EXPLORE GREEN MEN
By Mercia MacDermott, published by Explore Books (Heart of Albion Press) at £9.95. 206pp. ISBN: 1-872883-66-4. (Reviewed by David Taylor)
In this new study of that most enigmatic figure, the Green Man, Mercia McDermott follows the green man back from the previous earliest known examples into its unrecognised origins in India about 2,300 years ago. The Guardian described this book as "A friendly and intriguing work of architectural scholarship), (what the Guardian made of its folkloric and historic research is not mentioned!) but don't despair – WD readers will find much of interest here!
The book begins by examining the pagan imagery associated with the Green Man before going onto the Victorian Gothic Revival, Baroque, Rococco and Italianate revivals and to their heyday in the Gothic and supposed origins in the Romanesque.
Mercia also examines the popular (and not so popular!) associations of the Green Man with Robin Hood, Jack-in-the-Green, woodwose, Baphomet and the Sufi Al-Khidr. What she must be congratulated for is the depth of her research, examining the Green Man from perspectives that are both new and surprising. Associations made in the past with the Knights Templar, for example, are given short shrift. Surprisingly she is less dismissive of associations (made by myself and others) between Green Men and Christian heretics. What is particularly pleasing is the research into Green Men in India (although Mike Harding did hint at this in his own little book).
The book is lavishly illustrated with some great photographs by Ruth Wylie of many Green Men carvings that will not have been seen in print before. This is most welcome. There are a few old favourites missing, but on the whole this does not detract from the overall feel of the book.
Mercia is an academic, having read Russian at Oxford and going on to specialise in Bulgarian history and culture. Her style of writing is approachable, although one cannot but feel that she was advised to have a more 'reader-friendly' approach as this is obviously something she finds difficult.
This is the third in the 'Explore ….' books from good old Bob Trubshaw. It does not disappoint and is certainly destined to become a classic with Green Man explorers. A must have future classic!