Monday, 26 March 2012

Verdi Cries *

      Deep, deep in the wildwood, something is stirring. It moves, almost silently, through the forest, only a faint rustle of a dry leaf betraying the movement. You feel the approach rather than hear it. Hairs rise on your neck and a cold shiver spills down your spine. The breeze carries a scent so dark that you barely catch it. It is the smell of deep water, the smell of wild animal, the smell of old, old leaves. Another rustle, then silence again. The scent becomes a taste - raw meat, maybe, or rusting iron. It is faint, it comes then it is gone. The wind disturbs the tree tops behind you. You turn, confused, realise your mistake and turn back. A shadow in the distance, glimpsed between the branches, moves then vanishes. It is too quiet now. No birds are singing here. No bees bumble or buzz. And then you see gleam, two lights in the darkness, not bright like coals but faint as the moonlight through evening clouds. They are eyes, not just watching you, but looking into you, seeing inside you. There is not a moment when the face appears, you realise it has always been there, in the leaves, one with them. He is the wood, the leaves, the forest. He is the Green Man.

The Green Man has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I use the word 'fascinate' deliberately. We use the word now in the sense of 'to delight, to attract', but it comes through Latin and means 'to charm, to bewitch', possibly from a Thracian word meaning 'to say', with links to English enchant (chant as in 'say repeatedly') or German besprechen - 'charm'  with its link to sprechen - 'to say or speak'. Spells are said, or chanted. The Green Man is an enchanter - he is fascinating.

No one can say when he first appeared, but he seems to date from about the first century, in Roman art, spreading across the Empire during the next century. He may have been a male equivalent of the female Medusa, his locks of hair tumbling into snakes, and then slowly turning into leaves and tendrils. It is tempting to see a link with the vine-leaf masks of the followers of Dionysus, god of  wine. The Green Man appears more and more in medieval Europe, his face peering down in churches, cathedrals and chapels. For some, he is the eternal male, the life-force, the growth-spurt of rebirth in Spring as the leaves return to the trees. For some, he is the trickster, a shady, untrustworthy character, he is Puck or Robin Goodfellow. For others, he is the old pagan god, here long before other gods arrived from the East, brother of the Horned god and the Moon goddess, Cernunnos or maybe Viridios. And for others, he is simply the name of the pub.

The Green Man was the obvious choice (to me) for the cushion covers. They were £4.99 each online, and I bought four.

I like the slightly sinister look of the trinket box. These are sold to the woo-merchants as Tarot boxes, for £8.99 with £2.75 p&p. The sides are nice too.

The last Green Man, for today, came from downstairs - he's grinned at me for years, and he's a benign balance to the previous one. I paid £12 for him a long time ago. I have more, and some may find their way to the study later.

* Verdi Cries - The final track on 10,000 Maniacs'  1989 In My Tribe album. Beautiful. In English, Verdi would be Mr Green.

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