Pagan Figure On London Subway LONDON (AP) - The Green Man is back, staring at travelers fr
Pagan Figure On London Subway
LONDON (AP) - The Green Man is back, staring at travelers from posters in
London subway stations.
The mysterious and arresting image of a face with sprouting leaves is older
than Christianity, harking back to pagan times when the Earth, the sun and all
living things were believed to have spirits.
There have been many types of Green Man. This one was carved in the 14th or
15th century in the ceiling of Norwich Cathedral, 115 miles northeast of
He is on a poster for an exhibition called ``Out of the Wood: the Tree as
Image and Symbol,'' about the relationship between trees and the arts. It
features mainly contemporary wood carvings and ornaments and ceramics based on
the shapes of trees and leaves, and poems about trees.
``It was an inspired choice to put the Green Man on the poster because we
have had a steady stream of visitors all day since we opened on Aug. 2,'' said
Julia Bennett, who helps run the exhibition in the Crafts Council Gallery in
Waterloo Place near Piccadilly Circus.
Susan Clifford, a former landscape planner also involved with the
exhibition, said in an interview: ``The Green Man seems to have had a lot of
uses before he was taken over by Christians and then discarded. In his
simplest version he was the spirit of regeneration, the spirit of the forest.
He was a giant garlanded in green, sometimes frightening, sometimes benign.''
William Anderson, a writer and poet and author of a forthcoming book on the
Green Man, said the figure can be seen in medieval churches and cathedrals
throughout Europe. At times, these days, he can be seen in England as a pub
``But his origins are much more ancient than the Middle Ages. He is one of
those symbols that appear and disappear in history,'' the writer said.
``The Green Man may be the origin of a folk cult figure known as Jack in
the Green or Robin of the Wood, and it was Robin who may have inspired the
legend of Robin Hood and his merry men in Sherwood Forest.''
The gallery is a showplace for contemporary arts and crafts but hardly a
tourist attraction and doesn't usually get many visitors on hot days.
The version of the poster Green Man is based on the drawing still high up
in the cathedral, but the exhibition offers a modern Green Man, made of gently
flickering neon tubes by Peter Freeman.
The idea of a visible spirit of the trees is repeated in other exhibits.
``Gold Jacket'' by Richard Wincer, priced at $3,100, is a dark coat covered
with real oak leaves that were preserved with resin and painted gold.
``I thought of oak leaves because I wanted to do something very English,''
Oak forests dotted England centuries ago and provided the timber for homes,
farms and ships.
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