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The "Green Man" imagery is believed to date back to early medieval associations with Pagan mysticism and is often interpreted as a symbol of fertility and regeneration. Historians and folklorists have linked the evolution of the Robin Hood legend to the Green Man and to other figures from the cycle of the seasons, such as Jack in the Green, John Barleycorn, the Wild Man of the Woods and the mischievous sprite Robin Goodfellow.
Sometimes known as "Foliate Heads" , the Green Man image was often carved into the decorative stonework and woodwork of ecclesiastical buildings, depicting a man's face surrounded by green foliage and often spouting leaves from the mouth. One of the finest examples of this type of sculpture can be seen in Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire, one of the few complete buildings to survive from the time of the Norman Conquest. In the ornately decorated medieval Chapter House area group of famous stone-carvings known as "The Leaves of Southwell" – where from amongst the scuplted foliage a number of enigmatic faces peer down.
Invading cultures added to the wealth of oral history surrounding the mythical figure of the Green Man and the Romans, for example, introduced their gods to Celtic Britain and Cernunnos became Herne the Hunter, half-man, half-beast who supposedly haunted the depths of the forests.
Over several thousand years, stories told in the shadows of caves and around the glow of camp fires seemingly took on a reality of their own. The leafy glades of Sherwood Forest are an ideal place for such stories to grow into the globally famous legend we enjoy today, ensuring that the spirit of Robin Hood continues to live on!