Thursday, June 23, 2011

I am being followed by Green Men

Earlier this year I wrote about the Green Men of Belgrave. Now those Green Men have taken to following me.

In Uppingham the other day I walked into The Rutland Bookshop to be faced with a copy of Green Man: The Archetype of our Oneness with the Earth by William Anderson. Clearly, I was expected to buy it.

Then last Saturday, wandering around Northampton, I came across St Peter's in Marefair. This is a fine Norman church, now in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust. (At least this stops anyone ripping out the pews and singing "Shine, Jesus, Shine", as Lord Bonkers suspects Tim Farron of wanting to do at St Asquith's.)

One of the most interesting things there is a grave slab, a detail of which is shown in the photograph. It is believed to be from a shrine to St Ragener that Edward the Confessor had set up in the earlier Saxon church on the site.

This is interesting, because my other book on Green Men - Shire's The Green Man by Richard Hayman - is based upon the thesis that Green Men did not appear until the Norman era and wrongly dates the slab in St Peter's to the 12th century.

Whether Green Men were originally depictions of the devil or of lost pagan gods is hard to know. But in the 20th century they were adopted as a symbol of the spirit of the greenwood and modern man's alienation from it.


Tom Barney said...

Why "green"? My attention was drawn to some among the roof bosses in St Mary Redcliff, Bristol, at the weekend: they are all very finely gilded.

Jonathan Calder said...

According to Anderson, the term "Green Man" was coined by Lady Raglan in an article published in Folklore in 1939. It caught on, in part because Pevsner employed it in his Buildings of England series.