Further Stories and Meaning regarding the Green Man

The Green Man is not just a European tradition. Several years ago, after lecturing at the University of Hawaii, a native Hawaiian told me of a secret ceremony in his tradition that honors a Green Man dressed in a cape of tea leaves. The Green Man is recognized as “the One who Manages the Forest” and is also a warrior. After missionaries arrived, the ritual associated with it had to be kept secret and underground.

“The Green Man,” by Séamus Belenus.

There is an intergenerational dimension to the Green Man. They are depicted in many stages of life—some are young, some middle aged, some old. Some are lying on the ground and dying like leaves in the Fall, returning their spirit to the earth for recycling. 

In addition, some are playful, some awestruck, some introspective, and some are fierce. The latter depict the strong warrior and prophetic dimension to a Green Man. Some boughs depicted on a Green Man resemble antlers. Antlers are tree-like, and men are stags who carry antler-like powers. In this way, the Green Man connects to the animal world as well as the plant world. Christ is also called a stag.

The Green Man says something important and positive about male sexuality. A man’s beard represents the generative powers of the male that come at puberty and are meant to serve the larger cosmic purpose of generation. They are not to serve the individual ego, or even the ego of family, nation or tribe, but the overall purposes of nature itself. 

Green Man mosaic in Istanbul. Wikipedia, Creative Commons.

Male creativity, sexuality, and sensuality emerge from the creativity, sexuality, and sensuality of nature—and are meant to serve it. It is not about ego strutting. The Green Man does not repress or sublimate sexuality but presents it openly—honoring it, praising it—without aggrandizing or personalizing it. 

Such a rich sexuality does not draw attention to itself, but embodies the ongoing sexual and creative energy of the universe.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 23f., 31. 

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE

Banner image: Green Man on south door of Maria Laach Abbey, Germany. Wikipedia, Creative Commons.



Queries for Contemplation

Do you think the sexual information depicted by the Green Man as named in this essay could assist men and boys to better deal with the gifts and powers of their sexuality than is often the case in our culture? Would that and rites of passage make for a healthier journey into malehood that both men and women could profit from?


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

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6 thoughts on “Further Stories and Meaning regarding the Green Man”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you. yes. One thought came to my mind. This is such playful spirituality that gives life and joy compared to traditional western Christianity with its deadly serious notion of hell and all the fear and rigid orthodoxy goes with that tradition.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for including the beautiful song and video of the Green Man in today’s DM. What I find reflectively revealing is how the Archetype of Mother Nature is depicted with the greening energy intuitively, creatively, and imaginatively emerging as an egg from Her womb and the Archetype of the Green Man is depicted with the greening energy, seeding this egg from His mouth, giving voice to this, speaking it forth into life. Both are needed to birth forth life. I can see the corelationship of this convergence of these two Archetypes, within the cosmological stories within many spiritual pathways… as a reflection of the beautiful harmonious dance of these two aspects within myself… and the all and the everything of creation.

    Engaging ceremoniously in rites of passages over the years, and continuing to do so throughout my souls journey through various spiritual pathways, has definitely led to the unfolding, evolving emergence of this convergence with… leading to greater measures of integration and wholeness.

  3. Avatar

    Two Big YEAS! YEAS! to your two questions at the end of today’s DM, Matthew! Your book, “The Hidden Spirituality of Men” and your cultural studies of the “Green Man” have so much to offer our modern ‘civilization’ about Sacred Masculine Energies (still Alive within Us), especially in our education and upbringing of young males, and how to heal the historically prevalent toxic destructive masculine/patriarchal energies. The Indigenous Cultures/Spiritualities also have spiritual wisdom and values related to the “Green Man” archetype that honor the Sacredness of Our Mother Earth, Her living creatures & abundance, and Our Wholistic~ONENESS with ALL Our Sacred physical and non-physical (subtle spiritual realms) of Our LOVING Evolving Diverse COSMOS….

  4. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for this series on the Green Man.

    The great failure of Christian missionaries going into cultures they know nothing about and attempt to “un-pagan” the culture and turn the people into European style Christians, is that the missionaries failed to grasp the indigenous have a deeper theology of God’s first revelation of Nature. Christian missionaries failed to learn from indigenous culture their notion of Source, which predates Christianity by thousands of years. Instead missionaries destroyed spiritual cultures because they believed their Christian spirituality was better, all in the name of their God and empire.

  5. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    “Male creativity, sexuality, and sensuality emerge from the creativity, sexuality, and sensuality of nature—and are meant to serve it. It is not about ego strutting. The Green Man does not repress or sublimate sexuality but presents it openly—honoring it, praising it—without aggrandizing or personalizing it.”
    Your quote, and I couldn’t have said it better!
    Then you ask: “Would rites of passage make for a healthier journey into malehood that both men and women could profit from?” My answer is definitely, “Yes!” And I even have a book that I’ve written, that has several examples of rites of passage for several occasions!

  6. Avatar

    I agree that the Green Man provides a more substantive archetype for us all and has been with us since humankind could imagine and make images. What a tragedy that one major archetype for men now is a striving, aggressive, narcissistic person who cares only about individual power, who builds institutions to consolidate and protect that power—including and most sadly, religious institutions. What a loss not to be able to see the power of the Green Man! I pray that we wake up in time to prevent humanicide.

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