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Who, or what, is the Green Man, and why is this medieval image so present in our precarious modern times?
An encounter with the Green Man at an ancient Herefordshire church in the wake of catastrophic weather leads Nina Lyon into an exploration of how the foliate heads of Norman stonemasons have evolved into today’s cult symbols.
The Green Man’s association with the pantheistic beliefs of Celtic Christianity and with contemporary neo-paganism, with the shamanic traditions of the Anglo-Saxons and as a figurehead for ecological movements, sees various paths crossing into a picture that reveals the hidden meanings of twenty-first-century Britain. Against a shifting backdrop of mountains, forests, rivers and stone circles, a cult of the Green Man emerges, manifesting itself in unexpected ways. Priests and philosophers, artists and shamans, morris dancers, folklorists and musicians offer stories about what the Green Man might mean and how he came into being. Meanwhile, in the woods, strange things are happening, from an overgrown Welsh railway line to leafy London suburbia.
Uprooted is a timely, beautifully written and joyfully provocative account of this most enduring and recognisable of Britain’s folk images.
What is most remarkable about Nina Lyon's stylish and eloquent book is the way she has mapped extraordinary things - ley lines, mythological figures, alchemy, magic - onto ordinary modern experience in a way that enhances in both directions . . . [it] is a major triumph which enables you to see the unfamiliar with new eyes.
This quirky but engaging book describes Lyon's quest to track down as many examples of the [Green Man] as she can, on a journey that takes her from a Herefordshire church and Avebury in Wiltshire to the Black Forest, and from Gawain and the Green Knight to various festivals, meeting hippies and morris dancers along the way . . . Lyon is a witty and insightful writer and her account is infused with a self-deprecating charm.
It is an unusual, digressive and timely piece of writing that pulls on many threads . . . But just as the meaning of the Green Man hides behind the foliage that sprouts from his mouth and eye sockets, it turns out that the true purpose of Uprooted is also hiding in the undergrowth, waiting to be discovered.
Not only is it wonderful - sharp and beguiling and stuffed with the beginnings of tangents - but reading it together with my partner has been the strangest thing; an almost continuous sense of weird brought on by finding a book containing the same thoughts she and I have been discussing for a while.
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