Pagan Figure On London Subway LONDON (AP) - The Green Man is back, staring at travelers fr

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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 London. 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 sign. ``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,'' said Wincer. Oak forests dotted England centuries ago and provided the timber for homes, farms and ships. AP-NY-09-12-89 1354EDT (C) Copyright 1989, Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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