As some of you may know, it is currently the hockey playoffs and the Vancouver team is in the finals. I was with some friends while they were watching a game and all of a sudden the camera focused on these two guys covered from head to toe in bright green spandex. They call themselves the green men.
Apparently these two are supporters of Vancouver and show up to games and entertain/ taunt the players and crowd to support their team. Here is a video of an ESPN interview
Now you must be asking yourself… what do these two hockey geeks have to do with faeries? Well. As I have absolutely no interest in hockey, when I saw these guys the first thing I thought of was the Green Man.
Chances are you’ve seen this face already, it’s a pretty common sight.
There are hundreds if not thousands of variations and artistic interpretations, but it is essentially a face composed of or peeking out from a cluster of leaves.
The Green Man is a figure in the Celtic tradition that probably had some significant pagan meaning pre- Christian colonization, but has now been reduced to a fancy lawn ornament. The Green Man motif can be found inside of many old, famous cathedrals and churches, one of these being Exeter Cathedral in England. Here is a link to a page on their website dedicated to the many depictions of the Green Man http://www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk/history/greenmen.ashx
Though I’ve known of the Green Man for a long time, I was never 100% positive of it’s significance. As the origins of the symbol are lost I don’t feel too badly for my ignorance. As I was searching for some sort of reference to refer to in this post I found that not too many other people knew what it meant either, and few sites other than Wikipedia took any stabs at a description (Wikipedia focusing more on architectural relevance than mythological description). Even the several reference books I have on faeries and mythology in general, some focused specifically on Celtic mythology, seemed to leave the Green Man out of their collection of mythological figures. I finally found an entry in The Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes. In this book, the Green Man is explained to be the spirit of irrepressible life and the regenerative powers of nature. Think weeds growing out of rock or cement. It is also a symbol of decay, or of returning to the earth.
This face has always fascinated me. A face hidden in the foliage. There is a wonderful element of mystery and secrecy in magic and fantasy. A sense that there is something unknown, something to be discovered; which I adore. I have also always felt a strong connection to nature, and have always associated magical creatures like faeries with natural settings. Faeries turning into foxes, birds or bugs. Faeries living in trees and flowers or underground. Faeries always choosing nature to hide themselves in when humans are passing by. The two have always been connected in my mind. Even now when I pass by a small cluster of trees or walk through the woods, me being fantastically minded, half of my brain is looking for hidden faeries. For myself, the Green Man is just as valid and powerful a symbol for fantasy as is the dragon or the unicorn… with maybe a little more focus placed on the little people.