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Green Man - A Knight with Father Christmas

Green Man – A Knight with Father Christmas

All Hail Green Man! This Druid primordial – as unruly and persistent as kudzu – defied centuries of Roman invaders and Christian missionaries.

He survived to appear on King Charles III’s coronation invitations, and also attend the ceremony, looking out from Westminster Abbey’s Choir Screen. In fact, Green Man as sculpture, looks down from many a cathedral column and civic entrance. With his face sprouting foliage, often spilling from his lips, the early Church didn’t erase, but indeed utilized, this pagan symbol.

Green Man – A Knight with Father Christmas

Resilient as “The Holly and the Ivy,” Green Man spread across Europe and Great Britain, growing from the tangled branches of vegetation/fertility gods, such as Cernunnos, Pan, Dionysus and Osiris. His offshoots include The Wild Man, Jack-in-the-Green, The Oak King and Holly King, John Barleycorn, Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, Robin Hood, and today’s Groot.

Beloved by tree-huggers and non-conformists, this Verdant Important Person is the raison d’etre for Green Man pubs and inns, festivals, May Day, Glastonbury’s vibe, men’s retreats, and Pagan Pride – as well as a guiding spirit for The Green Party, conservation, and organic farming.

And at Winter Solstice, dare I suggest that Green Man is also the wild and hidden heart of Father Christmas?

Green Man – A Knight with Father Christmas

The Mummers’ Dance

Our Santa is a combination of Odin traversing the skies, mushroom-sharing Shamans in red, a sainted Bishop from Myra, and a seasonal spokesman for Coca-Cola. In contrast, the earliest Father Christmas is decidedly Druid: a rather thin bearded elder cloaked in a green, bearing sprigs of holly, as he treads through a snow-swept forest. 

Green Man – A Knight with Father Christmas

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” Annie Lennox’s video (2010) portrays a Mummers’ procession of masked musicians, parading through the woods into a village square. The closing shot is a giant Father Christmas puppet swaying above the festivities, dressed in green and crowned with leaves and antlers. These branching horns trace Green Man’s link to the Celtic god Cernunnos, “God of the Green, Lord of the Forest,” a presence echoed by the art of Paleolithic hunting cultures. Cernunnos was associated with “The Winter Stag” or “The Gifting Stag” celebrated from December 14th to the 25th, as communal well-being relied on shared resources.

Green Man - A Knight with Father Christmas

“The Dickens, You Say?!”

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens (1843) deftly disguises Green Man as The Spirit of Christmas Present.

The Spirits intervening on Scrooge’s behalf are a study in contrasts: the tender nostalgia of the Past, the terrifying spectre of the Future, and the holly-crowned giant of the Present. This Spirit is best described as jovial – as in Jove or Jupiter, God and planet of wealth and expansion. (Under a 400-year occupation, Britainnia was well acquainted with Roman gods and practices.)

The Spirit of Christmas Present – enthroned, holly crowned, and surrounded by greenery - transforms Scrooge’s miserly room into Saturnalia. For early Celts, bringing the outside indoors signified The Lord of the Forest’s triumph over winter. In Pagan Germany, trees were decorated outside to lure back the spirits that inhabited them.

Dicken’s Spirit of Christmas Present upholds a torch, described as shaped like a cornucopia - the goat horn that nourished infant Jupiter. The torch also recalls  enlightenment-bearing gods. This disguised’ spirit of Green Man is surrounded by bounty: not by gold coins and jewels that divide men, but by heaps of food and drink to share, as any agrarian god would provide.

Green Man – A Knight with Father Christmas

Rebel With A Cause

With his flowing hair, beard, bare feet, and his chest exposed down to his green gown’s sash - The Dude Abides! Not to be confused with a bath-robed stoner, this Spirit’s bonhomie takes a serious turn, declaring how he’s a refuge from man’s inhumanity to man. The Spirit makes an impassioned protest against prisons and workhouses as a holding place for the poor, and gives dire warning about the future: symbolized by two children in rags – Ignorance and Want - who take shelter at his feet, protected by his robes.

Dicken’s writing was disparaged by critics of his time as “sullen socialism.”  The Spirit’s atmosphere of Saturnalia – the Roman December festivity that inverted social roles - implies the enslaved poor being elevated to the master’s status. Perhaps this coded Green Man’s wealth – nature’s restorative balance - could obliterate systemic poverty, classism and the evils of the Industrial Revolution.

Robin Hood & His Merry Men

This brings to mind another green rebel and social reformer, whose face peered through oak leaves, like “The Watcher” depicted in medieval churches. Robin Hood and his Merry Men, in forest camouflage, outwitted the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham’s cruel taxes. Robin Hood’s redistribution of wealth brings to mind The Gifting Stag or Father Christmas reaching into his bag. It’s said that Robin’s myth could be based on legends of outlawed Druids living in the woods.

The Younger Brother…

It’s remarkable how, of the three Spirits ministering to Scrooge, it’s the pagan who invokes the Nativity and Christian charity. In the original manuscript for “A Christmas Carol,” this green-clad Spirit refers to Christ as “my Eldest Brother.” This familial phrase doesn’t appear in the book, perhaps not to provoke the Anglican Church, or the readership. The idea of a Roman/Celtic Spirit being Christ’s less mature brother, indicates how Dicken’s theme of redemptive compassion affiliates spirituality past and present.

Green Man – A Knight with Father Christmas

And Christmas Party Crasher.

In addition to being an agent of social change, Green Man’s reputation as a bad@ss is confirmed by David Lowery’s “The Green Knight” (2021) - a retelling of the 14th century poem, “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight.” Despite many variations of this legend, what’s unequivocal is the Green Knight’s outrageous entrance, crashing King Arthur’s Christmas party.

This Round Table get-together is a dull and icy affair. Arthur and Guinevere are aged and ashen, the atmosphere is sepulchral, and the Knights’ oft-repeated tales are exhausted. The recently knighted Sir Gawain is asked to speak, but he’s devoid of insight or experience. Enter stage right: The Uninvited Guest on horseback - towering, regal and terrifying! His cragged, bark features are framed by horn-shaped branches, his beard is a mass of roots. He challenges Arthur’s knights to a game, whilst extending a holly bough and a battle-axe. The Green Knight sends Sir Gawain off on a quest of self-realization, as they’re destined to meet, in exactly a year’s time, to settle the score.

Green Man – A Knight with Father Christmas

Winning The Long Game

Essential to the Green Knight’s tale, is his immortality. To quote from Lowery’s film, the colour green is what’s left when all else dies. Castles and monuments are covered by moss, footprints are overgrown with grass, and weapons and coins succumb to verdigris.

This verity originates in Green Man’s myth. Whether he’s a fertility/vegetation god, a variant of Cernunnos, or arbiter of freedom and change, he has no need to compete with or subvert earthly power. He IS that power; he IS the cycle of growth, dissolution and rebirth. He is The Watcher who observes the rise and fall of empires, whilst winning the long game. The Green Man myth – with its assurance of continuance, of balance found in natural order, of cycles which transcend Time and circumstance - is the gift of wisdom and renewal.

Wishing You Abundant Green Blessings!


Green Man - The Crystal Wind Oracle

You can see Green Man in The Crystal Wind Oracle! 


About the Author:

Green Man Artwork and this text is Copyright 2023 Lisa Iris. Reprinted with written permission from Crystalwind.ca and Antonio DeLiberato, exclusive worldwide agents for Lisa Iris.
Lisa Iris is an artist and proprietress of MYTHOS Art and Counselling 289 High St., Fort Erie, ON. Her artwork is represented exclusively by crystalwind.ca and is featured in The Crystal Wind Oracle by Antonio DeLiberato.
Lisa enjoys opening her home to kindred spirits for conversation and for making magic happen.

Get The Crystal Wind Oracle Here!


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