'The Green Man' and the spirit of Christmas
Like many adults, I tend to view Christmas time with mixed feelings. While I abhor the commercialisation of this holiday period and the pressure it puts on parents and others to spend lavishly on family and friends, I cannot forget the magic it brought to my own childhood.
Even better was the pleasure of seeing my love of Christmas in my youth re-enacted by my own children. Peace and Goodwill to all men. Isn't that a nice thought?
If only we could put it in to practice more often. As ever, we can only do our best and perhaps we should also reflect on the ancient traditions that are associated with the winter solstice throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
The feasts and celebrations that occur at this time go back many thousands of years and visual evidence of them can be found in Newgrange, Stonehenge and many others sites throughout the world.
One of my favourite mythological figures that keep reappearing throughout the centuries is the Green Man. His origins would appear to be pagan but we must remember that the sources of that word are Latin and referred originally to people who were rural dwellers and "of the countryside".
Such people clung to their old beliefs for far longer than urban dwellers and it is easy to see how a spirit of the natural world and trees would appeal to anyone living among woodland and pasture.
This has survived to the present day and I was delighted to see where Thomas Pakenham, in his recent book The Company of Trees commissioned a local craftsman to carve an image of the Green Man for siting on the trunk of an old tree in his woods at Tullynally.
I finally found one for myself recently in a shop selling reproductions of garden artifacts on the Dublin road outside Durrow. Rather than wood or stone, my Green Man is made of some form of composite but despite this, he looks wonderful and is now on a wall near my garden, smiling through the wreaths of foliage that surround his face.