Book review: Revealing the Green Man

Genre: Paganism

Title: Revealing the Green Man

Author: Mark Olly

olly-green-manOverview: Thin enough to be readable, but scholarly enough to be a resource, Revealing the Green Man is a book I wish had been written thirty years ago. I’ve long held the Green Man in special regard, and this slender volume is Olly’s attempt to explain the context from which awareness of him emerged.

There is some careful scholarship between these covers, such as tracing of links between metals like copper to the cults associated with this icon, which is widespread in medieval European art and architecture, even making appearances on Christian church buildings. Less careful — but equally fascinating — are the parallels the author draws among many vegetative gods around the world, from Dionysos to Denka to Tlaloc. There are many more plant gods than most of us realize, but Olly asserts without evidence that to precivilization humans, “the earth was regarded as one universal deity.”

It’s fun to speculate on the idea of an underlying “true” religion, but there’s simply no evidence that our ancestors were indeed all of one mind on that question. Olly does not need to make that unsupported claim in order to push the environmentalist agenda that underpins this book. I have always associated the Green Man with defense of the planet and the environment, yet I hold no illusions of a universal, matriarchal, goddess-revering humanity in the distant path. We do not need to desperately prove that all gods are one god in order to listen to the message of the Green Man.

Still, but for some instances of sloppy scholarship in pursuit of a thesis, this is a solid book built upon some excellent research. At just over a hundred pages, I recommend it as an introduction for anyone curious about the historical relationship between our species and this forest god.
Title: Revealing the Green Man
Author: Mark Olly
Publisher: Moon Books
ISBN: 978-1-78099-336-2

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