In the Green  Man we have an archetype for our relationship to both the cosmos and the Earth—to Father Sky and Mother Earth.  Plants are born from and connect the two.  Plants are like us, cosmic beings; they guarantee that the sun’s generous efforts to pour its energy over the Earth are not in vain.  The sun finds ready receptivity in the plants.  In addition, in a number of Green Man sculptures, birds perch in the branches and fly between the two worlds of Earth and sky.  Birds are messengers from Father Sky.

In the Green Man archetype, plants are not forgotten or taken for granted.  They are praised, reminding us to renew our relationship with Mother Earth—plants, soil, rain, clouds, trees, flowers, sun, seasons—and to consider all of it a gift, all of it a necessity for our sustainability and existence.  Writer Fred Hageneder has gifted us with a deep study of trees in his book The Spirit of Trees, which sheds light on the Green Man archetype.  He points out that “trees are one of Earth’s oldest forms; silent witnesses to human evolution and the passing of time.”

Jesus as Green Man : Image part of larger wall mural at
Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula Church, Havana, built in 1664

Hildegard of Bingen, writing in the twelfth century—which was the time of the great revival of the goddess and of the Green Man as well—called Christ a “green man,” since he brings wetness and aliveness— viriditas—to the human soul.  She also talked about the Holy Spirit as being “green” because it makes us all fecund.  In fact, she taught that the only real sin in life is  “drying up,” which is a metaphor for denying the Green Man, who wants to flourish in all of us…. Eckhart used similar imagery when he said that “the seed of God is in us” and that with proper cultivation, just as a pear seed grows into a pear tree, a seed of God “grows into God”….

Author Joseph Jastrab observes that “generations of modern men have grown alienated from images of manhood connected to the living Earth and to the Great Mystery.”  Clearly the Green Man archetype addresses this alienation.  Embracing the Green Man creates a new male empowerment, a new warriorhood on behalf of Mother Earth and her creatures.  Is this not what is happening today as we talk of “green buildings” and “green politics,’ of “green business” and Greenpeace, of “green belts around cities” and  “green economics”?

Yes, the Green Man is back.  Are we ready?

Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 20-22, 32

Faith in Practice

In prayerful meditation, sit with the following questions: what are the insights that they open within you?

  • How do you experience connection with the natural world?
  • How do you experience connection with the plant world?
  • How do you experience greenness in your life?

Out of these meditations, why not draw your own Green Man and then meditate on his meaning?

Recommended Reading

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.

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