Green Man Mythology
Author: Shirlyn Cheade
The Green Man of myth is in many ways very similar to the Green Man of the Wheel of Time (WoT) universe. But before going into the specifics, first a little bit about the Green Man of our real life (RL) universe.
The Green Man is an archetypal figure signifying irrepressible life (Anderson 14). He is also a composite image, of man and plant, therefore a union of humanity and the vegetable world, and he knows and tells us the secrets of Nature. Generally he is seen in medieval cathedrals, however, his origins are further back in Pagan times. He is actually a representation of the God and was later absorbed into Christian art as Catholic peasants kept alive the spirit of the Green Man. In fact, today, there are still rituals and festivals in which the spirit of the Green Man is celebrated. One of which takes place in Hastings, on the English Channel, every year (Anderson 9).
The Green Man is known by other names as well. He is known as Jack in the Green, associated with Robin Hood (Robin Wood), and associated with many aspects of the God. He is seen in the Gods of many different cultures, including but not limited to: Cernnunos, Herne the Hunter, Osiris, Khidir, Adonis, and Dionysos. All these Gods are linked in some way with the idea of death and rebirth. The Green Man always brings birth from death, a never ending cycle. It is for this reason that he is linked to the Ouroborus. This symbol is that of a snake biting its tail, in a never ending cycle.
In the WoT universe, the Ouroborous symbol is associated with Aes Sedai. It is the ring that each Accepted is presented with when she passes her test. In RL mythology, "the Ourobourus is the 'Great Round,' the serpent devouring its tail contains within itself the created universe, the Male and Female principles" (Anderson 21). This is especially important to the WoT, considering the Green Man of the WoT is Someshta, the last Nym. the Nym were a "construct [that had] the ability to utilize the One Power for the benefit of plants and growing things (Jordan 31). The Nym were created during the Age of Legends (AoL) to help with crop growing. They, along with the Ogier and the Dai'shain Aiel would participate in an activity called 'seed singing,' thereby helping the crops to grow just after they were planted. In any creation of such a construct, including the chora trees (the only surviving specimen is the Avendesora, or 'tree of life') both parts of the Power, saidar and saidin, were used. This is the union of opposites, male and female.
To continue the discussion of the Ourobourus, it is said that the world island appears within it, with the sacred tree growing from the center. From this union of the Sky God and Earth Mother (two opposites), a young god is born who is "perpetually sacrificed, who decends to the underworld, and perpetually is reborn" (Anderson 21). This young god is the Green Man, who is, as said before, a facet of the Great God. However, if you take the Arthurian legend as a Christianized version of a Pagan tale, and see the Dragon/Dragon Reborn as Arthur (see other essay), the young god in this case could be the Dragon/Reborn. This is especially pertinent, considering another associated archetype is that of the snake, often appearing winged, making it a dragon. Green Man of the WoT (here after referred to by name, Someshta) is also heavily associated with the Dragon Reborn (Rand).
Someshta guarded the Eye of the World, a pool of pure saidin, possibly there solely for Moiraine), and the need to find him had to be great enough. The Land of Enchantment where the Green Man of RL myth lives is a strange place, full of enchantments, free of ordianry conventions and the restraints of time and space, very similar to Someshta's garden in the WoT.
So, in summary, we see that the Green Man of legend and Someshta, the Green Man of the WoT, are very similar.
Both are associated:
- with the Ouroborous. Someshta through being a Nym, and hence created by Aes Sedai, and the Green Man through the Ouroborous's symbolism of bringing death from life.
- with the snake or dragon. Someshta is associated with Rand, the Dragon Reborn, since they met and Somesheta was guarding the Eye of the World. The Green Man is associated, once again through death and rebirth, since a snake sheds its skin to renew itself.
- with renewal and rebirth. Someshta renews the plants around him. The Green Man is continually sacrificed and reborn in the wheel of the year, being born in the spring, and dying in the fall with the end if summer.
- with enchanted gardens. Someshta's garden was enchanted because it moved with him, as well as being green and new in a land of corruption and death. In RL mythology, the Green Man lives in such a garden, where time has no meaning, and is free of ordinary conventions. (Anderson 32).
- with the sacred tree. Someshta is connected in two possible ways. The sacred tree could be the giant tree that marks his grave, or with Avendesora, a chora tree, called the tree of life, through mutual origins. The Green Man is also linked to the sacred tree, since this tree is an agent of metamorphoses when the tree is transformed into human or divine form. (Anderson 23). Particularly significant when we condsider the very form of the Green Man is a man made of vegetation.
In these ways Someshta and the Green Man are very similar.
One final interesting note. In the WoT universe, the Someshta, the Green Man, is dead, with a giant tree marking his grave. It can be argued that the Green Man in real life is also dead, with companies exploiting the environment, and governments stepping back and allowing them to do so. It is the authors firm belief that we should try to revive the Green Man through increased environmentalism and decreased apathy to Nature, before it is too late to save Mother Earth.
- Anderson, William. Green Man: The Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth. London: Harper Collins. 1990.
- Jordan, Robert & Teresa Patterson. The World of Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time". New York: Tor. 1997.