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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The Green Man - Home | Facebook 

My friend and I couldn't have been at the Renn Fest for more than two minutes when we ran into a gaggle of fellow pagans.

This, of course, is hardly to be wondered at. Renn Fests are famed pagan Meccas, and this particular one happened to be the Paganistani (i.e. Minnesota) Renn Fest, after all. There are so many pagans at the Minnesota Renn Fest that for a while it actually because fashionable to wear a cross, not so much out of religious conviction, as to stand out in the crowd.

They ask where we're headed, and we explain that we always start off our day there by pouring a libation for the Green Man. Pagans generally being game for spontaneous religious observance, they come along.

A pagan landmark of the MN Renn Fest—“Let's meet up at the Green Man,” people say—the Green Man stands probably 20 feet tall: a large, archaic-looking wooden mask mounted on a tree trunk, and bodied out all around with a tangle of fox grapes. This being September, the grapes are usually just coming ripe around now.

We stand before the Green Man, make our prayers, and pour out our libation, relishing the opportunity to indulge in public pagan worship. We'd like to dance around Him—that's the traditional observance—but there aren't quite enough of us to join hands.

Fortunately, this is the Renn Fest.

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Thank Goddess: after a covid-driven hiatus, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is finally open again. At last, I can go see the Green Man Gun.

I've been thinking about it for months. Now, in the normal way of things, I've not a gun guy. I don't own a gun; truth to tell, I've never even fired one. (Yes, I'm just another pansy-ass South Minneapolis liberal wussie. You got a problem with that?) In general, I don't think of guns as things of beauty.

That's why the Green Man Gun—no matter how many times I see it—invariably takes me by surprise.

The Green Man Gun is indeed a thing of beauty. No, I can't tell you what kind of gun it is. (A wheel-lock pistol?) No, I can't tell you for sure where it was originally from. (One of the Germanies, I think.) No, I can't even tell you how old it is. (“16th” century, maybe?) If you're interested, stay tuned and I'll tell you these things once I make my pilgrimage and find out. Maybe I'll even get a picture to show you.

Here's what I can tell you. It must have been made for some well-heeled nobleman, because it wasn't just made to shoot: it was made to be beautiful.

The Green Man Gun is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and colored enamel, set into the sides of the wooden stock. (“Lock, stock, and barrel” we say, meaning the gun in its entirety. “Stock,” of course, originally meant “tree trunk”: here, the vegetative component of an otherwise metal object.) The major decorative motif, of course, is swirling vegetation with a Leaf Face peering through: hence the name.

What does it mean to have the God of Vegetation adorning, of all things, a gun: a god of life on an instrument of death?

Well, we can ask this question, but—let us acknowledge—it's a modern question. The Green Man only became a god in the so-called 20th century. To the nobleman for whom this gun was made, I suspect that the Leaf Mask represented decoration, no more. At most, it would have read contemporaneously as an allusion to the forest to which one resorted for the hunt.

As modern pagans, though, our reading of the past is not limited to how the past read itself. This is a central principle of contemporary pagan hermeneutics. The New Pagan Thought is non-Originalist by definition. (Take that, foul SCOTUS conservatives.)

So let me pose the question once again: why a god of life on an instrument of death?

Here we encounter one of the new paganisms' central concepts: the fruitful Death, the death that gives life. The wheat dies on the scythe to give us bread. The grape is plucked and crushed to give us wine. The gun fires to protect, or to give us food. The Green God is no mere god of life. Like his brother the Horned, he is a sacrificial god.

Welcome to the pagan world. Here opposites meet, kiss, and resolve. Here, death brings life, and guns bear Green Men.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

Unsurprisingly, the couple that sold handmade brooms at the Renn Fest turned out to be witches.

Now, Witch World is a small place, with three degrees of separation at most, so each year, I would make it a point to stop in, and we'd swap stories for a while.

One year I was absolutely wowed by a set of hand-crafted wooden bellows hanging on the wall, the surface beautifully carved with a Green Man face.

The symbolism could hardly be more apposite. Bellows = air = the breath of life. Whose image could they possibly bear other than that of the God of All Green Life, whose reciprocal breath gives life to all us Red-bloods. And bellows blow up the Fire, which burns....wood, of course, the Green Man's very flesh. Rendered in—what else?—wood.

Charmed, I took the bellows up to the till.

“Tell,” I said.

The Green Man bellows had been crafted by their coven woodcarver. “They're his first,” they told me. “He'll be delighted to hear that he's made a sale.”

I was in love, and the price was more than reasonable, so of course I bought the Green Man bellows. I've joked for years about how I seem to be redoing my house in Early Green Man, which is frankly no more than the truth. Walking through my home, you'll find more Green Men than you could...well, than you could shake a stick at.

Back at the Renn Fest a few weeks later, I naturally stopped in at Broomhilda to say “Blessed Be.”

Laughing, they told me the story. They'd called their coven brother to tell him that he'd made a sale, and asked if he wanted to carve another set.

“F*ck no,” he told them. “Making those was so much work, I couldn't possibly charge enough to make it worthwhile.”

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A Beltane Teaching: The Lover’s Embrace of Life

Right now, in the heat of Beltane, the wild realm is expressing itself so loudly and so boldly that we just need to step beyond our doorstep to receive its direct, powerful truth-speak: life is our ardent lover.  

...
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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Green Breath

In medieval art, the Green Man is frequently depicted (as here) exhaling vegetation.

I'd always taken this as a symbol of death—someday you'll be dead and plants will grow out of your mouth—but while reading a book about ancient Maya art, I realized that I was missing something important.

In Maya culture, nothing was more valuable than jade. Jade (being green and permanent) = life; when you live in a tropical rain forest, how not? In Classical Mayan art, nobles were frequently represented with a jade bead suspended in the air between their mouths and noses: the breath of life.

That's why the Green Man exhales vegetation: he's the giver of the breath of life. This, of course, is literally true: that incredible reciprocal arrangement that we Red-Bloods have with the Green-Bloods called the Oxygen Cycle.

If we take the Green Man/Green God as the collective embodiment of all the flora on Planet Earth—a reading utterly in consonance with Received Tradition—we may indeed say that from Him comes the Breath of Life.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia "Nature looking back."
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    When I was much younger I could look into the leaves of a tree and after a while I would see a face among the leaves. there is so

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pagan Overkill, or: Trying Too Hard

Fortunately, I managed to catch myself before I left the house.

It so happened that day that I was wearing a green Heart of the Beast May Day tee-shirt, sporting on the front a tree-man holding a baby.

So far, so good.

I'd combined it with a sage-green bill-cap with a horned Green Man badge on front.

Well: that's bearable, especially if the cap is worn bill-back. This could even pass for witty, in a witchy kind of way: a tribute to the god of the witches, with his Two Faces, fore and aft.

Yes, but over my shoulder I'd thrown a cloth bag with yet another Green Man printed on it. Two makes a point; three belabors it.

In poetry, unless you're an Anglo-Saxon scop (which I'm not), two alliterations per line is acceptable; three, though, is too many. (Yet another reason why Crowley's poetry stinks.)

In short, I'd become the pagan equivalent of the guy who wears around his neck a cross big enough (were one so inclined) to crucify a toad on.

Who wants to be that guy?

I went back in and traded the Green Man bag for something plainer.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Dance of the Green Men

In the clearing, the drums throb.

Suddenly he's here among us, the Green Man: stark naked, green all over, shockingly green. The green leaves of his crown, his wristlets, his anklets, rustle as he dances.

Then there's another, a second, dancing among us. The two Green Men meet, dance together, and spring apart again, laughing.

From the woods, more hooting laughter. A third Green Man leaps into our midst, then a Fourth, but this one's a Green Woman. Her green breasts bob as she dances.

The Green Ones join hands, circling the fire. Then they peel off outwards and suddenly we're all dancing, dancing with the Green.

What, after all, is life but a dance with the Green Man?

Our dance reaches its thunderous climax. Suddenly, they're gone. The drums crash to a halt.

From the woods, one final hooting peal of laughter, mocking, fades into the distance.

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