“In English folklore celebrations, the Green Man appears as a tall man dressed in leaves and carrying a staff.” Vivian Crowley from ‘Paganism’
“In Marsden folklore celebrations, this Green Man appears as a short lass dressed in leaves and carrying a drumbag.” Jill Morris
From Bare Bones and Boundary Stones by Jill Morris
No Map can locate him, but the breeze blows his way
if you’re on the right alignment
at a boundary or shady path.
I scoured pages, looking for references in text,
photographs of his image on stone; churches,
against corbel and misericord, weathered,
sometimes vague, his name changed with the wind
…Robin of the Wood, May Man, Jack in the Green…
I’ve a carving of the Hawthorn Lord –
a startling likeness gagged by his own truth
among faded jackets and spines;
but the books confused me, someone else’s words
choked with oak and alder,
no substitute for experiencing him myself.
During the month of the Rowan Moon
I turned my nose to the woods.
…Burry Man, Robin Hood…
would I catch a scent or a glance,
infuse myself with essence of the Green Man
inside the damp and ferny wood, a fleeting glimpse
of a twiggy form behind a trunk,
a single footprint stamped into the mud?
…Woodwose, Jack in the bush…
I spread my arms, the air vibrated
and a single veined leaf fluttered down.
Like shoots through leaflitter my words burst,
furling through tangles of root and bramble:
“Show me your connection to this earth.
A sacrificial stem of spring’s regrowth?
Do you cast your vote environmentally,
stride purposefully across roads, a symbol of fertility
or are you just the foliate head on a pub sign?
Do you eat your fill of broccoli and sprouts?”
His reply was leafcrunch under my feet,
breeze through boughs,
a high chaffinches trill – language
which made only half-sense, hidden beneath bark.
…Dagda, The Garland King, King of the May…
I went again come nightfall, tried to drum out
his spirit amid the willow and paper lanterns
of our Imbolc procession, the struggle
between Jack Frost and the Green Man
played to a thousand cheers
among fizzing fireworks and drums,
women in cloaks and woad,
Herne the Hunter, the Examiner Photographer.
I finally tracked him down, swollen with beer
in the Riverhead pub, wearing a boiler-suit like mine,
entwined with ivy and oak.
“The spirit of the greenwood’s in everyone,” he slurred.
“We’re each us own Green Man beneath these suits.
He ebbs an’ flows within the rhythm of us drums,
the rhythm of us souls. I’ll share a line –
*’You may not know it, but you have almost certainly
seen more than one Green Man in your lifetime.'”.
…Robin Goodfellow, The Green Knight, John Barleycorn…
*John Matthews from Green Man, Spirit of nature
All artwork by Lisa Swallow