The Green Man – Enchanted Symbol of the Earth

English: Photograph depicting a carving by Pau...

English: Photograph depicting a carving by Paul Sivell, titled “Whitefield Green Man.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first symbol of enchantment in our Enchanted Oasis series is the Green Man, a reflection of our longing for connection with nature.

Given the role of all plants in consuming our carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen in the air for us to breathe, perhaps the Green Man symbol is a mirror of something deep within us that knows we are more intimately connected to the green world than we realize.

If you’re unfamiliar with this symbol of enchantment, Wikipedia discusses the idea of the green man in this way:

A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found on carvings in churches and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical). “The Green Man” is also a popular name for English public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on in signs, which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.

The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or “renaissance”, representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.

We are indebted to the artists and sculptors among us who create these beautiful symbols of man intertwined with nature. For my own part, the Green Man symbol shows up in the novel series that I’m revising this summer, in a slightly different manifestation.

The artistic use of enchanted symbols can also be a reminder for many of us to take practical action.  The Green Man reminds us that it is in our best interest to remember our close connection with the trees of the earth.

Typical boreal forest.

Typical boreal forest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many ways to work on the sustainability of our world, but in my opinion,  few are more important than maintaining and rebuilding forests around the world.  The challenge is that climate change is going to make this more difficult. Across the U.S.  global climate change is creating fires that destroy forests like those in Colorado this year, and without frosts to kill insects that attack trees, many species of trees are suffering.  So, we’re going to have a battle on our hands.

My response is to donate 10% of the profits to restoring forests around the world. This is my small way of doing my part to maintain the Enchanted Oasis of our planet.

Does the Green Man or other symbols of enchantment intertwined with nature speak to you?

If maintaining a green earth is an important issue for you, how might the use of an enchanted nature symbol in your art or life add to your commitment and actions?

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13 thoughts on “The Green Man – Enchanted Symbol of the Earth

  1. microrrelatososhortstories says:

    Ok first symbol…well I do have (as I mentioned when you started this series) a love and admiration for (is this crazy? ) the FIG… As a tree, as a fruit, as a connection to the territory where most biblical writings were born and inspired…the olive tree as well…I have used the fig in a couple of paintings…I like the idea of donating part of the proceeds, this could very well be my inspiration to start painting again…Thank you, Alexandra

    • Karen Wan says:

      Alexandra, the fig is a wonderful symbol of enchantment. There is so much symbolism in the fig, that we don’t always remember as you point out. I’d like to see your paintings, finished and yet to be done. 🙂 Karen

  2. Perianne says:

    I am always amazed by the majesty and grandeur of trees, many feel old and wise. It is an interesting conundrum about the forests changing with global warming. We may need to change our perspective on indigenous plantings and have our forests walk over the landscape to find more suitable climatic homes.

    • Karen Wan says:

      I just love trees, and feel that they are old and wise too.
      I also agree on the need to rethink our ideas about native plantings.
      As I’m watching the climate warm up here, I’m almost certain we will require different trees to survive changing temperatures. Several years ago I went to a City of Chicago climate meeting where they projected that Chicago could have the climate of Houston Texas by 2100 if we don’t change. Since we’re not changing our ways very much, it seems to me, we will more than likely have to rely on different trees for our new environments.

  3. barbaramattio says:

    Karen, I love the Green Man and he is in two spots in my garden. I love the picture of your Green Man. The concept of living in harmony with Mother Earth has almost disappeared. Thanks for the reminder.

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