The strange leaf-mask of the Green Man has haunted the Western imagination for well over a thousand years.
Why you may ask? Where does he come from? And what does he mean? The answer is that no one really knows for sure and perhaps that is part of the green man's mysterious power.
He is most usually described as "a symbol of man's union with nature". But maybe the words in Russel Hoban's novel "Riddley Walker" come closest to capturing the essence: "The look o' that face saying so many different things only no words to say 'em with. Never seen that face befor yet it wer a face I knowit....".
There is the odd feeling of recognition, of it being "a face I knowit", not from seeing it carved on church corbels or cathedral choir stalls, but known deep inside ourselves as if from a dream.
The face takes many forms, but there are two basic styles: a realistic human face disgorging leaves from the mouth, or a face actually made of leaves. Sometimes these two images are combined.
The Clun Green Man is different and special to Clun. Great trees border his cloak, their branches interlacing across his chest and, uniquely, his leaf face is crowned with deer antlers. This indicates our union with the green vegetation, which surrounds us so abundantly, and with animal life too. Deer move secretly through the woods, which clothe our hills. You may not often see them, but like the spirit of nature himself you know they are there.
If you would like to find out more about the history of the Green Man, there is more information on Mike Harding's website.
Image above left Green Man from Ludlow (Simon Garbutt)
Image above right Abbey Dore Green Man (Sarah Jameson)