4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A multi faceted and well researched book on an ancient, ambiguous figure, 15 Sep 2011
Kathleen Basford's "The Green Man", first published in 1978, remains today one of the best works documenting the many examples of the foliate head that can be found in church buildings throughout England. The collection of over 100 photographs includes a 14 page essay charting the first known appearance of the foliate head in Aurelian's Temple of the Sun in the first century, through the temple of Hatra in Mesopotamia, the male Medusa, the use of the foliate head motif among Mediterrean wine merchants and it's relation to Bacchus, and then onward through it's many appearances in church buildings, which can be traced as far back as between the 4th and 5th Centuries, exploring the links between folklore and the nascent theology of the church in the British Isles along the way. The book also includes a list of bibliographical references and in the acknowledgements the diverse range of people whom Kathleen Basford received assistance from whilst researching the subject.
The pictures themselves are striking in stark black and white. We see the many faces of the Green Man, benign, resigned, benovolent, mischevious, anguished, tormented, malicious. Foliate heads, foliate beasts, daemonic foliage, foliate skulls, faces with vines bursting from both eyes and mouth. The gentle, leaf bearded, impassive face that we recognise from the Jack in the Green festivities and the baleful and eerie face leering down from some dark corner of an ancient building, they are all present here.
Kathleen Basford best reckons up the Green Man's appeal when she says
"The Green Man's story is a long one, with many ramifications and many surprise twists. Much of the story is better told in pictures than in words because we can trace the roots and follow the main growth and the spreading of branches more easily when the theme is presented visually, but best of all is to seek out and meet the Green Man face to face and let him speak for himself."