Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Mysteries of the Green Man




Reading Michael Pollan's “The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World”


Did we domesticate plants, or did plants domesticate us?


For years now I've been hearing about a woman in California, priestess to the Green God, who bears on her face the imprint of her god: leaf beard and mustache in green tattoo. Whether or not there really is such a person, I don't know.

But if there is, I love her. Sometimes courage and piety are indistinguishable.


Books about the Green Man tend to be long on iconography and short on concept. No more.

In his 2002 The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan—though he never once mentions Him—has written a theology of the Green God. For "Green God," just read "Plants."

The general view of the Green Man as a sort of vague “Father Nature” figure, while emotionally appealing, has just never been intellectually satisfying. Pollan, however, gets specific. In Botany, he muses on the age-long, epic relationship between Plant and Animal, Green God and Red. Here, deliciously, we reach that place of pagan felicity where science and mythology are indistinguishable.

Plants developed flowers to appeal sexually to animals. It's a truth, but what a truth.

The beauty of Botany lies in its specifics. Pollan divides it into four chapters, each treating with a vegetal particular: Apple, Tulip, Marijuana, Potato, each offering the Animal (and, specifically, Human) world the means by which to satisfy a particular inborn desire: for Sweetness, for Beauty, for Intoxication, for Control.

Though, as I have said, Pollan never once mentions the Green Man—he does bring up witches, though, our kind of witches—if the book has a presiding deity, it's Dionysos, Who puts in frequent appearances throughout. Who is He, after all, but the Plant God, Lord of Intoxication, an Elder God peering through the tragi-comic mask of a Younger?

Throughout, Pollan discusses in intoxicating depth such topics as Desire, Attraction, the nature of Beauty, Memory, the need to Forget, and the nature of Consciousness. He spreads for us here a sumptuous intellectual feast that cannot help but contrast with the Happy Meal™ superficiality (and intellectual sterility) of so much contemporary pagan writing.

As pagans, we live lives in constant daily relationship, and interaction, with our gods: Earth, Sun, Moon, the Winds, Fire. What we must learn, if we are to survive, is to do so, once again, in awareness. After a millennium and a half of Forgetting, our work must necessarily be an act of collective Remembering.

In Botany of Desire, Pollan teaches us an old/new way of seeing.

Come, let us open our eyes, and partake of the feast.



Michael Pollan (2002) The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World. Random House, New York.
















Last modified on
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


Additional information