Evergreen: The Many Faces of Beltane’s Green Man – in pictures

This year we have a new group at Beltane Fire Festival: The Evergreens

In their own words: ” The Evergreens are the ghosts, memories and joys of the last 30 years relived on the hill by a group of those who have previously portrayed the natural cycle of birth growth and death as the Green Man at Beltane or one of the Kings at Samhuinn.

The Evergreens will wander amongst the witnesses sharing with them a glimpse of half remembered sword-fights, the start of a dance, the shadow of a death. They then find their home in the bower to see if there accumulated wisdom can survive the journey out of the land of the fay into the world of the mundane carried by this year’s Green.”

The Green Man is a key part of the Beltane story, so we asked Rob of the Evergreens to explain more about the role: 

“The Green Man is both the central role of Beltane and at the same time a mere side-tale to the procession of the May Queen and the turning of the year. He is a very recent interpretation of the Celtic sun deity Bel (hence Beltane), and his birth, growth, relationships and death are marked in all four of the Beltane Fire Society festivals. At Beltane he is the obedient consort to the May queen until he reaches the stage, where, enthused and infused with energy from the drums, the Reds, the witnesses, and his own memories of past lives he breaks the unwritten rules of the universe and touches the May Queen, thus bringing about his own death and rebirth. 

The Green Man dance of rebirth is perhaps the most iconic moment for many festival goers – particularly those with a close connection to the older traditions. It is the beginning of summer, the release of a winter of hardship, the discovery of new energy in old limbs, the freedom of movement and thought after carrying the physical and metaphorical burdens for so long. It is joyful, chaotic, expressive, raw, and above all it is a personal exploration of emotion and energy that is both strong and wild, such as a person is seldom likely to encounter in a lifetime. 

Each Beltane Green Man brings something different to the role, and many have explored different aspects of his character in order to find their own representation. It is a role that requires strength, openness, candour, pride and humility among many other facets. Sheer bloodymindedness is also an essential for many, who have carried most of a tree round Calton Hill in near freezing conditions! This year’s Green Man is perhaps the oldest to have taken on the role, though only a few others will have brought such extensive acrobatic and dance training to the role. Look out for the Horned God on the hill!” 

To learn more about the Green Man this year, see this page. Otherwise enjoy the selection of images taken from our photo archive of the many faces of Beltane’s Green Man going back over the past few years. If you have memories or photos of Beltane’s Green Man we’d love for you to share them in the comments section below.

To see this year’s Green Man in action, come along to Beltane Fire Festival 2017 on Sunday 30th April. Tickets still available.

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Featured image by Danny Williams for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.

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