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

Posts tagged “Green

The Armouring of Gawain (Clive Hicks-Jenkins)

The Armouring of Gawain - Gouache and pencil on paper © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

The Armouring of Gawain – Gouache and pencil on paper © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

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

Crown of Leaves. Gouache and pencil on gessoed board.© Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Crown of Leaves. Gouache and pencil on gessoed board. © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

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

The Green Knight's Head Lives. Screenprint. Edition of 75 © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

The Green Knight’s Head Lives. Screenprint. Edition of 75 © Clive Hicks-Jenkins


The Green Man: A powerful image lives on – Muriel Fraser

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”. [1]

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. [2]

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


Highworth 2016 Jack-in-the-Green

Highworth Jack in the Green 2016 © Terry Portsmith

© Terry Portsmith – Highworth 2016 Jack-in-the-Green

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


Whitstable Jack in the Green 2016

Whitstable 2016 Jack-in-the-Green © Joe Eddington

Whitstable 2016 Jack-in-the-Green © Joe Eddington

I am indebted to all those who have sent in pictures of this years Jacks. The pictures accompanying this post are of the wonderful Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green, thanks to Joe Eddington for the photographs and to Dixie Lee for getting them to me.

A Jack-in-the-Green was revived for the Whitstable Folk Festival in 1976 and is now central to the Whitstable May Day celebrations. The Jack is supported by Oyster Morris who also have their own Green Man who combines the roles of Jester and announcer dressed in white and green.  The Whitstable Jack is accompanied by two attendants dressed as Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Dixie Lee one of the original organisers said in 1992 “At the time it just seemed like the Jack was looking for a reason to come out again, and I must say that every year when Jack makes his appearance on the street I get such a feeling of power from him that I know it was the right thing to do” The Whitstable Times of 4th May 1895 included a report about a Jack in the Green catching fire on Whitstable High Street. Stephen Penn was in the Jack “encased in a pyramid of evergreens covered with thin colour paper…. “Jack” thought he would have a pipe and proceeded to light up” A spark from the pipe ascended to the upper part of the casing and caught alight. “He was instantly enveloped in flames” Fortunately the evergreens seem to have protected him and he only had his whiskers burnt off. His son Stephen Penn Jnr. however became ignited whilst attempting to help his father and was badly burnt, he was treated by the newly formed ambulance corps. A story circulated in 1977 that in 1912 the Whitstable Jack in the Green caught fire and the man inside burnt to death putting a stop to the tradition. There is no evidence of this and perhaps it is more than likely that the writer was in fact referring to the 1895 incident and perhaps embellishing it with their own memories of the 1973 film “The Wicker Man” for dramatic effect. In May 2016 Dixie Lee informed me of an addition to this story from a local lady that she knows well. Her Grandmother (whilst heavily pregnant) was walking to the shops when see saw the Jack catch fire. This caused such a shock that she went into labour. The result was a baby girl called May. May seems to have been unaffected by the incident and lived to the ripe old age of 99!

It has long been my hope to be able to obtain at least one picture of every Jack that goes out across the UK each year to add to our online Flickr archive and provide a visual record of this wonderful tradition for generations to come.

I’m still trying to track down pictures of a number of 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 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
  • Hever Castle Jack-in-the-Green
  • Kentwell Hall Jack O’Green
  • Wythenshawe Hall Jack ‘O’ Green
Whitstable 2016 Jack-in-the-Green © Joe Eddington

Whitstable 2016 Jack-in-the-Green © Joe Eddington


Jack’s Alive!

 

7

My thanks to everyone who took part in the revival of The Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green today for putting up with me and my camera.

The Cheltenham Sweeps Jack was first recorded in 1830, it appears in a wonderful photograph taken of May Day in Cheltenham in 1892 (below) The last recording of a Jack still processing in Cheltenham was in 1912. The Cheltenham Jack was revived in 2014 by Mike Bottomley & Phil Collins and this year saw it’s first return to the streets of Cheltenham for over 100 years. To celebrate the occasion the original photograph was recreated using both the original photograph and a detailed description of the Mayday celebrations from 1891. The Cheltenham Jack will also be appearing at Sudeley Castle’s Victorian May celebrations on Monday May 2nd. There are many more Jack-in-the-Green events to come, for the full list please see the post below this one. And if anyone has pictures of any of this years Jacks please do send them in. 

1600px-Illustration_at_page_50,_Folk-lore,_volume_4,_1893

 More photos from this years Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green can be found in our online Flickr archive at: www.flickr.com/photos/thecompanyofthegreenman


Sighting – East Budleigh, Devon

All Saints Church, East Budleigh, Devon, copyright Alice Nunn

My thanks to Alice Nunn for verifying and photographing this wonderful disgorging green man from All Saints Church at East Budleigh in Devon.

There are also some bench ends reported here which Alice verified but unfortunately it was too dark to photograph them. One for the next visitor!

I’m always grateful for any new sightings, photographs or verifications for the Gazetteer and the Flickr photographic archive. Please use the contact tab above to get in touch.

Any new sightings or verifications are added to the gazetteer and the finder/verifiers name is always detailed (unless they prefer to remain anonymous).

Copyright for any pictures added to our Flickr archive always remains with the original photographer as does full control over how the pictures are used. I will never use anybody’s images for any commercial use without full written permission. occasionally I get requests to use pictures for books, magazines etc. and these requests are passed directly on to the original photographer so that they can benefit from their own work.

You can visit our Flickr archive HERE


New Sightings – France

France, Loire, Place Pommeraye, copyright Alice Nunn

My thanks to Alice Nunn for these new additions to the gazetteer from The Loire in France. The disgorger above is from Place Pommeraye and the rustic chap below is from Chateau Serrant.

I’m always grateful for any new sightings, photographs or verifications for the Gazetteer and the Flickr photographic archive. Please use the contact tab above to get in touch.

Any new sightings or verifications are added to the gazetteer and the finder/verifiers name is always detailed (unless they prefer to remain anonymous).

Copyright for any pictures added to our Flickr archive always remains with the original photographer as does full control over how the pictures are used. I will never use anybody’s images for any commercial use without full written permission. occasionally I get requests to use pictures for books, magazines etc. and these requests are passed directly on to the original photographer so that they can benefit from their own work.

You can visit our Flickr archive HERE

Chateau Serrant, Loire, France, copyright Alice Nunn


New Sighting – Ilsington Devon

Ilsington 1

During a recent holiday on Dartmoor in Devon a little bit of Green Man hunting took place. This remarkable disgorging roof boss was discovered in the 15th century church of St Michael at Ilsington.

A number of intriguingly moustachioed bosses tried to distract and confuse us. But finally there he was peering down from on high to add as a completely new entry to the gazetteer. Always a great feeling when a previously unreported green man appears out of the gloom of a church ceiling.

More pictures are available in our Flickr archive HERE


Yuletide Greetings

Salisbury Cathedral Copyright © The Company of the Green Man

I would like to wish all members of The Company of the Green Man a  wonderful Yuletide and a very Merry Christmas. My thanks to everyone for all the contributions and support during 2015.

The green man above is from Salisbury Cathedral and I promise has not been edited at all!

I’m working on the next e-newsletter and hope to publish it early 2016.