’s church is believed to have been built during the late 12th or 13th century on the site of an earlier Celtic church. Over the ensuing centuries the building was altered and extended.
The oldest parts of the present structure are the nave and chancel. During the 14th century, small chapels were built onto the north and south sides of the chancel, and during the late 14th or early 15th century the church’s capacity was increased by the addition of an aisle to the south side of the nave. The old south wall was replaced by two arches, with a third arch opening into the chancel, and finally, a porch was added to the entrance door leading into the south aisle of the church.
The roof timbers are of typical early fifteenth century design (arch-braced collar-beams), though they may in fact be slightly later in date. The west wall of the nave was altered in the early 18th century (datestone 1736) and in 1810 the interior was furnished with box pews and a three-decker pulpit. Most of the stone-mullioned windows appear to have been blocked up at this time, and were replaced by new ‘Georgian gothic’ lancet-shaped windows. One original two-light stone-mullioned window (14/15th) survived in the south aisle. Probably the oldest surviving feature of the church is the stone font which is believed to date from the 13th century or earlier.
St Teilo’s church has been refurbished as it may have appeared about the year 1530, complete with all the elements associated with a late medieval Catholic church, including a rood screen and loft (between the nave and chancel), altars, carvings and brightly-coloured paintings on all the walls.”
You can find more information about St Telio’s Church and all of the wonderful Historical Buildings at St Fagans National History Museum here: https://museum.wales/stfagans/
My thanks to Vanessa Piggott for sending in this picture of a cast iron Green Man on a sideboard she discovered in St Mary’s Museum on the Scilly Isles. The sideboard is from the wreck of the Thomas W. Lawson a seven-masted, steel-hulled schooner used to haul coal and oil along the East Coast of the United States. She was launched in 1902 and holds the distinction of being the largest schooner and largest sailing vessel without an auxiliary engine ever built. The Thomas W. Lawson was destroyed off the uninhabited island of Annet, in the Isles of Scilly, in a storm on December 14, 1907, killing all but two of her eighteen crew and a harbor pilot already aboard. Her cargo of 58,000 barrels of light paraffin oil caused perhaps the first large marine oil spill in history.
Wishing all members of The Company of the Green Man and all visitors to our blog a fantastic Yuletide Season. (And yes it is a real Green Man – No photoshopping!)
Clive Hicks-Jenkins is devising a series of fourteen prints based on the medieval verse drama, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – a classic vividly translated for the 21st century by Simon Armitage. Clive has kindly given me permission to reproduce one of the images on our blog each month.
Clive’s work often features some wonderful representations of the foliate Green Man. If you can track down a copy of Marly Youman’s wonderful book “The Foliate Head” I highly recommend it for Marly’s beautiful poetry and Clive’s wonderful illustrations of The Green Man that appear throughout the book.
You can find more information on Clive’s website: http://www.hicks-jenkins.com
Gawain and the Green Knight: Clive Hicks-Jenkins and the Penfold Press
The Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff
Thursday 8th Sept – Saturday 1st Oct, 2016
In collaboration with Dan Bugg of Penfold Press, Clive Hicks-Jenkins is devising a series of fourteen prints based on the medieval verse drama, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – a classic vividly translated for the 21st century by Simon Armitage. The exhibition will present the first seven prints, marking the half-way stage in this major project, together with paintings and drawings on the theme.
Art commentator James Russell writes of the series:
“The story is the kind you might find in The Mabinogion. Sir Gawain is more human than your average legendary hero. Having taken up the challenge offered at the Camelot Christmas feast by the terrifying Green Knight, he embarks on a quest to find this ogre, only to be tested – and found wanting – in unexpected ways. Sir Gawain is both a glittering knight and a fallible young man, and it is this flawed human character that intrigues Clive. Each print is inspired by the text and rooted stylistically in its world, but beyond that Clive and Dan have allowed their imagination free rein.”
You can find more information on Clive’s website: http://www.hicks-jenkins.com
We all know how fast and far a good tune can travel. Shortly after the haunting melody of “Lili Marleen” was heard broadcast to among German troops in WWII, it was eagerly adopted by Allied ones. And think, too, of the travels of a song which began as “God preserve Franz the Kaiser”. This lovely tune by Haydn was recycled as “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” and eventually appeared as the hymn, “God who touches earth with beauty”.
Just as a catchy tune travels, so does a powerful image. The ornate leaf masks or foliated heads, now often called the “Green Man”, were developed by Roman artists in connection with nature gods like Dionysus and the satyrs. But this image was too good to end with Roman paganism. In the Middle Ages, as the pageants of chivalry became widespread, Green Men appear with increasing frequency in Christian churches, too.
A clue to this is offered by a ritual from 16th-century Sweden. There we find a May Day jousting contest between Winter and Summer. The idea was to dramatise — and help advance — the coming of spring. The two sides in the tournament were clothed accordingly. Duke Winter was “clad in various pelts and armed with pokers, scattering ice and snowballs to prolong the cold”. His opponent, Count Floral, was “garbed in the green boughs of trees, together with leaves and flowers”. Of course, whatever the weather on the day of the tournament, “and to everyone’s joy, the victory is awarded to Summer”. 
This gives us a glimpse into the mediaeval meaning of faces decked with foliage. No longer were they Roman gods, but harbingers of spring. And, of course, spring in the metaphorical sense, was a central theme in Christianity. It applied to both the rebirth of the soul in heaven and the general Resurrection of the Dead. As such, the foliated head had a firm claim to its place in Christian churches.
But the transformations didn’t end there. The Green Man could represent, not only the resurrection of the soul, but also the rebirth of the Christianity during the Reformation. This seems to be why the Reformers adopted it initially. (However, they soon backed off from this transformed satyr. After all, they were the ones who liked to accuse the Catholic Church of being “pagan”.) But at first, presumably as a symbol of the rebirth of the church, a Green Man appears in a portrait of Martin Luther by Cranach the Elder, also on the title page of Luther’s petition to the Papal Council in 1520, and even in his church in Wittenburg. 
Mediaeval people loved symbols precisely because they regarded them as having magic power. This symbol is simple, vivid, and closely connected to people’s hopes and fears: to their longing for the return of the sun — to a “springtime” through resurrection — and, for some, to a new and reformed Christianity. It’s no wonder that the Green Man, in its various guises, survived for two millenia.
1. Olaus Magnus, Description of the Northern Peoples (1555), Volume 2, 15:9.
2. Clive Hicks, http://www.geomantie.net/article/read/6093.html
My thanks to Terry Portsmith for permission to use the picture above of this years Highworth Jack-in-the-Green, and my thanks to Paul Baskerville of the Bang to Rites Drummers for sourcing it for us.
The Highworth Jack in the Green was started in 2006 when the Wiltshire town celebrated the 800th anniversary of it’s market charter on 22nd April 2006. The Highworth Jack in the Green is now an annual tradition as part of the annual May Market. The Jack is accompanied by the Bang to Rites Drummers a group of community based performance drummers, based around the borders of Wiltshire, Oxfordshire & Gloucestershire who formed in the summer of 2013.
It has long been my hope to be able to obtain at least one picture of every Jack that goes out across the UK (and beyond) each year to add to our online Flickr archive and provide a visual record of this wonderful tradition for generations to come. At least twenty one Jacks went out this year and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who has helped me to gather pictures of thirteen Jacks so far.
I’m still trying to track down pictures of eight Jacks from this year. If you can help and have the copyright owners permission please get in contact via the ‘Contact us’ tab at the top of this blog. Copyright of any pictures added to our archive always remains with the original photographer and pictures are only ever used with permission of the copyright owner.
The eight Jacks I’m still looking for pictures of from 2016 are:
- Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green
- Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green
- Knutsford Jack-in-the-Green
- Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green
- Brentham Jack-in-the-Green
- Bovey Tracey/Grimspound Morris Jack-in-the-Green
- Kentwell Hall Jack O’Green
- Wythenshawe Hall Jack ‘O’ Green
If you haven’t seen a Jack-in-the-Green yet this year there is still at least one more to come. The Carshalton Straw Jack is a celebration of Harvest that takes place in September each year. The straw Jack is ritually stripped in the evening so that all present can take a keepsake and then he is burnt in a brazier. It is hoped that he will be burnt as a complete figure one year. The date for this event is still to be confirmed but you can visit the website here: Carshalton Straw Jack