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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Green Man

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Take a close look at the controversial Green “Man” on the official invitation to Charlie III's upcoming coronation—the one that has occasioned so much brujaja in the British press.

Note, gentle reader, that it is not in fact a Green Man at all, but rather a Green Cat.


Green Beasts


In fact, the Green Feline is a not infrequent variant in the Leaf Mask motif, which turns up, historically speaking, relatively early in the development of the motif: during the early Romanesque period, in fact.

You can generally distinguish them from Green Men by their cleft lips, and the pointed ears on the tops of their heads. Art historian Tina Negus, attempting accommodation, refers to them as Green Beasts rather than Green Cats, but in fact almost all known examples are readily identifiable as felines rather than some other sort of beast.

So: if you're going to have a Green Beast, why a cat rather than some other sort of animal?

Myself, I suspect two reasons: one historical, one, well...what Nanny Ogg would call persychological.


Cats or Lions?


First off...which are we actually seeing here: Green Lions or Green Cats?

Um...Reply hazy, try again later.

For the time being, let's go with the neutral term, Green Felines. Later on, we'll see why the royal Lion would be the preferable reading.


Practical Cats


To this question, my friend and colleague Frebur Moore suggested a practical answer: that—felines being predators—what we see in the Green Feline is the hidden, stalking beast, peering, as it were, through foliage.

Makes sense. But wait, there's more.


Eyes Front


It's clear that the first foliate masks were human faces. This, I suspect, is yet another reason why Green Beasts tend to be Green Felines.

Felines, being predators, have their eyes on the front of their heads rather than on the sides. This makes their faces more visually similar to human faces and hence, more readily adaptable as stand-ins for the human face than those of animals—herbivores, say—with eyes to the sides of the head instead.

Yet another reason why cats are better than dogs.


But the Real Reason...

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Deep and Deeper

Take a look at any random collection of historic Leaf Mask images. What you will find is many Green Men, but few (if any) Green Women.

Why not?

If words like “sexism” and “patriarchy” are coming into your head right now, don't let them distract you.

The answer is simpler and more basic than that.


Green Pubes

It was one of those Winters that seemed like it was never going to end.

Just at the point—here in the frozen North it happens pretty much every year—that I was beginning to feel that Winter was eternal and Spring a mere figment of my Winter-bruised imagination—I had a dream so impacting that I'll never forget it.

In the dream, I'm gazing down contemplatively over the expanse of my own naked body. In place of pubic hair, a crisp little thicket of glossy green leaves grows directly from my skin.

Hair : animals :: leaves : plants.



The Leaf Mask motif first emerges in art in the Mediterranean world at the beginning of the first millennium, growing out of the common Dionysiac image of a reveler crowned with vine-leaves.

At a traveling exhibit of items from Pompeii (destroyed 79 CE) that came through the Twin Cities some years ago, I saw a painting which struck me as a kind of proto-Green Man: a male head wearing a vine-leaf crown, in which the hair and the leaves of the crown merged visually in such a way that you couldn't tell which was which.

Becoming one with the vine: it doesn't get more bacchic than that.



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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Behold: the Green "Man" that adorns the official invitation to King Charles' upcoming coronation.

(Note that heraldic artist Andrew Jamieson's winsome little Green Guy, sporting as he does the traditional floral/vegetal attributes of the constituent nations of the so-called WISE Islands—daffodils [Wales], shamrocks [Ireland], thistles [Scotland], and wild roses [England]—renders him a quintessentially pan-British figure.)

Oh, the foofarrah.

Does King Charles' Green Man Make Him a Pagan?” howls The Spectator.

(Technically, of course, you'll notice that the Leaf Mask in question is actually that of a Green Cat, a traditional subset of the Green Man design, but that's by the by. BtW, I'm planning to be posting specifically about the Green Beast some time in the near future, so stay tuned.)

No, silly cowans, of course it doesn't mean he's pagan. (Green Men are commonly found in churches, remember?) Charles Windsor is a practicing Christian, titular head of the Anglican Church, who regularly goes on retreats at a Greek Orthodox monastery in Mount Athos. (His father was capital-O-Orthodox, by baptism at least.)

Remember, though, Charlie is savvy. This is the man, you'll recall, who once told the press that he regards himself not so much as “Protector of the Faith”, as “Protector of Faith.”

Guess what, folks: that means us, too.

You can also be sure that he knows damn well that, while the Green Man may be an ecumenical symbol of the natural world and all of humanity's essential kinship therewith, he—said Green Man—is ours—i.e. the pagans'—in particular.

No, unlike (purportedly) some of his ancestors, this king is not a witch.

But be of good cheer, O pagans of Britain. Mr. Windsor is sending us a message, and knowingly so: the Green King—champion of organic agriculture and sustainable living long, long before they became fashionable—is on our side.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Image: Ripe merlot wine grape clusters on the vine High-Res Stock Photo -


Why did Allah prohibit the drinking of wine to believers?

According to the Yezidis, it was out of jealousy and fear.


Islamic law generally prohibits the use of intoxicants to Muslims—not that this has slowed the use of drugs such as qat and hashish in the Muslim world, mind you—and Wine is regarded as the first, the chief, the Mother of all Intoxicants.

(When coffee was first discovered, Muslim religious authorities ruled it an intoxicant, and its use therefore forbidden to Muslims. This ruling was so universally rejected by the 'umma that in the end the mullahs just had to suck it up.)

Known euphemistically in Arabic as the Red One—as if even to pronounce its name would be dangerous—wine is specifically forbidden in the Qur'an. Though the book itself provides no reasons for this prohibition, the Yezidis—a Kurdish-speaking religious minority centered in Iraq, whose worship of the Peacock Angel would seem to have arisen in the 13th century in antinomian protest against the tyranny of the Mosque—do.


(That, in Europe, what we now know as Old Craft also arose in antinomian protest against a tyrannical Church, at roughly the same time, must be considered, at very least, a striking coincidence, if not the actual Hand of some god.

Presumably, the Left Hand.)


When Allah saw how much humanity loved the Red One, they say, he feared that they would always love and worship it more than himself.

Therefore, in jealousy, he did what those unequal to the race—just as Republicans in the US are trying to do today—always do.

He banned the competition.


(That Islamic mystical tradition has always equated Wine with Divine Love tells a truth both older and deeper than any Revelation.)


The blood of the grape is the blood of a god, Red Blood of a Green God. Before any others, the Green Man first wore vine leaves.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thanks, as someone who adds a jigger of red wine to his dinnertime glass of lemonade I appreciate this blog.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs




Reading Michael Pollan's “The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World”


Did we domesticate plants, or did plants domesticate us?


For years now I've been hearing about a woman in California, priestess to the Green God, who bears on her face the imprint of her god: leaf beard and mustache in green tattoo. Whether or not there really is such a person, I don't know.

But if there is, I love her. Sometimes courage and piety are indistinguishable.


Books about the Green Man tend to be long on iconography and short on concept. No more.

In his 2002 The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan—though he never once mentions Him—has written a theology of the Green God. For "Green God," just read "Plants."

The general view of the Green Man as a sort of vague “Father Nature” figure, while emotionally appealing, has just never been intellectually satisfying. Pollan, however, gets specific. In Botany, he muses on the age-long, epic relationship between Plant and Animal, Green God and Red. Here, deliciously, we reach that place of pagan felicity where science and mythology are indistinguishable.

Plants developed flowers to appeal sexually to animals. It's a truth, but what a truth.

The beauty of Botany lies in its specifics. Pollan divides it into four chapters, each treating with a vegetal particular: Apple, Tulip, Marijuana, Potato, each offering the Animal (and, specifically, Human) world the means by which to satisfy a particular inborn desire: for Sweetness, for Beauty, for Intoxication, for Control.

Though, as I have said, Pollan never once mentions the Green Man—he does bring up witches, though, our kind of witches—if the book has a presiding deity, it's Dionysos, Who puts in frequent appearances throughout. Who is He, after all, but the Plant God, Lord of Intoxication, an Elder God peering through the tragi-comic mask of a Younger?

Throughout, Pollan discusses in intoxicating depth such topics as Desire, Attraction, the nature of Beauty, Memory, the need to Forget, and the nature of Consciousness. He spreads for us here a sumptuous intellectual feast that cannot help but contrast with the Happy Meal™ superficiality (and intellectual sterility) of so much contemporary pagan writing.

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 Flaming, Holly-topped Christmas Pudding | English christmas pudding, Christmas  pudding, Christmas favorites


Guinness Book of World Records alert: “Best-Aged Plum Pudding.”

My recollection is that we made this batch of plum puddings eight summers ago. Tonight we eat the last one.

It was hot and steamy that night, I remember, just after Midsummer's. (When better to prepare the quintessential food of Midwinter?) The whole coven came over, bringing everything that we needed: dried fruit (raisins black and white, currants, apricots, dried pineapple...), breadcrumbs, butter, date sugar. We chopped, we mixed, we steamed. Voilà: the Sun by Night, the Solar sacrament.

(I remember that we had just been over to the Science Museum in “Saint” Paul to see an exhibit of artifacts from Pompeii. I can distinctly recall being struck by a certain decorative painting, clearly rooted in Bacchic religion, depicting a head crowned with vine leaves. The leaves merged indistinguishably into the figure's hair. Here, I thought, we see the origins of the Green Man/Leaf Face motif so beloved of modern pagans. Pompeii was destroyed in 79 CE; mere decades later, the face composed entirely of leaves emerges—there's a fine example, circa 100 CE, from the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek—a motif which will haunt the Western imagination for the next 2000 years, and emerge as a central icon of the Pagan Revival. We may derive the Green Man as we know him from medieval ecclesiastical sculpture, but his roots are indisputably pagan and indisputably Bacchic.)

Having made the puddings, we let them age. Every full Moon, I'd take them out of the cupboard and irrigate them with brandy. (Talk about Bacchic.) Every year, on Midwinter's Eve, we'd steam one up. As it came in procession from the kitchen, crowned with holly, enhaloed in blue flame, we'd rise to our feet and sing a song of welcome.

Then we'd dive in. O rapture, as the Scarecrow once said.

(Like the very best fruitcake that you've ever had, but hot and melting in the mouth, with a beautiful velvety texture. Ohmigods.)

Later, of course, we'd sing the song for the plum pudding and dance the plum pudding dance. (“I swear, you guys are the only real pagans left in the US,” a friend of mine once quipped after hearing about this.)

So tonight, after singing down the Sun, after lighting the Yule log, after the Dance of the Wheel, after the 13-course Mother Night feast (a course for each Moon of the coming year), we'll top it all off with steaming spoonfuls of the world's best-aged plum pudding, itself the 13th course. Witches being witches, of course, there have been dark jokes about whether or not it will be safe to eat.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Good eye, Anthony: that's the one. You won't be surprised to hear that there's a lot of overlap between the local pagan and Morris
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Over on YouTube there is someone going by the handle MidwestMorrisAle who has several videos of a lumps of plum pudding dance. Is

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The Green Man - Home | Facebook 

My friend and I couldn't have been at the Renn Fest for more than two minutes when we ran into a gaggle of fellow pagans.

This, of course, is hardly to be wondered at. Renn Fests are famed pagan Meccas, and this particular one happened to be the Paganistani (i.e. Minnesota) Renn Fest, after all. There are so many pagans at the Minnesota Renn Fest that for a while it actually because fashionable to wear a cross, not so much out of religious conviction, as to stand out in the crowd.

They ask where we're headed, and we explain that we always start off our day there by pouring a libation for the Green Man. Pagans generally being game for spontaneous religious observance, they come along.

A pagan landmark of the MN Renn Fest—“Let's meet up at the Green Man,” people say—the Green Man stands probably 20 feet tall: a large, archaic-looking wooden mask mounted on a tree trunk, and bodied out all around with a tangle of fox grapes. This being September, the grapes are usually just coming ripe around now.

We stand before the Green Man, make our prayers, and pour out our libation, relishing the opportunity to indulge in public pagan worship. We'd like to dance around Him—that's the traditional observance—but there aren't quite enough of us to join hands.

Fortunately, this is the Renn Fest.

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