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The History of The Green Man


The Green Man is a mystical and puzzling figure, his existence through many cultures and faiths worldwide and throughout history gives him an omnipresence that cannot be ignored. He is never obvious, never showy, but can be found somewhere in nearly every church or churchyard and in much art and architecture – the more you look, the more you find.

What does he mean? Historians are still puzzled, as his presence is not directly representative of an element of any particular faith, but the Green Man is in essence larger than one faith, or all encompassing life, as in Pagan symbolism he represents fertility, the cycle of life through eternity and rebirth.

The Green Man has been around a long time, the first carvings of foliate heads were found in Roman art during the first century AD. Carvings and symbols can be found all across what was once the Roman Empire, and he appears in Britain in the Eleventh Century. Interestingly in the early depictions he was sometimes portrayed as a demonic figure being trampled – perhaps denoting Christianity’s conquest over Paganism or human dominance over nature, but his carved presence often tucked away in corners, carved into beams in roofs or under seats suggests he was never fully suppressed.

So his roots can be traced through Pagan, Greek, Egyptian and Roman myths, and his ancestors are Dionysus, Bacchus and Osiris, amongst others. 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. Phil Lister writing in 1982 suggests “this has led many to seek clues in myth, legend and religion. John Barleycorn - celebrated in song - shows the same themes of death and rebirth, as does the Green Knight in the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain. Medieval legends of the Wild Men - dressed in leaves, living in the forest and venturing forth to take food, have been connected with the Green Man. In some stories of Robin Hood - the robber and hero dressed in green - he attains godlike status and links with the Horned God Herne. Present-day Western pagan thought identifies the Green Man as the symbol of the qualities of godhood within the male, as well as being an expression of the cycle of life, death, rebirth and its relationship with the transcendent life-force, the Goddess, the female expression of divinity”

The following extract from an article written by Adrian Gardiner and published in The Scotsman provides a fascinating modern take on the Green Man’s most recent incarnation;

“The Green Man is immortal. He has had, to date, four distinct lives: in art, in architecture, in nature and in today’s environmental consciousness.
In his third reincarnation, the Green Man witnessed environmental destruction and slumbered. In the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era he went back to the garden - in the wrought-iron gates of Kew, on urns at Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire. This was the era when botany became a respectable science. And in the past 30 years, the Green Man awoke and took charge of our ecological consciousness. He invented the Green Party, drew our attention to rain forests and recycling, developed cycle lanes and cheap public transport. And he paved the way for the Gaia theory, that the planet is a self-regulating organism which will always survive, despite mankind’s puny attempts to destroy it. The Green Man, 2,000 years old, is alive and well and living in a garden or cathedral near you.”

The Green Man continues - a symbol of the continuous regeneration of life and the interdependence of all things.

The Breinton Morris - Who is the Green Man?
(prepared for Fools & Animals Unconvention, Wath-upon-Dearne, Phil Lister 1982)

Adrian Gardiner. Saturday, 19th May 2001. The Scotsman. The Scotsman Publications Ltd



The Green Man Inspiration


Green Man Conservation was founded with both nature conservancy and a profound admiration and love of trees and wildlife in mind, gleaned through both academic learning and innate respect derived from immersion in our natural environment.


Nature conservancy translated through years’ voluntary work with conservation trusts, farming experience, academic and experiential training, and work in the tree surgery industry as well as the corporate market, was no mean challenge, and continues to provide challenges to this day.


It is, however, this diverse mixture of experience and values that brought about the emergence of a company dedicated to a unique way of working, whereby our principles dictate our business, and as a result we can often be found talking ourselves out of work for the benefit of the trees!


We work closely with Tree Officers and the Forestry Commission to ensure best practice and continually invest time in education and training to keep up-to-date in the hugely diverse and ever-changing world of arboriculture. To maintain a large knowledge base we spread specialist subjects both within the company and maintain availability via consultants to provide the best service possible.


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The life in trees never ceases to enthral: The Ol’ Bull of Hatfield Forest; a growth upon an ancient Yew. Green Man Conservation Our Inspiration Green Man Conservation Our Inspiration; Vibrant, thriving, well-managed woodland habitat is a joy in all seasons. Green Man Conservation Our Inspiration Green Man Conservation - what inspires us


Above Centre; The life in trees never ceases to enthral: The Old Bull of Hatfield Forest; a carved growth upon an ancient Yew. Green Man Conservation Our Inspiration - Below; Vibrant, thriving, well-managed woodland habitat is a joy in all seasons. Green Man Conservation




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Inspirational nature and the passions it stirs, and not orthodox commercial ambition, are what drive our dedication to tree management in all its forms. Green Man Conservation Our Inspiration



Green Men of the woods have been an enduring Western European icon for at least 19 centuries, evolving through the amalgamation of Roman and Early Briton folkloric traditions. Green Man Conservation Our Inspiration