The depictions of the Green Man are so varied, showing humor, fierceness, anger, joy, and every emotion in between. It would seem that our ancestors actually saw him in the woods. He invites us to look for him, to get out into nature and relate to the playfulness and wisdom in the natural world. Sometimes, when I have been walking in woods, a movement flickers in the corner of my eye and I know that something or someone has slipped from tree to tree, daring me to catch an actual glimpse. I love this hide and seek of forest creatures, be they Green Men, wee folk, or fairies, and it makes me want to feel into their world. Can you see the faces in this wooded scene?
There is a tradition in Ireland about the Green Man and the yearly cycle of growing. At Samhain (October 31), when the growing cycle is over and all goes dormant on the land, the Green Man descends into the underworld to rejuvenate in stillness. During his months in the earth his roots grow down into Mother Earth and his antlers grow up. Both outcroppings serve the same function –to connect him to the power and wisdom of earth energy. He stays in the underworld until Beltane (May 1), when he explodes onto the land as the god, Cernunnos – virile, strong, antlered and ready to participate in the fertility of the entire natural world. He pursues and mates with the Queen of the May and a new cycle of growth begins. Now, in December, he is in deep meditation in the underworld. We can use this time of the calendar, quiet wintertime, to also go deep within to gain strength for our own next creation.
The Green Man is the bridge between wild nature and the face of humanity, with quite a bit of his energy on the wild side. In stories from antiquity he is related to wine, brewing of spirits, sexual excess, and other physical pleasures. This is not a civilized archetype. In our world of jobs, internet, traffic snarls, and schedules, most of us long for a bit more wildness. The Green Man tells us to risk a bit more, be outrageous a bit more, go for a dream a bit more, let yourself enjoy physical pleasure a bit more. Go ahead and let yourself dip into your primal nature, along with the Green Man, and enjoy your life on earth, with all its deliciousness. This life lasts for a countable number of precious seasons, and the Green Man encourages us to enjoy all that earthly life and our physical bodies have to offer our soul. I agree!