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Green Man lecture report - Dr Geoff Doel

On Wednesday 16th November Dr Geoff Doel gave an interesting, well illustrated talk on the ?Green Man’. These images of heads with foliage coming out of their mouths and eyes are found in many places, even in Bexhill – look above the doorway of the Bell Hotel in the Old Town. Some of the very first are from Trier Cathedral in the 3rd century and from Poitiers a little later. After an apparent gap they started to appear in Britain in Norman times, mainly in churches as far afield as St Magnus Cathedral in the Orkneys.

 

Although many of the early faces look very wild or drunk the Green Man does not seem to pre-date Christianity. They are not thought to be Celtic in origin. Many were carved into ceiling bosses, pew ends, misericords and beams and could thus be described as ?brown men’! A few even look like ?green women’ having more delicate features. We were shown very many fascinating images form the hundreds which can be found over a very wide area.

 

The links to some of the festivals which still take place featuring a ?green man’ were described. In some they have a garland king completely covered in foliage, a custom adopted in Hastings for their relatively recently introduced Jack in the Green festival.

 

Despite much learned research and discussion the true origin of the Green Man and his significance remains a mystery.

 

The next museum lecture is on October 30th at 2.30 pm in the St Augustine’s Hall. Janet Pennington will give a talk very appropriate to the season on ?Witches, Warlocks and Wellingtons – Ritual Protection of the Home’. Entrance is £4 ( £3 for members) and includes refreshments.
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