9 Feb 2010

The Green Men of Rosslyn

Thanks to books like the preposterous "Da Vinci Code," Rossyln Chapel in Midlothian, Scotland, is now a well-known site, associated with freemasonry, the Knights Templar, and a load of other mumbo-jumbo, but, setting all this nonsense aside, it is also home to a remarkable collection of Green Men, the ancient pagan symbol of fertility and rebirth that runs through British culture.

There are said to be in excess of 110 Green Men throughout the 15th-century chapel, many of them of very high quality. Depictions of the Green Man normally show a human head enmeshed in foliage, often with branches or vines sprouting from the mouth.

Older versions, like the one in the picture, often seem designed to scare. Perhaps, like church gargoyles, they were intended to repel evil spirits, or simply to warn Christians of the supposed dangers of paganism. Through the centuries, the Green Man has become increasingly human. At present his popularity seems bolstered by the fad for ecology.

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