Driving home from a few too many late night meetings the other night I heard a radio show about “The Green Man.” It was actually an episode of “Jarrem Lee, Ghost Hunter”. I can’t recall the exact title of the episode but it had something to do with a tower–perhaps Beltram Tower, although I couldn’t seem to locate anything about that exact title in an episode search.
Regardless, a brief synopsis goes like this: the lord of the manor, so to speak, hired Jarrem Lee and his sidekick to investigate an old stone ruin on the property. He tells them that an old village woman said it’s supposed to be a temple but it really doesn’t look like any temple he’s ever seen. But everyone who goes up there is is never seen again and he thinks it’s haunted.
So Lee and the sidekick go up and find the place over-run with ivy–an ivy so lush that it has cracked the flagstone floor and completely overgrown the temple, even through it was cleared only a month earlier.
When they stop to take a cutting, they think for a moment that the leaves have an image of a face in them, but they dismiss it. But moments later, they find themselves engulfed by the ivy. They only escape by burning it off.
Intrigued, they ask about the village woman who called the place a “temple,” and go to visit her. They find her cottage covered by the same ivy. Over her mantle is a carving of the Green Man.
When they ask about the carving she tells them that his spirit lives in the woods. He used to live on the hill up by the temple but the Lord of the Manor tore down 12 yew trees that were sacred to him. That angered him and he has attacked anyone who has gone up there ever since.
On the way back to tell the Lord what the problem is, Lee sees the Lord and many men converging on the temple with fire, trying to burn the ivy. One by one they fall and are consumed by the ivy.
Lee and the sidekick go around the back of the temple and find the center of what had been the 12 yew trees to converse with and bargain with the Green Man to spare the lives of those converging on the temple. A deal is struck–the Green Man will live in harmony with “man” from now on if the Lord of the Manor respects him and does no further harm to his sacred place.
This very modern retelling of the ancient Celtic iteration of the Green Man was fascinating to me–so of course I came home to look up the Green Man to see what I could find.
A Wikipedia entry dates him all the way back to Osiris in Egypt. Most interestingly, the image that we most often see, from garden catalogs and the like, is also used in Medieval and Renaissance churches all over Europe–sort of in the gargoyle tradition!
[image courtesy of Google]
So the next time you see one of those cute Green Man carvings for the wall or a tree, think back on his storied tradition!