Walking with the Green Man

The world is dying.

It’s okay.  It needs to.

Everything dies, and eventually, is born again.

In my particular patch of the world the earliest signs have been visible for the last several weeks.  The Summer blossoms are failing, few more leaves crunch underfoot, and there is a certain crispness to the air in the early mornings.

Looking at the calendar (does anyone look at calendars anymore), we will see that the Autumn Equinox is set for the end of this week.  By the calculations of the modern calendar, the Sun’s passage through the celestial equator marks the beginning of the Autumn season.

Yeah well, I’ve always thought that the modern calendar was a bit of an idiot.

Our ancestors would have told us that the Equinox is the very height of Autumn – the apex of the harvest season, which began back in August with the Celtic celebration of Lughnasadh.  Of course the ancients didn’t bother with rows of numbered squares printed on glossy paper to order their days.  They took their clues from the world around them: the movements of the heavens, the turning of the leaf, the movements of birds and animals in the wild.

And even these signs would likely only confirm what they already felt.

The living Earth, it’s pulse and patterns, these are things you may touch for yourself, if you reach deep enough, and if you remember how.

Sadly, most of us seem determined to ignore the natural world.  As a society, we have made it our common goal to do away with the seasons, to break away from the natural cycle of the Earth’s living and dying.  We gouge and syphon away at the deep places, processing and burning what we find there to artificially heat our world in the winter and cool it in the summer.  We light the night with glaring incandescence and then close our curtains on the light of day, only to bask our faces in the spectral glow of television and computer displays.

We see these things as achievements, as the victory of man over nature.

Never mind that we are part of nature, born of the natural world and subject to those same defeats.  As the old saying goes. “We cut off our nose to spite our face”.

I feel the same influences of course, the same culturally induced desire to disconnect from the natural.  The heat is my biggest weakness.  I absolutely loath the heat that comes with Texas summers, preferring to shelter the long days away in air-conditioned isolation.  Just lately, my refrigerator has become unwilling to refrigerate and my clothes dryer shuts itself down after only a few moments of operation.  Suddenly, I am appliance challenged, and I would be lying if I said that I did not miss the creature comforts which technology provides.

And yet…,

I drive to work with all the other lemmings.  I park my car in a sea of metal and asphalt and begin the slow plod toward the metal cube where I will spend my day fixing the technological marvels that drag our attention so efficiently away from the world around us.  Just another cog in the machine, turning – turning – turning…,

As I make my way across the parking lot, I take a detour.  There are islands of lush green grass there, marking the ends of the long rows of cars.  A tree grows in each of these islands and the air is sweet and fragrant within the reach of their twisting branches.

I have noticed that most people avoid these spots, aiming for a more direct approach to their destination.  Get in.  Get out.  On to the next stop, turning – turning – turning…,

I am in no hurry.  I divert my course toward the soft grass.  Ducking my head under the low branches I breathe as deeply as I may.  And if you watch me, if you see me there one day, you may notice how I hold my hands, first palms down toward the ground, and then grasping the air and pulling gently upward.

I am reaching down through the living earth.  Finding the life-force that pulses there and drawing as much of it into myself as possible, to sustain me in the hours ahead.  It is a tenuous connection at best.  It is harder and harder to find ‘the green’ within the city, but it’s still there, if you take the time to reach down far enough.

The world is dying.

It’s okay.  It needs to.

Everything dies, and eventually, is born again.

I sit at my desk, typing.  In the kitchen I hear the motor of the refrigerator wheeze into life, working to keep the little food still in there from spoiling.  I listen to it running with a certain foreboding.  When it clicks off again, it may be for the last time.  Or maybe it will be the time after that.  I’ll need to call for someone to come out and look at it soon, but my work schedule is unforgiving and money is tight.

Behind me, sits my altar.  On it’s surface rest the various objects of my spiritual practice.  Above it, I have stretched a wallhanging which I acquired on the tiny island of Inis Mór off the west coast of Ireland, depicting a Draoí (the Irish word for Druid – a representation of my spiritual ancestors).  Above even that, suspended at the highest point of the room and looking down upon it all, rests a carving of the Green Man.

Green Man

There are many conflicting beliefs and legends concerning the Green Man.  Many think of him as a modern representation of some woodland god, such as Cernunnos or Pan.  For others, he is the archetypal “wild man” of the woods, existing as a manifestation of the masculine ideal in nature.

For me, he is simply a convenient mask, a single “leafy” face to personify my spirituality.  He does not represent any particular god, but rather my relationship with the gods.  In his eyes I see the watchful gaze of the ancestors, and the spirits of the land, whom we (as a culture and a species) try so very hard to ignore and at our own peril.

When I perform my morning and evening devotionals, the Green Man is there, watching from both within and without.  When I step off of the baked pavement and onto the tender grass, when I reach down into the soil beneath or the branches above, it is his hand that I am seeking.  A touch that reassures me that I belong…, that WE belong to something bigger and older and truer than the metal and plastic world we have tinkered together for ourselves.

The world is dying.

It’s okay.  It needs to.

Everything dies, and eventually, is born again.

I can feel him looking at me from between leaves who’s edges are just beginning to tinge with brown and orange.  He is waiting for me to move from this spot, to get up from my typing and venture outside into the sun, where I can reach down and up and out.

The seasons are turning and it is time once again, to go walking with the Green Man.

6 Comments

Filed under Culture, Death, Holidays, Mythology, Nature, Religion, Spiritual Journey

6 responses to “Walking with the Green Man

  1. thalassa

    Reblogged this on Pagan Devotionals and commented:
    …beautiful!

  2. Wonderful explanation of this transitional point through the year. An yes, the calendar is a bit of an idiot.

  3. I feel what you write. I certainly commiserate with you on being financially challenged, as I am sure most do. Currently, I am more furniture-challenged than appliance-challenged, but I recognize where you are coming from. I am also glad to know that I am not the only one who thinks the calendar is foolish.

    Here in the backwoods of Vermont, there is also an odor that signals this season; an odor of decay. While the brilliant colors of foliage mesmerize some, that odor is a reminder of what is actually occurring. I think most people ignore it. This season also signals more relief from the heat than you probably get in Texas, but it also signals higher costs for heating.

    I enjoy living here because nature is relatively predominant, and the cycle of the seasons are very distinct. I truly understand your position on the artificial world that humankind has created; it is anything but natural. However, if you step back from this for a bit, you will see that the Earth is not dying. Although the world of humankind is dying, the Earth will continue.

    Oil is not the problem, either. Imagine the condition of our air and forests if over seven billion people still heated their homes and cooked with wood or coal fires. Oil was the solution if you go back and read about air quality in cities like London a couple of centuries ago. The problem is that we will run out of oil eventually. I will not argue that oil is a perfect solution, though; it is a limited solution.

    Imagine what kind of world we would have if people did not gather together in the artificial environments of urban hubs. Imagine how they could do this without the technology to import food from around the globe to sustain them all-year-round. Certainly the industrial-processed food is poisoning them, but it is better than starving and the pharmaceutical industry provides ample chemicals to counteract health problems from the food. Of course, there are some side-effects associated with the drugs.

    The faster the population grows, the faster we deplete our resources. It will not take as long to double the human population as it did to reach the seven billion mark, either. The world of humankind is not sustainable in its current form. Yes our artificial human world is dying, but the Earth will continue long afterward.

    • You mistake my meaning, I think. The world I speak of, which is dying, is the natural world. It dies every year. The Green Man sheds his leaves revealing a bare wooden skull which will be covered in new growth again come spring. Certainly our own efforts have made for an uphill battle against the blight of winter.

      Oil is certainly one of our problems, or a society which has made itself dependent upon oil (and coal) when other better options are readily available. And need I even mention the ongoing rape of the earth thru fracking?

  4. Isabeau D'anjou 1981

    and in my world it is spring equinox this weekend and all the beauty and hope that Ostara brings with new beginnings and reawakenings…

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