The Green Man of Carlisle

And just who is The Green Man of Carlisle?

Peering from behind tendrils of foliage, The Green Man watches the comings and goings of those passing by on Carlisle streets. Hopefully, he is wishing us well.

What does The Green Man look like? As varied as the personalities who created, and continue to create, him. The image can be grotesque to ward off evil; with vegetation exuding from the mouth, ears, nose or eyes to encircle the face. Other images, like those in Carlisle, are fatherly and friendly. No matter the depiction, foliage is an integral part of his make-up. Mostly carved in stone or wood, The Green Man of Carlisle is in iron.

Who is The Green Man? Where did he come from? One of history’s mysteries yet to be solved, he dates back 1000s of years and is found around the world by various names. The French called him “tete de feuilles” (head of leaves) and the Germans called him “blattmaske” (leaf mask). He can be linked to the Egyptian God Osiris, the Sumerian Tammuz, the Celtic God Kernunnos, and the Babylonian Dimuzzi. He can be found in the folk lore characters of Jack-in-the-Green, Robin Hood, John Barleycorn, The King of the May, The Green Knight of King Arthur’s realm, Pan, the Oak and Holly King, the Burry Man of Edinburgh, the Celtic Lugh, the Leaf Men of Switzerland, and even Father Christmas. (Just to mention a few.)

He was dubbed The Green Man in 1939 when Lady Raglan was intrigued by all the links.

What does The Green Man stand for? No matter his name or place, The Green Man represents the natural cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth as seen in winter giving way to spring and the cycle beginning again. He is the protector of the earth; the caretaker of nature. His signature is foliage.

Where can The Green Man be found? The earliest images to date are from Classical Rome in the 2nd century AD, on Christian gravestones of the 4th century, and in Celtic art before the Roman conquest of Gaul. One can especially find his image in the medieval churches and cathedrals of Great Britain from the 12th to the 16th centuries. And in America, he can be found in the decorative motifs of the Victorian Era and present day new age art. He seems to be everywhere – once you recognize him!

Where is The Green Man in Carlisle? There are some 2 dozen images in Carlisle’s original 1751 grid bordered by North, South, East, and West streets. They are waiting for you to find them. Wherever you find him, who ever he is, and for whatever reason he is among us, you’re sure to find him a haunting enchanter.

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