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The Green Man Festival - Have You Seen The Greenman? Who Is The Green Man? Pagan? Druid? Celtic? Or Just Ancient?

Updated on April 4, 2012

Let me draw your attention to a newly established Welsh celebration – The Green Man Festival. But what is this Green Man and why is he central to the celebrations?

This article hopes to tell you all about how the Green Man, sometimes called Jack in the green, is central to this festival and why the druid and pagan rituals surrounding it makes for a magical experience.

And, yes, attending the Green Man Festival is a magical and mystical experience! I should know because I attend it! As a hint, green symbolism is about all things ‘nature’ and this is at the heart of Druid Celtic philosophy.

But what is it that makes this festival special? Who is this Green Man and how did he come into being?

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The Celts - Green Man

Deep in the heart of Wales there lives a long seated tradition that stems back from the Celtic Druid, it is believed but not proven. This is the Green Man. He is the God of vegetation – to appease him would mean a bumper crop, a fertile season and prosperity. He is born in the spring; he makes love in the summer and slain at harvest. Death for the Green Man means release of the spirit. He will be left in the winter to sleep soundly, recover and re-enter nature’s vegetation in the spring. The spirit, therefore, has to be released from its earthly constraints or else to be left would mean the death of nature’s cycle.

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The Green Man by Kathleen Basford

This 5 star rated book tells you all you need to know about the Green Man. It shows you, with photographic examples, how the myth of the Green Man has been depicted over many centuries. Take a look at the reviews – don’t just take my recommendation for granted!

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Green Man or Jack in the Green

Now, the Green Man is a symbol of rebirth and representative of growth in spring. He is associated with the concept of his similar deity, Jack in the green, although the two myths seem to blur into one, much of their carvings can be seen adorned on many churches across Wales and the rest of Europe. He is the face amongst foliage of oak leaves, vines and greenery. Surrounding a man’s face that is wise and aged, he travel’s through time in a cyclic manner. He needs death to be reborn, but is honoured on May 1st for the coming summer. However, the Green man or Jack in the green can be celebrated at any time of the year.

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Jack in the Green May 1st Celebrations!

Green Man Examples on Church Buildings

Bamberg Cathedral, 13th Century, Germany
Bamberg Cathedral, 13th Century, Germany

The Church Over Rules Paganism and Druidism - Green Man is deemed evil, then good?

The Church, it is believed, in celebration over their triumph in conquering Christianity over Paganism, depicted the Green Man as evil and sometimes satanic. It was a way of showing power over a long-standing belief that was driven underground - burn the witches! Burn! Is it any wonder that paganism waned whilst the all-powerful church flourished?

However, during the Gothic period, churches started to show the Green Man, or Jack in the green, in a celebratory light - in creation and all things natural. He can be found during this time adorned in churches next to the Virgin Mary. This is thought to be a symbolic representation – an endorsement of the cycle of nature with his association with the female figure of creation, the Virgin Mary.

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Lady Raglan Coined the Term Green Man, but she didn't get this from anywhere!

The term was first coined ‘Green Man’ in 1939 by Lady Raglan – click here for source. However, there was no coincidence to this naming as she drew upon her own knowledge of folklore. So is the Green Man, Jack in the green? Well there is no doubt that he has similar features. However there is a thought that Jack in the green was an invention by chimney sweeps in order to earn themselves some money, once their work up chimney’s had slowed down. As you can imagine, there isn’t much need for cleaning chimneys in the summer, now is there?! As a good little earner, using May 1st may have been a great time to establish such a tradition.

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Green Man and Jack in the Green, one of the same? Lets go beyond 500 years...

Where there is a means there is an end, but still the mystery continues with a question mark and the evidence of the Green Man goes back further than the idea of Jack in the green. So assuming that both deities are the same, what is there to say that the Green Man can’t stem back further than the last 500 years or so?

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Osiris.. The Corn Incarnation
Osiris.. The Corn Incarnation

The connection with the Green Man, Osiris and the Qur'an.

It seems that in all belief systems, all roads seem to lead back to ancient Egypt. Green symbolism points to all things to do with nature. The ‘Green One’ is the disembodied and reborn Khidr – the connection? Osiris.

This is Osiris in the form of the corn deity. He is depicted with green skin and symbolizes re-birth. Khidr has cross-cultural connections and is known as Al-Khidr in the Qur’an. He is the wise spiritual guide who appears to the prophets of the earth.

According to scriptures, he walked hand in hand with Musa (Moses) and was thought of as the righteous servant of God.

The only prophet that Al-Khidr could not teach was Mohammed. Instead, as a spiritual role-reversal, Mohammed gave instruction to Al-Khidr.

As you can see the idea of the Green Man may stem back from ancient times. It can be understandable that over a period of time, the essence of him may have been lost.

The mystery continues and his fascination extends.

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The Green Man - Osiris and Khidr

The old ways of the Green Man, meets the New Ways of The Green Man Festival. This is today!

The symbolism of how the Green Man operates in cycles - from re-births in spring to Jack in the Green’s May Day celebration – such ritualistic celebration has been adopted in the Welsh Brecon Beacons. The May Day honours to the Green Man for the pending summer has passed and as the winter looms he must be killed.

The Green Man must die to release the spirit in anticipation for the forthcoming spring. The spirit needs to enter new growth.

Like the growth of the new buds of spring, a new tradition has recently come to be. Set up in the beautiful Welsh hills near Sugar Loaf Mountain. The Green Man Festival is held in honour of the wise man of vegetation. It seems, like the cyclic nature of the Green Man himself, a new yearly re-birth has been established. Now that the old wisdom meets the new, we come full circle.

If you want to learn more about the Green Man Festival and the rituals that are involved within these celebrations please click here for a fascinating insight.

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License

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    • Green Bard profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      6 years ago from Tenerife

      Just voted up and tagged as Awesome for this and will link to it too because I have just published another Green Man Festival hub!

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Great Britain

      Alicia - I am happy and grateful that my writing has been useful to you. I wish you well, Bless you:)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I loved reading your hub. I’m very interested in druidism and have encountered references to the green man in my explorations, but only knew that he was a symbol of vegetation. Thank you for giving me more detailed information.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Hypnodude.. All roads lead to Egypt, but then before Egypt? Well that is another hub! x

    • hypnodude profile image


      8 years ago from Italy

      Very good hub, I like the figure of the Green Man, well, I like many things about the Celts. Especially interesting the link with Egypt. Great hub, thumbs up.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      @Ethel Yes, the symbol goes deep into each and everyone of us. We all know the symbol but it just escapes us. I think many have a fascination about Green Man but just pass it by, until a trigger comes along. I am pleased this hub has been your trigger x

      I am honoured for you to link my hub and make references. Thank you! x

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      @Salt... This myth is very ingrained - Im glad that i have helped to add a little something to your search x

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      @Sherbet You would definitely like The Green Man Festival. You have to get tickets soon - Early Bird sold out quickly. It really has a magical feel.

      Latitude is really good as well - but more commercial.

      Thanks for reading and keep good x

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Interesting. I have seen the images all over without really taking notice I guess. I will be back to this hub for the info re backlinks.

    • salt profile image


      8 years ago from australia

      thankyou, I am working on getting back into a bit of organic living and am really wanting to understand my british heritage before the Roman and other invasions. This is what I am looking for..

    • Sherbet Penny profile image

      Sherbet Penny 

      8 years ago from Galway, Ireland.

      Great article, very interesting. I love going to festivals in Ireland and England and have never heard of this one, sounds great. And I love anything not to do with the church, great hub.


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