Gods of the Vine
By Patti Wigington
Grapes. They’re everywhere in the fall, so it’s no surprise that the Mabon season is a popular time to celebrate winemaking, and deities connected to the growth of the vine. Whether you see him as Bacchus, Dionysus, the Green Man, or some other vegetative god, the god of the vine is a key archetype in harvest celebrations.
The Greek Dionysus was representative of the grapes in the vineyards, and of course the wine that they created. As such, he gained a bit of a reputation as a party-hardy kind of god, and his followers were typically seen as a debauched and drunken lot. However, before he was a party god, Dionysus was originally a god of trees and the forest. He was often portrayed with leaves growing out of his face, similar to later depictions of the Green Man. Farmers offered prayers to Dionysus to make their orchards grow, and he is often credited with the invention of the plow.
In Roman legend, Bacchus stepped in for Dionysus, and earned the title of party god. In fact, a drunken orgy is still called a bacchanalia, and for good reason. Devotees of Bacchus whipped themselves into a frenzy of intoxication, and in the spring Roman women attended secret ceremonies in his name. Bacchus was associated with fertility, wine and grapes, as well as sexual free-for-alls. Although Bacchus is often linked with Beltane and the greening of spring, because of his connection to wine and grapes he is also a deity of the harvest.
In medieval times, the image of the Green Man appeared. He is typically a male face peering out from the leaves, surrounded by ivy or grapes. Tales of the Green Man have overlapped through time, so that in his many aspects he is also Puck of the MidSummer forest, Herne the Hunter, Cernunnos, the Oak King, John Barleycorn, Jack in the Green, and even Robin Hood. The spirit of the Green Man is everywhere in nature at the time of the harvest — as leaves fall down around you outside, imagine the Green Man laughing at you from his hiding place within the woods!
A Green Man State of Mind
One of the most well-known and widespread Pagan God images is the Green Man, also known as Jack-in-the-Green or The Man in the Oak. Let’s talk about ways to bring the spirit of Green Man into your life to help enhance growth, prosperity and abundance.
Deep down, I think humans understand that our personal abundance and prosperity depends on the fruitfulness of the earth. Even these days when we’ve covered half the earth with concrete, this truth still holds true. That must be why the foliate Green Man has been so prevalent through time as an ornament and even was carried over into church décor in medieval churches — because deep down, we know we need him, no matter what.
Green Man is a generous spirit. When working with him, showing generosity of your own will get his attention and bring his spirit into your life. Obviously, Green Man also is more likely to be joyous to share energy with people who care for the environment; he’s about growth, renewal and life. If you’re going to be working magick with Green Man, don’t be chucking your fast-food trash out your car window. Anything that you can do for the environment — even something small — will help to show the spirit of Green Man that you’re genuine and will help get your energies aligned with the energies of the green earth. Get a stainless steel water bottle to replaced your bottled water. How about offering your favorite tree some fertilizer? Respect for all living things is another great way to connect with this leafy spirit — catch a spider and release it outside instead of squashing it.
While at the garden center, if you see a potted plant knocked over, pick it up and scoop the soil back into the pot. Try donating your old clothese instead of throwing them away. You get the idea Generosity toward others and the environment are the kinds of things that Green Man smiles upon.
Now you are working in alignment with Green Man energy, and you’re ready to start working with him magickally to bring prosperity, abundance, and renewal into your life.
The Green Man: Spirit of Abundance
By Mickie Mueller
Llewellyn’s 2012 Magical Almanac
The Green Man, Spirit of the Forest
The Green Man embodies the spirit of the fertile forest.
For our ancient ancestors, many spirits and deities were associated with nature, wildlife, and plant growth. After all, if you had just spent the winter starving and freezing, when spring arrived it was certainly time to give thanks to whatever spirits watched over your tribe. The spring season, particularly around Beltane, is typically tied to a number of pre-Christian nature spirits. Many of these are similar in origin and characteristics, but tend to vary based on region and language. In English folklore, few characters stand out — or are as recognizable — as the Green Man.
Strongly connected to Jack in the Green and the May King, as well as John Barleycorn during the fall harvest, the figure known as the Green Man is a god of vegetation and plant life. He symbolizes the life that is found in the natural plant world, and in the earth itself. Consider, for a moment, the forest. In the British Isles, the forests a thousand years ago were vast, spreading for miles and miles, farther than the eye could see. Because of the sheer size, the forest could be a dark and scary place.
However, it was also a place you had to enter, whether you wanted to or not, because it provided meat for hunting, plants for eating, and wood for burning and building. In the winter, the forest must have seemed quite dead and desolate… but in the spring, it returned to life. It would be logical for early peoples to have applied some sort of spiritual aspect to the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Folklorist James Frazer associates the Green Man with May Day celebrations, and with the character of Jack in the Green, who is a more modern adaptation of the Green Man. Jack is a more specifically defined version of the nature spirit than the earlier Green Man archetype. Frazer speculates that while some form of the Green Man was probably present in a variety of separate early cultures, he developed independently into a variety of newer, more modern characters. This would explain why in some areas he is Jack, while in others he is Robin of the Hood, or Herne the Hunter in different parts of England. Likewise, other, non-British cultures seem to have similar nature deities.
The Green Man is typically portrayed as a human face surrounded by dense foliage. Such images appear as far back as the eleventh century, in church carvings. As Christianity spread, the Green Man went into hiding, with stonemasons leaving secret images of his face around cathedrals and churches. He enjoyed a revival during the Victorian era, when he became popular with architects, who used his visage as a decorative aspect in buildings.
Legends connected to the archetype of the Green Man are everywhere. In the Arthurian legend, the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a prime example. The Green Knight represents the pre-Christian nature religion of the British Isles. Although he originally confronts Gawain as an enemy, the two later are able to work together – perhaps a metaphor for the assimilation of British Paganism with the new Christian theology. Many scholars also suggest that the tales of Robin Hood evolved from Green Man mythology. Allusions to the Green Man can even be found in J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan – an eternally youthful boy, dressed in green and living in the forest with the wild animals. Today, some traditions of Wicca interpret the Green Man as an aspect of the Horned God, Cernunnos.