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Article ID: 8448
Age Group: Adult
Posted: May 1st. 2004
In Praise of Pagan Men
Speaking as a feminist and as a Pagan woman, I would like to say this: I like men. I like to flirt with them, I like to be around them, I like to knowing them as friends, I like working with them, and I like hearing their take on things. So it seems to me that Beltane -- a holiday that celebrates the Green Man - is a perfect time to celebrate the many great men in the Earthwise community.
It's been said that "Nine tenths of the Laws of Chivalry is the desire on the part of men to keep all the fun to themselves". While that may have been true in the past, our Pagan men have found a way to merge old world courtesy with modern equality. Anyone who's been to a Pagan event will know whereof I speak, and will appreciate these men for their gallantry and their sense of style.
Goddess knows, I like their sense of style. These guys are as comfortable wearing leather, silk or velvet as they are wearing blue jeans or a suit. I'm not taking just about the young, hunky guys, either; I happen to think that all men are handsome and that all women are beautiful. In fact, it's been said that I organize Pagan events just so I can see lots of men in costume. To that I answer, "Yea, verily." (Hey, I may be married, folks, but I'm not dead.)
I like these men because they're proud of who they are. They view themselves as people, and not just as wage earners or studs. I also love their honesty, their humor, and their hard won maturity. They treat both women and men with respect and they expect the same in return.
When these men choose to parent, I see them doing their very best to be nurturing, involved fathers. They are comfortable caring for children and they do a great job. Many of these men did not have wise or loving fathers themselves but they are determined to be the right kind of parent for their own kids, and to this I say, "Praise Be."
These men have no wish to live in some patriarchal past. They know that good men don't "help" with the housework; they simply do what's needed. In other words, they see themselves as equal partners. As a result, their lovers don't have to work the dreaded "Second Shift" (1) It's amazing what a great relationship people can have when they're not exhausted, angry, and bitter. The sex is better, too.
All women know that a man who does the laundry, actually sees the dirt and deals with it, and who knows how to cook is much sexier than the guy who brings flowers and jewels when he's courting, but who expects us to become his serving wench after the honeymoon is over. The first kind of man is cherished and his partner is the envy of all. The second kind is disrespected, nagged, and very often divorced. Pagan men know this. Many of them witnessed a dysfunctional relationship between their own parents and they want something healthier for themselves. And to this I say, "Praise Be." (2)
All of my men friends, whether they are heterosexual, gay, or bisexual, like and honor women. In turn, we Pagan women honor them. What matters to us is not how much money they make or what kind of car they drive. No, we want to be around men who are strong minded and kind. We want them to be happy, and we'll do what it takes to help them realize their dreams. It's amazing what kind of a relationship people can have when one of them isn't caught in a life littered with missed opportunities or locked into a job they hate because their partner expects a certain kind of lifestyle. If being Pagan means anything, it means we accept the responsibily for our own lives and have the courage to make our own choices. Even so, it's nice to have someone who believes in you, standing on the sidelines, cheering you on. These men do that for us, and we are happy to do the same for them.
Knowing men of such high quality can be a challenge, but I guarantee you this: you'll never be bored. If you know a man who loves life, who does his best at work (and who has interests outside of work) and if he is funny, smart and capable and honors your strength as well as his own, then you are blessed.
Such magikal beings may seem to exist only in myth but they are real enough in our community. I tend to think of these wonderful guys as "Green Men" because The Green Man (3) is such a positive male archetype.
William Anderson notes in his book Green Man that this image has existed in our culture for many thousands of years. The Green Man is most often portrayed as a human head in a leaf mask and as such it is often found carved on hunting weapons, pendants, horns and drinking vessels. We moderns know him mostly because the Gothic stone carvers (4) placed the Green Man on so many medieval places of worship. These heads were placed in thousands of churches and cathedrals throughout Europe in an area ranging all the way from Ireland to Russia. Most of these carvings can still be seen today.
Writers like Anderson and John Matthews (the author of Green Man: Spirit of Nature) have traced this archetype and they note that it appears many times in human history. We see him as Robin of the Wood, the Green Knight of Arthurian Legend, as the May King and the Summer Lord and as Cernunnos, the Celtic God of the Forest. The myth extends beyond Europe into Mesopotamia and Greece for he is related to Silbanus, the Roman God of the wood, Adonis, the beloved of Aphrodite and Dionysus the God of wine and wildness. He appears yet again as The Fool in the first Arcanum of the Tarot. Those of you who loved The Lord of the Rings will recognize the Green Man in the figure an Ent named Tree Beard. Ents are a race of beings (Tree Herders) who protect the forests they inhabit.
At its deepest level, the Green Man figure represents our kinship with trees and wood. He is both in the wood and of the wood. Herein he acts as hunter, provider, guardian, progenitor, and friend.
The Green Man is complex; he's gentle and strong, wise and foolish, divine and human. He stands for the power of the life force and he brings with him abundance and great joy. He is also a God of death and rebirth. Like Kali, he controls the powers of creation and destruction. He can teach us to understand the difficult paradox of a "good death" and warns against the curse of a wasted life. He understands pain, loss, letting go, sadness, change, and renewal; things we all experience at some point in our lives. Whether we mourn or whether we dance, we can call upon the Green Man.
This powerful image has recently become popular with the members of the modern ecology movement. Anderson notes:
Our remote ancestors said to their mother Earth, "We are yours."
Modern humanity has said to Nature, "You are mine."
The Green Man has returned as the living face of the whole earth
so that through his mouth we may say to the universe, "We are one."
Today I see many Pagan men (and women) wearing this symbol to events. Some wear it to honor the God and some to show that they are Green Witches, healers, or herbalists. It is also popular among those who are part of a Shamanistic tradition. The Green Man is a symbol honored by all who seek mystery and transformation in their lives. He can be found by anyone brave enough to venture into those dark woods and wild places inside our selves. To find the Green Man is to find a deeper meaning to our own life's story. To quote Oscar Wilde, "The final mystery is oneself". The Green Man knows this and is willing to point the way.
To be in touch with the Green Man is also to revel in the bacchanalian side of our nature. The ancient Greek's taught that we should all cut loose and go a little "mad" from time to time. They believed that this was essential for spiritual balance. But to view the Green Man only in that context is turn the Wild Wood into a Frat House. Let us not mistake the great God for a Lost Boy; he's the Green Man, not Peter Pan (and by the way, guys, none of us wants to be your "Wendy". She's right up there with Becky Thatcher in the Codependant Pantheon and, frankly, the role is no damn fun... .but I digress). Yes, the Green Man knows how to party, but he is also a wise leader, teacher, and guide.
True leadership is not as our culture would have it "power over" but rather "power with" and "power for". In T.H. White's book "The Once and Future King", King Arthur realizes early in his reign that many of Merlin's lessons have been about the use of power. The problem in Arthur's world is that "Might is right" and once he realizes that he designs his Round Table around the concept of "Might for right", and so changes history.
When I look at my male friends I see that they, too, are changing history. These men are harkening back to a much older and more profound male model, and in doing so they are changing what it means to be a man in this society. The personal (as we feminists have so often pointed out) is political. Change one aspect, and you can't help but change the other.
Women have worked for many years to make our own way back to strength, honor and balance so we know how hard this process can be. These days both men and women are traveling without a map and with no clear directions on how to proceed. But I firmly believe that if we support one another we can all get there, or rather, we can all get back there. As Gloria Steinem once said:
"The first problem, for all of us, is not to learn, but to unlearn."
So, if you know man within your Circle or circle of friends who you think is special, please take a moment and let him know that you appreciate him. Green Men are hard to find these days; let's honor the ones we know. (5)
Blessed Be to all our men this Beltane,
Biography: Sia is the Council Leader for Full Circle Events, a non-profit Neo-Pagan group which hosts events like the annual Beltane Ball. She can reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) In her book titled "The Second Shift", sociologist Arlie Hochschild takes us into the homes of two-career parents to observe what really goes on at the end of the "work day." Overwhelmingly, she discovers, it's the working mother who takes on the second shift.
Hochschild finds that men share housework equally with their wives in only twenty percent of dual-career families. While many women accept this inequity in order to keep peace, they tend to suffer from chronic exhaustion, low sex drive, and more frequent illness as a result. The ultimate cost is the forfeited health and happiness of both partners, and often the survival of the marriage itself.
(2) I'm not suggesting that partners have to do exactly the same tasks or that everyone has to work outside the home for their love to be a union of equals. What I am saying is that each relationship (whether it be lover, roommate or friend, poly, hetero, lesbian or gay) has to have a deep-seated feeling of equity between partners. If the burdens of daily life are seen by those in the relationship to be fairly shared amongst all parties, then it doesn't matter who cuts the grass. (It does matter if you don't know how to do laundry or if you "would just die" if they ever left you to fend for yourself. In such cases it's time to add some new skills to your toolbox).
(3) The first use of the term "Green Man" was by the distinguished anthropologist, Lady Raglan. Her article on the Green Man appeared in the magazine "Folk Lore" (vol. 50) in 1939. It is she who makes the connection among the various myths, the carvings, and Pagan ritual. Lady Raglan writes "(there is) a figure variously known as the Green Man, Jack-in-the-Green, Robin Hood, the King of May, and the Garland, who is the central figure in the May-Day celebrations throughout Northern and Central Europe."
(4) Gothic Art is the style of art produced in Europe from the Middle
Ages up to the beginning of the Renaissance. Typically religious in nature, it is especially known for the distinctive arched design of its churches, its stained glass, and its illuminated manuscripts. The Gothic Period in art history dates roughly from the 5th to the 16th century, C.E.
(5) According to Anderson, Terri Windling and other writers there are also "Green Women". The goddesses Asherah and Flora are good examples, as are the nymph Chloris and Dakshi, the tree-goddess of India. The Green Woman can also be found in the legend of the Lady Greensleeves and in the stories of the gallant lass known as Maid Marian.
Here are some other books of interest:
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculineby Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette
Lord of Light and Shadow: The Many Faces of the God by D.J. Conway
Wiccan Warrior: Walking A Spiritual Path In A Sometimes Hostile Worldby Kerr Cuhulain
Triumph Of The Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton
Here are some websites you might enjoy:
The Green Man and The Green Woman: Tales of the Mythic Forest - This part of Teri Windling's website features her splendid essay titled "Tales of the Mythic Forest" which is about the Green Man and Green Woman archetype as it appears in ancient and modern literature. It also has some beautiful images by artists such as Brian Froud, Robert Gould, Wendy Froud and Alan Lee, among others.
The Green Man: Variations on a Theme: - This essay by Ruth Wylie for Edge Magazine discusses the Green Man image as it appears on churches throughout Europe.
The Mystery of the Green Man -- A site with great images, including pictures of the Green Man in India and Nepal.
The Lodge of Herne: A Place for Pagan Men
Gay Paganism - The index at The Witches Voice
The Green Man: Common Themes: East & West
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