Celebrating the Greenman Archetype

greenmanheaderThe belief that we can manage the Earth and improve on Nature is probably the ultimate expression of human conceit, but it has deep roots in the past and is almost universal. — Rene J. Dubos, (1901-1982), The Wooing of the Earth, 1980.

A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. 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. He was frequently depicted in medieval art, including church decorations.

The God, or the Green Man, also known as The Horned God, not to be confused with the Devil or any form of such, has three divine elements: Divine Child, the Son/Lover, and the Sacrificed Savior/Lord of Death. — Kate Wood ( a journey through the Celtic world)

Do these mythical “wild men” exist? I believe so. They are part of the mythos of nature and appear at times of stress in the world. They may not be an everyday event but they exist in two worlds at separate times. They are a part of the Green Man spirit and act and react to protect the small wilderness that is left in this teeming world. — Gary R Varner

1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.
2. (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.

Being in nature engenders a sense of mystery about the world; a sense of awe or wonderment about the earth or particular naturescape; a sense of connectedness or oneness with the natural world; a profound feeling of transcendence (within and without); a belief in a power greater than oneself; and an appreciation of the beauty in nature. It sparks feelings of inner peace, hope, joy and empowerment; promotes physical and emotional well-being, and brings about significant changes in attitude and behavior. — Sylvie Shaw

Re-awakening the Green Man: A Myth for Our Time

The degradation of our environment is accelerating beyond the point of our being able to repair it. … As we destroy the ecosystem something in us dies as well. We then feel a loss of connection to nature, but celebrating the archetype of the Green Man can speak to us today and can remind us of what we have lost and help us to become conscious and to recover our bond with the natural world.

Two of my friends conduct outdoor and indoor nature workshops for children and sometimes I help.  Last week we met and created “Greenman” art projects (abstract paintings, mixed media collages, photo montages, and self-portraits) depicting our wild, untamed inner nature spirits. We hoped the Greenman archetype would speak to the children as it did to us and it did. Their creations were fanstasy-filled and fabulous and they had a great time.

I think re-awakening of the Green Man archtype is a useful way to help children connect with the natural world? What do you think?


  1. Love the Green Man myth and image – I think I first was aware of it through the Christmas Revels in Cambridge Mass, and their solstice celebrations, and when I moved to England saw the stone images in gardens, often as a face carved in the stone wall and water pouring from the mouth. Now if I make a game or apple pie I make a Green Man image on the crust, with pastry leaves applied and his mouth for a vent. People think I’m daft, but they should know that by now…

  2. I love this idea and am so glad to know about it. I would have loved this as a child as well along with stories of elves and woodland fairies, I have always been a nature girl too!

    • My early years were spent in the forest. I had an active imagination and I loved drawing. This workshop was a boost for me in many ways. The enthusiasm the kids had for expressing their innner greenman or woman was amazing. We all loved the products but the process and discussion had great value too.

  3. I am not familiar with the Greenman archetype as a Nature touchstone/icon.

    It would be great if North American culture (whatever that is), already had some sort of fairytale/mythological Nature mythological figure built into common childhood stories. Something to naturally build into children’s psyche overtime, instead of overly “teaching” about Nature wisdom etc. later or to adults in more boring ways. :D

    I think one would need to learn to some of the First Nations (native Indian) mythologies and stories for Nature touchstone stories, if it weren’t for Greenman.

    Maybe there’s other stuff in other cultures that we haven’t heard enough of it yet.

    • My friends found a lesson for kids online and combined it with the workshop. They had an excellent slideshow of the greenman depicted in architecture > greenman architecture > http://tinyurl.com/6ngl8k6

      “Search the hidden corners of English, French, or German Gothic churches, and you’ll often find the Green Man. It’s a composite of face and foliage–an image that appears in dozens of forms. Often a face of the Green Man (or Green Woman) is a mask made entirely of leaves; other times the face may be surrounded or transformed by leaves and vines. Typically Green Man figures are carved in stone or wood; they also may be crafted in stained glass or inked in the style of illuminated manuscripts. Birth and regeneration symbolized in various Green Man figures. The Green Man is often perceived as an ancient Celtic symbol. In Celtic mythology, he is a god of spring and summer. He disappears and returns year after year, century after century, enacting themes of death and resurrection, the ebb and flow of life and creativity. ” http://www.dl.ket.org/humanities/connections/class/medren/greenman.htm

      The nature based creativity workshop a was a success. I’d be glad to help (play with the kids) any time they ask me to. :)

  4. This is the first time I’ve heard of it, as well. How fun and fascinating. I agree, it sounds like a neat way for kids to connect with nature. It’s an important relationship and should be fostered.

    • Hi Janene,
      As the weather isn’t horribly cold here the kids get out in it everyday. We asked the kids to be mindful of all they experienced with all of their senses. We toured a very interesting trail, observed birds and wildlife all in noble silence. We stopped at a viewpoint on a cliff and took in a panoramic view of the islands glittering like emeralds in the strait. It was breathtaking.

      When we returned from our silent nature walk through the forest we gave them the art supplies and asked them to express what they had experienced. Sadly three kids were so far out of their element that being asked not to chatter but instead to truly look, listen, smell and touch during their forest walk that they pouted, sulked and shuffled along behind us. When we placed the art supplies in front of them they weren’t very interested at first. But when they saw the other kids’ artwork they did express themselves too.

    • That image at the top of this post is a photo manipulation I did. By flipping a single photo in both directions and conjoining them in the center I created a greenman. lol :D

  5. timethief,

    I’ve never heard of the “Greenman” archetype” before. Although I’ve heard of spirits in different culture that get angry and upset when we abuse the world, resulting in consequences for us.

    This seems like a wonderful way to connect children with nature. I was in a drugstore today and heard Joni Mitchel’s song, Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot. That was long ago, but a picture of our future!

    Your new design is so dynamic. Love it!

    • Hi Sandra,
      I’m on a remarkable journey right now. The expression of my own forest based childhood in art therapy and my feelings about it, and now helping my friends with nature based children’s art projects is opening new creativity windows for me. I could mix paints and cut up recycled stuff for mixed media projects and give kids how-to art tips forevermore, if we all didn’t have to eat and sleep and I didn’t have to work for a living. Woo hoo! I’m even fingerpainting and loving it. Kids express their bond with nature spontaneously. They also include some very bizarre stuff in their artworks too and it’s interesting to hear what those symbols and other inclusions mean to them.

      P.S. Thanks for the compliment on the new theme. I see that we both switched to it and I like what you did with it on your blog too.

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