Hildegard of Bingen & Indigenous Teachings on the Green Man

In their classic work, The Green Man: The Archetype of Our Oneness with the EarthEnglish photographer Clive Hicks and poet William Anderson teamed up to bring to life this amazing and important archetype for our times.

Jim Wert, retired lawyer and “The Wizard of Cheltenham, MD” aspecting the Green Man. Photo published with permission.

Philosophers of the modern industrial era such as Descartes and Francis Bacon talked about “mastering nature” and clearly the West has been doing that for centuries.  The Green Man is decidedly not about mastering nature but about relating to nature, nature inside us and nature all about us.

Hildegard of Bingen summarizes it all nicely with her teachings on greening power (viriditas) which she sometimes calls the Holy Spirit in us, our generative and creative powers.  

Forests and grasses and plants are nothing if not generative. (Unless, of course drought takes over as is happening thanks to the ignoring and taking for granted of nature that so dominated modern consciousness and is coming to a cruel climax today in what we call climate change.)

In her own “I am” poem, Hildegard sings of how “I am the breeze that nurtures all things green…and causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.”  The “I am” is God or Wisdom talking.  The Green God and joyful God and laughing God also “encourages blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.”

In “O Nobilissimia Viriditas” Hildegard praises the greening power of the Divine. Sequentia – Topic

We are to participate in this greening power, for we are a “people who are meant to green.” 

In Native American traditions, plants are considered the wisest of all living creatures.  They have been here the longest and by inventing photosynthesis they learned how to eat the sun.  (Father Sky meets Mother Earth.)  By doing so, they make life possible for animals, humans included. 

Plants and trees could live without us–and did for millions of years—but we cannot live without them.  We are indebted to them.  The Green Man reminds us of that. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 19f. 

And Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century, pp. 34, 41f.

Banner Image: “The Green Man” (detail) by El Salvadoran surrealist painter/sculptor Ullrrich Javier Lemus. Published with permission from Ullrrich.com.

Queries for Contemplation

Are we a people who are meant to green?  How are we doing, personally and collectively?   

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

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.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century

Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.

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6 thoughts on “Hildegard of Bingen & Indigenous Teachings on the Green Man”

  1. Avatar


    Virdent emerald green
    Liminal sacred space
    Heart Oneing With
    Receptively sensing
    Introspectively listening
    Contemplatively intuiting
    Rhythmic soundings
    Coalescing into harmonious
    Melodious songs sung.

    The all and the everything
    Mysteriously orchestrated
    As One Grand symphony
    Each creation playing
    Its emerging part that
    Unfolds and converges
    Eminating and resonating
    From within the Original Source
    Of wholeness and holiness.

  2. Avatar

    Yes! We are All green, blue, gold, a variety of spectrum of colors in our Divine Uniqueness and ONENESS of Our Sacred Evolving Eternal Souls with-in Our Sacred Co-Evolving Beautiful LOVING COSMOS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT in our daily lives….

  3. Avatar

    The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley are huge fans of Hildegard von Bingen’s music. We turned to her compositions several times during the 2020-2021 quarantine, finding comfort and peace. What an amazing woman to have written music at that time, and for it to have lasted so long.

  4. Avatar

    I am deeply grateful for Matthew Fox’s teachings. He is my greatest teacher. And Julian of Norwich: green is in our lungs and our blood. All peace and good, dear Matthew, in your writing work on your mentor Pere Chenu.

  5. Avatar

    In the natural life cycle, we are first nourished by plants and then in turn become plant food, so we are surely green in fact and in spirit.. All the accoutrements of modern funerals and burials in metal boxes have interrupted this primal knowledge and contributed to the disrespect of nature, with dire results for us all.

  6. Avatar

    If you’re the “one”
    Who lines things up and signs the papers
    Keeps order in the comings and goings
    So people’s lives go on, dreams fulfilling—
    If you’re caretaking
    The old, the young, the ones who need you,
    If you’re the “one”,

    Then every day
    Find a hawk’s feather
    Admire the rusty color, the black lines on the end,
    The precision of its aerilon architecture
    Remember it’s owner you’ve seen riding the air currents.

    Every day

    Admire a baby alpaca three days old
    Write wool promising deep soft pile
    Long after the wobbly times are over.

    Every day
    Meditate on the hundreds of bees in the tiny white blossoms
    In their nectar-frenzy knocking off whitelets for the carpet below.

    Every day
    Surround yourself with all the greens
    Ah, the bright green new shoots
    The sage green eucalyptus
    Dark green cypress branches
    And proliferations of glorious weeds all around.
    Envelop yourself in all the greens
    So you are in the midst of beginnings and endings and middle times.

    Knowing that being the “one”
    Is small after all
    In our wonderful world. Oh yes
    In our wonderful world.
    Thea Maestre, 2009

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