Most Spring festivals held at the end of April throughout the UK have as their main character a young man dressed in green and covered with leaves.
Who is he?
He represents the “Green Man“, or the “wild man” of European tradition, who, according to the myth, is the spirit and energy of Nature which lives inside trees, plants and leaves and is also present in all of us. The Green Man is usually depicted as a man covered by leaves, usually of the oak, the sacred tree of the Druids. He represents the new cycle of renewal and birth symbolised by the arrival of Spring and has many names: the Green Man, Jack in the Green, the Old Man of the Woods, Green George and many others.
The figure of the Green Man can be traced in ancient Greek and Roman mythology: Silvanus, the Roman god of the woods, and Dionysus (Bacchus). Also the Celts had a god, Cernunnos, who had horns and hair of leaves and was the god of spring.
On the European continent he is also present in the folklore of Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Spain, Hungary and Poland, although with slight variations.
In Finland Metsänhaltia is the “ruler of the forest”, a very old man with a long gray beard, dressed with lichen.
So if you are a fan of Tolkien’s magic world you may now understand where he took inspiration from for the “Ents“. 😉
Apart from being found in his natural environment, the woods, the Green Man is also present throughout Europe as a decorative element of columns and architectural elements or even doorbells! It is the sculpture of a face surrounded by leaves (sometimes not only by leaves but also by branches of trees, flowers or fruit which may come out from the Green Man’s nose or mouth or nostrils!) and can be found in thousands of churches and cathedrals mainly in England and in some parts of Wales, Scotland and Ireland. In England alone there are about 2000 Green Man images!!!