13 March 2024

The Green Man (2)

 Julia Hamilton-Udny, daughter of Robert 11th Lord Belhaven, married Fitzroy Richard Somerset, 4th Baron Raglan. He was an atheist and a humanist and an anthropologist; he was a member of the All-Party Humanist Group at Westminster, and a prominent member of the British Humanist Association.

It is commonly said that Lady Raglan invented the term 'Green Man' and the mythology surrounding this figure; and that she did so in 1939. None of this is precisely accurate: the term Green Man had for centuries been applied to figures in English Folklore. But the rigmarole associated with this figure since the 1930s can certainly attributed to her. "It seems to me that not very deeply buried in this rite we have the bones, the framework, of the magical rite of the Spring Sacrifice ... a man was chosen to represent the god, and he, after conferring by the proper magical ceremonies his strength and fertility upon his people was sacrificed (perhaps by hanging), and his head placed in a sacred tree ..."

Perhaps it is as well that illustrated coffee-table books with titles like the Wit and Wisdom of Lady Raglan are not available ...

I think she may have had to repress some scepticism even within her own mind: "the idea of such sacrifice was not foreign to the minds of the common people even as late as the 16th century ..." But, like others in that fascinating decade, she clung to her own interior certainties: "the unofficial paganism subsisted side by side with the official religion". Conspiracy-theory mania writ large ... some people will believe anything ... and was this not the period when people tried to advance themselves at the courts of Hitler and Himmler with strange and complex constructions of the Occult?

Raglan had convinced herself that her green man belonged to a "world which was beginning to need him, a world in which people were gradually realising that industrialisation was steadily degrading our planet ... [the green man] came to represent all that the modern world undervalues, excludes, and lacks."

It all seems to me like a flight from reality; it is, surely, in the glorious and august Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we discern, and appropriate, true divine reality?


Marc in Eugene said...

The world beginning to need the 'Green Man': the same world gradually realising it needed Eugenics and Euthanasia administered by the benevolence of the State.

In the 'popular culture' belief in the Green Man (like 'Easter is simply the goddess Eostre, you silly Christians') is as firm as belief in the goodness of Socialism; Midsomer Murders has taught these dogmas more than once or twice.

Pastor in Monte said...

Just realised, dear Father: many happy returns to you on your birthday!

Matthew F Kluk said...

Lady Raglan seems to have been divorced from reality.