Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Early Green Man

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I keep joking that I'm redoing my house in Early Green Man.

My friend Gary has a Green Man wall in his house. There must be 50 different Green Men in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and mediums on that Wall. You can't hardly help but bow. Me, I've got them all over the house, peeking out from the most unexpected corners. One of the hazards of 21st century consumerist paganism, I guess.

The Green God: Earth's Firstborn and, they say, favorite. (But maybe, like in my family, she just understands him better.) She does give him that incomparable Coat of Many Colors every year as a sign of favor. And so his brother becomes a kin-slayer, most terrible of crimes. But that's never the end with the Green Man. “Cut me down,” he says, “I spring up high.” Irrepressible.

A few years back I brought home a truly monumental Green Man mask in cast bronze from the Minnesota Renn Fest. I hung him up over the back stairs, right next to the back door. It seemed like the right place. Walk out the door and you're in the vegetable garden. Inside, he looks out placidly (if somewhat possessively) over the potato bin, the racks of onions and (at this time of year) piles of winter squash and jugs of cider that line the back stairs. Green Man territory.


The artist outdid herself when she made him. I don't normally like her stuff. She specializes in cast-metal leaves, which she then makes into the kind of cutesy little chotchkes that people buy at Renaissance Festivals. (You have to sell to your audience, I suppose.) But most of the time the detailing is shoddy and the overall design just plain not very interesting.

In this piece, however, she transcended her own limitations as an artist. She started with the life mask of a friend (a woman, in fact, divine gender being largely a matter of convention) and applied cast-bronze oak leaves. The detailing is perfect, uncanny, almost disturbing. He watches, he does. I burn him incense when I think about it, and there's a little bell you can ring when you go past. Yes, I'm looking at you.

Last summer I noticed something growing up the wall he hangs on. It was a pallid, ghostly little tendril coming up from behind the potato bin, the chlorotic white-green of plants that grow up in darkness. At first I thought it was a sprout from a fallen potato, but I was wrong.

No. The creeper that climbs the brickwork on the outside of the house had snaked its way in through the block and brick of the foundation to grow up the inside wall that the Green Man hangs on. The creeper in fact covers the entire south wall of the house and could, presumably, have come through at any given point along the length of that side. But no, it just happened to break on through to the other side at this particular spot. The Green Man wall.

Maybe I should have expected it. Really, I suppose I was asking for it.

First I tore down the inside creeper. Sorry, Green Man, some things we just can't be having with. Then I pulled up all the vines rooted anywhere near the place where the ivy had come through, and plugged the little access hole in the mortar.

This evening I went to get some potatoes for supper. Of course, the creeper's back.

You can't keep a good god down.

Like I said, irrepressible.




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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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