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The origins of the Green Man (also known as Jack in the Green) lie in the pre-Christian worlds of the Celts and Ancient Greeks. The (usually male) head, face or mask is foliate - characterised by leaves or foliage - and a common decorative motif in churches and cathedrals. Many of the existing wood or stone carvings date from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Green Man at Hastings Jack in the Green festival in East Sussex on May Day [thanks to John Davey]

The Green Man image can be both beautiful and sinister but usually it is taken to represent fertility, renewal and rebirth and is associated with Spring time.

The Jack in the Green festival held in Hastings (East Sussex) every May Day is a major event celebrating the Green Man and the triumph of Spring time over Winter.

Suggested further reading:

Green Man, William Anderson, Harper Collins (1990) has a useful bibliography and includes colour as well as black and white pictures.

The Green Man, Kathleen Basford, Boydell (1998) has an excellent black and white picture library of Green Man images and short, but informative text.