(11/14/01 9:47:54 am)
| The Greenman|
I went to a lecture the other night given by John Matthews promoting his latest book "The Quest for the Green Man". *Quest* seems to be the operative word when it comes to this archetype.
I am fascinated by the Greenman and his other guises, but the more I read about him, the more diffuse he seems to become. Anything that it even remotely sylvan seems to be lumped into the Greenman category... I know his origins are pre-historic so that we don't really have anything definative on his *real* meaning or iconography, but I would like a little more EX-clusive understanding of this archetype.
I've read a bit of this John Matthews book, Clive Hicks, Robert Graves - as well as numerous articles (I enjoyed the Endicott one by Terri) and references, and they all seem hugely inclusive, rather than exclusive. The Greenman seems to me to be rather more than just the spirit of nature personified, and all the different aspects that get associated with him from Dionysus to Robin Hood are interesting, but don't quite fit into a whole composite for me... Why is our understanding of this image so broad that all things vegetative are thrown in under his umbrella? Why is his image so prolific especially in Christian churches and cathedrals thorughout Europe (I think the 'resurrection' theme is an afterthought to try to 'justify' his presence)? Why is he still so omnipresent even now? One thing that Matthews said is that once you start looking for him, he is everywhere - and that is true. There are foliate heads all over the older buildings in Seattle. I took pictures of them this summer when we were visiting Philadelphia - it's not just an *old* tradition, nor a nod to the more modern ecological movement.
This is probably not something that is completely 'knowable' - but I was interested in anyone's thoughts on the subject...
Oh - and congratulations to Charles - I just picked up a copy of Spectrum 8. It was fun to see your Greenman images in it. :-)
(11/14/01 11:25:13 am)
| about that green man...|
Well the best book that I've read on the subject is still William Anderson's GREEN MAN, The archetype of Our Oneness With the Earth published by Harper Collins (1990) and filled with wonderful photographs by Clive Hicks. The text and photos are wide ranging as well as authoritative, exploring the stylistic changes that have been brought to this icon over the centuries. Can't reccomend this one enough and I believe it's still in print.
In fact this book is why I named my self publishing effort what I did. I had just decided to begin printing my own efforts and was looking around for a proper name. In the space of one week, three different packages arrived from people I'd never meet but were familiar with my work. Each package contained a copy of the Anderson Green Man book with a note inclosed saying, "I thought you might like this book"!!! I quickly bowed to destiny or fate or whatever and choose the name Green Man Press.
I've read John Matthew's earlier book, ROBIN HOOD, Green Lord of the Wildwood (Gothic Image Publications) but not this latest one and while some of it was interesting it seemed as if Matthew's too often was letting his own rather mystical/new agey beliefs to over much influence the folklore that he was writing about.Too much wish fullfillment and not enough hard evidence.
But that being said there is so little hard evidence to sight when it comes to this archetype that one can, very easily, overlay ones own personal belief system and make of it what you will.
I know that I've got a lot more personal green man imagery to get down onto paper as of yet.
(11/15/01 3:20:05 am)
| Roslyn Chapel|
And if you want to overdose on greenman images, the place to start--and end--is Scotland's border country at Roslyn Chapel. Astonishing images in stone and wood throughout the chapel. It is known as the place with more greenmen than any place else in the world.
We have been twice, and it is still on our let's-go-back-again list.
(11/15/01 7:17:35 am)
| The Greenman|
Tara, I think the problem here is that know one really knows what the foliate head represented, precisely, in ancient times -- or why the image proliferated under Christianity. It's all speculative. Calling foliate head imagery "The Greenman" only dates back to the 19th century, when folklorists began to associate the image with greenman/jack-in-the-green lore...and while it's plausible to do this, it too is merely speculative. So in modern times, the greenman has come to represent -- as you point out -- a large sweep of nature lore, whereas in ancient times he may have represented one very specific thing. When I use the imagery (as in the anthology Ellen Datlow and I have just edited for Viking: The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, illustrated by Charles Vess), I use it in the modern, inclusive sense, complete with its modern ecological overtones. But it would indeed be fascinating to know what the precise ancient symbology is here. The William Andersen book has the most reliable history of the image I know of. I wish someone would do an equally thorough book on the greenwoman/sheela-na-gig image.
(11/15/01 8:56:14 am)
| Re: The Greenman|
Thanks all for the thoughts. I think you are right - about the unknowing-ness of this topic! :-) It draws me non-the-less.
I DID recently pick up the William Anderson/Clive Hicks book - have mostly just skimmed and looked at pictures. It will go near the top of my stack-to-read books.
Charles - I agree with your assessment of John (and Caitlin) Matthews. I usually avoid their stuff - but the book LOOKS pretty - nice glossy paper and colored photos. And since he was in-town, I thought I'd see if there was any more *umph* to it in person... (nope).
Terri - When does your Greenman book come out? Anxiously awaiting! And don't we know almost less about sheela-na-gig than the greenman? Well, maybe not - there's not as many images of her, but they are a little less ambiguous in intent, I think. :-) The whole theme of nature personified as distinct from Mother Earth/Gaia herself I find thought provoking.
AND! ta-da.... My web site is now viewable. There's still some details that need finishing up - (and some other artwork to get shot so that it can be added), but there's enough there to give you the general idea. I have one of my greenman images in the fantasty section. Anyway - you can let me know what you think (and let me know if anything doesn't work). It's not earth-shattering stuff, but my most current personal work is in a direction I'm liking.
Edited by: Heidi Anne Heiner at: 11/16/01 9:02:04 am
(11/16/01 6:04:35 am)
| Re: The Greenman|
Tara: Is the web site up yet? I just tried the URL above, and it wasn't working...
Yes, information on the sheela-na-gig is even harder to find than than on the green man, making her all the more intriguing. Her imagery is less pervasive than her male counterparts, probably for a number of reasons. One is that she's so much more overtly sexual -- it's hard to adapt the image of a woman birthing leaves out of her vulva into a purely decorative item. Another is that there's evidence that a number of sheela-na-gig images on or near churches, particularly in Ireland, were destroyed in the 19th century. There have been comparisons between sheela-na-gig and the yoni figures of India. They share the trait that it's customary to lick ones finger and touch the vulva for luck.
(11/16/01 9:03:28 am)
| Re: The Greenman|
I just edited Tara's entry to correct the URL of her site. There
was an extra "t" in http which was making it not work.
The site is up and quite nice. Congrats, Tara! It is wonderful to see your work.
Kerrie, be sure to look at the masks under Tara's fantasy section. She has inspired me to want to make some, too. Alas, with Thanksgiving and parents arriving this week, the urge will have to wait...
Edited by: Heidi Anne Heiner at: 11/16/01 9:10:47 am
(11/16/01 9:11:45 am)
| About getting to Tara's web site...
Tara, Terri and others the reason we can't get to your site using
that addy is that you put 3 ttt's in your address (htttp://www.taralarsenchang.com)
when it should read:www.taralarsenchang.com
Or just use this link, it should work.
Very nice work. I'm still stuggling with my deadly deadline so I haven't been able to explore as much as I would like.
I was just sent this link to yet another contemporary fairy artist, young but he's learning.
(11/17/01 5:55:29 am)
| Re: About getting to Tara's web site...|
Tara, we get to see your work at last! It's a great site, and a wonderful range of work. I love your animals, your Ogham alphabet, your experimental pieces especially -- though it's all lovely. My very favorite piece of all is "The Friendly Beasts"!
Edited by: Terri at: 11/17/01 5:56:06 am
(11/17/01 9:43:11 am)
Thanks for the very nice comments on my work/site. I was a bit hestitant to post it at all - considering the company on this board. I am so very much a part-time artist - what with kids and fam and teaching and all. It's only been the last couple of years that I have been able to start devoting any serious time to it and still feel very much a baby art-wise. I'm passionate about it, and have a difficult time having my work and facility actually reflect what I feel and envision... One of my comforting things is my collection of early illustrations of artists I admire (and their early stuff was obviously EARLY...) Gives me hope...
Anyway - you will now at least have a reference point when I refer to what I'm working on...