The birds are back, baby! The evenings are longer and the outside smells like the outside again. When spring hits its regularly scheduled stride it’s hard not to carry it in your own step.
It seems like just when you’ve begun to acclimate to the slower pace of winter the spirit of its peppy successor steps in and simply can’t resist, in its childlike wonder, to smash the big green button of life’s triumphant return.
I’m getting poetic with this because there does seem to be an almost eerily specific quality to spring. Some kind of archetype that has been perceived and depicted by many cultures in ways that leave the question of coincidence up to just about any curious observer.
The Green Man of Spring is a myth that, strangely, shows up in ancient architecture and ruins from Eastern Asia all the way to North America. Many of these instances occurring completely independently of one another and at different points in history.
These smiling, gnarly gnome like faces (surrounded in a frame of leaves or vines) were depicted in holy buildings and jewelry, both secular and ecclesiastical. As if it were a fact of the world that all ancient people could plainly see, regardless of their religion, faith or doctrine.
Dalua, as the Celts called him, was always a representation of new life. Of fertility and sustenance and the sort of dewy-eyed Disney love of innocence and cute little baby woodland animals.
Alternatively, one wouldn’t be amiss if they caught a whiff of Dionysus’ or Bacchus’ wine in the air, as they are also widely associated with the more adult side of the Green Man (after dark).
It does however, as ancient legends often do, get darker.
The Aztec had a deity they called Tlaloc that they believed controlled the rains. Now, connecting an occurrence in nature to the divine is natural (it’s an effective means to understand both nature and the divine), but the way in which a culture does so is entirely the choice of that culture, alone. I know all of this logically, and still I’ll have a hard time sleeping after thinking about the slave children who were sacrificed to ensure the timely arrival of the rains each year.
There is no way to judge this form of worship, as there is simply no comparison between their now long-gone world and the one in which we have theologians and newspapers, but it’s bone chilling just the same.
That is just one dark interpretation of the Spirit of Spring. There are far more positive relationships forged with the Green Man than not. One of my favorites is 13th Century “Parzival” by German author Wolfram von Eschenbach.
It is a romance tale of innocence and pure love: two things Parzival had to possess as prerequisites, for he was to be steward of the Holy Grail and keep it safe until the coming of Arthur the King. Parzival’s bravery was drawn from his pure love and, through its might, he accomplished heroic and legendary deeds.
That’s kind of a lot to live up to, but sometimes having the courage to let one’s own innocence show, and forgetting about fear for a while, can be truly inspiring to those who have the desire, if not the courage, to smash the big green button themselves.