Read Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man by Nina Lyon Online


Who, or what, is the Green Man, and why is this medieval image so present in our precarious modern times? An encounter with the Green Man at an ancient Herefordshire church in the wake of catastrophic weather leads Nina Lyon into an exploration of how the foliate heads of Norman stonemasons have evolved into today’s cult symbols. The Green Man’s association with the pantheWho, or what, is the Green Man, and why is this medieval image so present in our precarious modern times? An encounter with the Green Man at an ancient Herefordshire church in the wake of catastrophic weather leads Nina Lyon into an exploration of how the foliate heads of Norman stonemasons have evolved into today’s cult symbols. The Green Man’s association with the pantheistic beliefs of Celtic Christianity and with contemporary neo-paganism, with the shamanic traditions of the Anglo-Saxons and as a figurehead for ecological movements sees various paths crossing into a picture that reveals the hidden meanings of twenty-first-century Britain. Against a shifting backdrop of mountains, forests, rivers and stone circles, a cult of the Green Man emerges, manifesting itself in unexpected ways. Priests and philosophers, artists and shamans, morris dancers, folklorists and musicians offer stories about what the Green Man might mean and how he came into being. Meanwhile, in the woods strange things are happening, from an overgrown Welsh railway line to leafy London suburbia. Uprooted is a timely, provocative and beautifully written account of this most enduring and recognisable of Britain’s folk images....

Title : Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780571318018
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man Reviews

  • Paul
    2019-02-15 07:35

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley to read and write an honest review.The Green Man is one of those anomalies of British folklore. It is a sculpture of a male face, either surrounded by or having branches or leaves emerging from it. They are often carved from stone and are found on all types of buildings including churches, which is odd for a pagan symbol rooted so deeply in the past. It isn’t just a British symbol either, similar images are found in many cultures around the world.Lyon first encounters this face when sheltering at a Herefordshire church in a storm. It makes her wonder just how an ancient pagan symbol ended up on a church and why it is still a popular icon even today; there are a number of pubs all over the country, including one close to me, that carry the name ‘The Green Man’. Her curiosity over this blatantly pagan addition to a Christian building made her start to investigate the origins of this face. It was the start of a journey that would take her across the country, the the forests of Germany, to the stone circles of ancient Britain and of course the woods. There was a spiritual journey too and a discovery of Celtic Christianity, neo-paganism and shamanism. She even contemplates starting a sex cult, but other mums at the school gate aren’t so sure… She encounters all sorts on her journey too, there are priests and morris dancers, artists and eco warriors. Each of these people has a link back to that enigmatic figure.I have always liked this enigmatic figure, there is something other worldly about it, a combination of the natural and the sinister, the real and surreal. Lyon is prepared to take anything on and explore all pathways as she investigates and contemplates the Green Man. There were parts of this I really enjoyed, her trip to Germany into the dark forests in search of an ancestor accused of being a witch was fascinating, but there were other parts of the book, Aleister Crowley springs to mind, that was less captivating. All that said, Lyon has written a bang up to date book on an endearing cult figure that has been deeply rooted in our society for time immemorial. 3.5 stars overall.

  • Penny
    2019-01-28 12:29

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley to read and review.The figure of the Green Man has always intrigued me - a name given to many carvings across Britain and Northern Europe for the image of a man's face, usually made of vegetation or having vegetation (often oak leaves) sprouting from his mouth, beard or hair.I can already see me dragging my long suffering husband round a North Yorkshire Green Man trail of my own devising!It's all to easy to just say that the Green Man is a 'God of good harvests' in church carvings or a 'reminder of the force of Nature'. There has to be more than this for the figure to remain so constant through the centuries. Nina Lyon does her own journey and research into him, and her travels to different parts of the UK and then to Germany are the best parts of this book. She's a very good, observant travel writer, musing on what she sees and feels.The book also contains what sometimes seem like essays or a thesis on all manner of subjects - shamanism, animism, Morris dancing etc. I sometimes found myself reading the same sentence several times over to try and work out its meaning!Lyon isn't the slightest bit preachy. She can however be a little judgemental even when she's telling herself she's not! But what an interesting lady - anyone proposing to start up a sex cult in her small home town has my respect!

  • Leah
    2019-02-06 10:19

    Mushrooms and tree-hugging...The book starts with Lyon being intrigued by the proliferation of the Green Man and other obviously pagan carvings on early churches. Making the point that early Christianity needed to incorporate some aspects of existing spiritual beliefs in order to attract adherents, she then goes on to speculate that worshipping, or at least respecting, the natural world and assuming it has some kind of power is at least as rational as contemporary conventional religion. So she decides to start a sex cult. There is a vein of humour running through the book, which sometimes works but more often makes it difficult to know exactly how seriously Lyon expects the reader to take her arguments, such as they are. She's clearly superficially knowledgeable of both nature myths and philosophy, and in the early chapters she uses this knowledge quite effectively. She's humorous about being unable to find willing participants for her sex cult, but is incredibly dismissive of Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular. At first, I admired the writing and intelligence, though I felt from a very early stage that she hadn't really thought through what, if anything, she was trying to say.As the book progresses, she takes superficial looks at various aspects of things that she seems to associate with paganism or nature cults; for example, witchcraft, shamanism, Alesteir Crowley's beliefs, etc. Half the time I wasn't even convinced of their relevance to the argument she seems to be attempting to make – namely, that conventional religion is on its way out and we need to revert to some kind of paganism, a belief in a single consciousness, from which some kind of mystical power does (or perhaps doesn't) derive. It's possible that I'm over-simplifying – I did lose the will to live fairly early on – but I don't think so. It all has a hippy, undergraduate feel – drugs and drink seem to feature quite heavily at the points of her 'insights'. She cherry-picks the bits of philosophy that she thinks give some intellectual grounding to her rather unstructured rambling, but they really don't. The whole thing is too sloppy and unfocused to shed much light on anything. And, being honest, I never felt she was convinced of her own arguments. I wondered, fleetingly, at the fact that the two people I have known reasonably well who have been diagnosed with psychotic disorders were, variously, raised by academic metaphysicians or philosophy students at the time of diagnosis. Perhaps overthinking makes you mad. Perhaps mad people are merely thinkers.Ignoring the clumsiness of the sentence structure, this is her reasoning for why people with psychotic illnesses should seek treatment from shamans rather than conventional resources. One wonders if she considered the possibility that, since she's spent her life in and around academia, she probably meets a disproportionately high number of academic types, perhaps just possibly skewing the results of her in-depth survey.Partly, the problem is that she makes assumptions to suit her agenda with no corresponding evidence. For example, she makes a big point about how conventional religion has destroyed the traditional way in which early pagans actively joined in with ritual celebrations (though how she knows they did this is an unexplained mystery – time travel? Mystical messages from the great beyond? Perhaps a tree told her...), so that now they tend to be made up of performers and audience, rather than participants. She, of course, sees this as a loss, so much so that she assumes that's unarguable. But I reckon that even if, for the sake of argument, one accepts her assumptions about pagan rituals, lots of people would argue that sacrifices and orgies might not be such a loss, and perhaps our more reserved behaviour is a sign of civilisation – or in Scotland, perhaps just a response to it rarely being warm enough to encourage us to get our kit off outdoors. Also, she frequently repeats that she is an atheist which, therefore, would obviously make her feel like an onlooker at a Christian ceremony. (I'm trying so hard not to say “Duh!”) I'm an atheist, too, but I'm willing to bet that true believers probably feel like participants in their religious practices rather than audience members.As the book wears on, Lyon rambles around England and bits of Europe in a totally unstructured way, going to visit tree-hugging shamans and attending festivals at Stonehenge and other such trite remnants of hippy culture, where she learns that apparently the best way to celebrate life is to get stoned out of your head. When she started nostalgically bleating on about how Ecstasy had been a brilliant thing in the '90s for bringing young people together in shared experiences, I realised with a twinge of pity that she really didn't have a clue it's the youthfulness that achieves that, not the drugs. In conclusion, good prose style, some averagely decent nature writing, occasional shafts of humour, but the bulk of it is basically twaddle. As she neared the end, Lyon admitted she'd kind of lost interest in her original aim of creating a new Green Man sex cult. She wasn't alone.NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Faber &

  • Rebecca
    2019-01-29 04:15

    It's pretty difficult trying to class Uprooted as a certain type of book... what starts as Lyon trying to form 'some kind of anti-dogmatic neo-pagan religion that was not a religion' around the idea of the green man became a looser set of musings on how belief and nature interact. She touches on psychogeography, morris dancing, techno, shamanism, wild swimming, panpsychism and Lewis Carol, bringing it altogether into a fascinating study. It was made especially readable due to her healthy skepticism of 'woo'-type things - she didn't dismiss them out of hand and allowed for the fact that her understand of things might not always be correct, but she also noted coincidences etc that if she had been so inclined could have been taken for proof of magic...I only have two criticisms, one a tiny niggle and the other less so. Firstly, refering to everyone by initials is annoying, as if she's trying to be more mysterious than necessary, and it also makes it hard when you're reading to remember if this person has popped up before or not. But the really annoying thing is her lack of references - she mentions so many books, albums, talks, articles, but rarely names them or their author, and there is no bibliography either. It just seems so stupid, at one point she literally bemoans the fact that two authors are very under-read and unacknowledged, but she fails to give any clue as to the second person's identity - how then are we meant to follow up and read this apparently deserving author? But at the end of the day, I still thought it was a 5 star read, I really loved it.Many thanks to netgalley for the chance to read this.

  • Stephanie
    2019-01-29 06:26

    I need to preface this review with the fact that I am a pagan (specifically, I’m studying druidry through the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) and I consider my spirituality a living religion. These things are going to give some bias to how I read and reacted to this book, and not everyone is going to come at it from the same place.Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man is, on the surface, a journey exploring the idea of the Green Man, the foliate male face which is associated with British folklore and found in many buildings, including churches. I picked this book up because of a personal interest in the imagery and idea of the Green Man (I have several reproductions of Green Men in my house) and because of a general interest in writing about nature and nature spirituality (Robert McFarlane’s books are a personal favourite, to get an idea of my tastes).There is a lot in this book. The reader follows Lyon as she searches for Green Men in a variety of places, including England and Germany, and as she passes through groups of many people. She refers to many spiritualities and philosophies, and presents the reader with a literal forest of ideas loosely grounded upon the idea of the Green Man. She talks to many people about her quest, from priests to morris dancers, and even toys with the idea of starting her own fertility cult to return some kind of worship of the Green Man to the modern world (the mothers at school aren’t so keen on that idea).Lyon seems sincere in her desire to explore nature spirituality, but for me the tone of the book tends, at times, to detract from this sincerity. There’s a strong thread of humour, but it’s sometimes difficult to tell if she’s laughing with or at her subjects, and the treatment of living nature spiritualities is often superficial. She certainly seems to have an awareness of druidry and shamanism, for example, but doesn’t seem to have gone too far into exploring what either of them mean as a living practice, which was often frustrating for me. Most likely other readers who aren’t deeply steeped in paganism studies may not have an issue with this.It also would have been of benefit for everything she talks about to be properly referenced. There is so much covered in this book, which would make it an ideal starting point for someone to begin the exploration of nature spiritualities, and it would have been nice to give, at the least, a list of books and places which she found useful along the way. It should also be noted that Lyon uses initials to refer to people she talks about – presumably for privacy reasons – which was fine, except where it became easy to mix up who she was talking about, or she talked about a book that someone had written, and the reader has no way of tracking down what that book or who the author was.Overall, I did enjoy this book, and would recommend it to others, especially if they’re looking for a gateway into exploring nature and nature-based spirituality. If you’re well read in pagan studies, you might want to look elsewhere, but likely you’ll find at least a few pieces of wisdom here.

  • Sam Worby
    2019-01-28 09:42

    Seriously disappointing, but that's because I expected something serious. If you want insight into the green man and what he has meant to people over time don't look here. If you want insight into the pseudo-profundities of another arts graduate with a very shallow grip on history then this is the book for you.I almost stopped reading this book on p.44 where Lyon says that the process of agriculture is what turned ape-men into men. This is wrong, offensive, ridiculous, and based on no attempt to engage with the evidence. It's the worst of dozens of breezy assertions of something the author thinks supports her overall point. On a more mundane note the book is filled with "facts" that make no sense on examination. For example, p281 "When the Norman Conquest opened up passage across England and Wales, they [the Cistercians] sought out unobtrusive places to establish monasteries". What does this even mean? How did the Norman conquest open up passage? There's no evidence that there wasn't passage (between England and Wales? between either and the continent?)? What were the Cistercians doing establishing monasteries years before they were founded? Does she mean the English conquest of Wales? It might seem unfair to pick on this example but it is one of many.* This book is careless.Lyon writes a journalistic feature-piece about nothing much at all in the end. The book meanders all over the place, not really engaging with the green man, mostly providing anecdotes which seem chosen to prove how cool and anarchistic the author is. It is like being ranted at by a pub bore who has taken one too many substances and thinks they are (a) amusingly self-deprecating (b) very clever and (c) have an insight into secret truths about the world.Finally, the author has an irritating habit of "negging" her likely readers: cagoule-wearing national trust members; audiences with an interest in folklore; Glastonbury attendees; medievalists. This is all done with the kind of possibly ironic tone I have hated since the 90s. Is it meant to be serious, self-deprecating? At times, I read the way Lyon talks about other people like sheep and wondered if she is deliberately sounding psycopathic as a pose. Then I decided I don't care.*Some other examples (this whole book irritated me so much I took notes!)- Repeated talk about "The Church" as if it was a person who has decided to oppress free thinkers throughout history. Except for the Celtic church, which was spiritual. And the early catholic church, which was liberal because it allowed paganism to be preserved. The whole approach was anarchy = good; the church = bad. Which is about the level of historical engagement I would expect from a teenager.- The assertion that most popular music is just words with sound for emphasis (cf the wonderful complexity of techno etc)- A frankly bizarre reading of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which was all about Lyon- The fact that the book contained less than 10 pages on actual green men

  • Damaskcat
    2019-01-24 11:18

    I have always been interested in the Green Man as I used to live in Norfolk and there is a Green Man in Norwich cathedral. In this interesting book the author goes in search of the Green Man in her own area - Hereford and the Wels/English Border country. Fans of Phil Rickman's series about Merrily Watkins will recognise many of the places mentioned in this book. For a time the author thinks about starting her own cult of the Green Man until she realises through her researches that the Green Man is and always has been well established.No one really knows how the figure originated and there have been many theories put forward. In this book the author journeys geographically and philosophically through many different places and belief systems. She looks at Aleister Crowley, Egyptian beliefs as well as the Knights Templar and the Knights of St John amongst many other religions and philosophies.I did find her habit of referring to the people she consults by one initial a little irksome at times and I think I would have preferred it if she had given them pseudonyms if she didn't want to reveal their real names. I could have also done with a bibliography and an index but those criticisms aside the author writes well and this book will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about the Green Man. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review.

  • Rob Adey
    2019-02-08 08:31

    Kind of like Robert Macfarlane giving Alan Moore a piggyback through the countryside, taking in pagans, techno, panpsychism, allotments, Nazis, how lichen works...

  • Dan
    2019-02-13 11:22

    This was research for my next book. I wish all research could be this fun. Highly recommended.

  • George
    2019-02-11 07:30

    Containing surprisingly few examples of the Green Man, this is perhaps more accurately described as a philosopher's travelogue as she explores the idea of setting up a Green Man cult. It seems her cult is more a device to frame her thought so - apart from one unlikely attempt - isn't really pursued with any seriousness. It is, however, very much about the spirit of animism, and its relevance to contemporary society. Lyon's discussion, drawing on the examples of her family, friends and new acquaintances, is a heartfelt and effective defence of animist principles. She draws parallels between Spinozan thought, the absorption of pagan beliefs into the Christian church, the spirituality of trance music, how children perceive the world and how we relate to nature. And because she draws heavily on her own experience - both as an academic and philosopher, and an anarchic hallucinogen consuming young woman - it's a convincing argument, told with wit and a deft relationship to the ideas at work.So if you want a history of Green Man and Sheela Na Gig carvings, there's not a lot of that. If you're after an exploration of the mindset behind them, come on in.

  • allbooksnoheart
    2019-02-01 07:30

    Picked this up in Hay while on my own holiday hunting for if not green men exactly folklore and leys. The author's journey is an interesting one and the book is a mix of contemplation and conversations with others with some investment in the green man or at least an affinity with nature as spirit. At times some of the thoughts criss crossed one another or delves into deep thoughts about academia and philosophy which often went a bit too sideways for me but at the same time the book does convey something towards the sense of a kind of power beyond our describable senses that leaves us in awe and love with the natural.

  • Rhiannon Grant
    2019-02-03 11:37

    A meandering book, which explores without leading to new destinations. The most intriguing parts for me were the connections to philosophy and Lewis Carroll, but I suspect the author did not expect the reader to enjoy that, because she scattered then very lightly as a seasoning rather than a main dish.

  • Bryan Wigmore
    2019-01-24 09:44

    Personal, social, political, a rollicking good read. An exploration rather than a thesis, but none the worse for that.

  • Tracey
    2019-02-12 05:28

    A rather dry read. Not much about the Green Man , though some interesting facts about Arthurian legend and Cornwall !

  • Ivan Monckton
    2019-01-25 07:34

    Self centred pseudo intellectual claptrap. Steer clear....

  • April
    2019-02-17 08:35

    Interesting but not really a search for the green man as much as a philosophy student's search for nature as part of the principles of life.

  • Gary Budden
    2019-02-11 05:30

    In the increasingly crowded field of creative non-fiction (especially books dealing with place, landscape and our attitude to nature) Uprooted has provided a welcome change of pace and attitude. Ostensibly about the Green Man and his manifestations in religious architecture, folklore revivals, and most importantly our modern culture, the book quickly expands beyond that focus into a serious look at humanity’s conflicted relationship with the natural world – where it all went wrong, ways of rebuilding that relationship, and other possible ways of being and engaging with the world other than the failing methods we currently employ.Looking at such unfashionable topics as magick, neo-paganism, animism and panpsychism seriously, but, crucially, with a sense of level-headed humour, is what made this book for me. Rejecting the life-sapping and anti-spiritual approach of modern materialism, but deftly avoiding the (to use Lyon’s phrase) woo woo that mars a lot of well-meaning but ill-thought-out New Age-ism, this book advocates embracing a certain messiness and non-doctrinaire approach to our engagement with the world – no one knows exactly what the Green Man meant, and no one can agree on what it means now. Perhaps it’s enough that it means something, and should be used as method of engagement rather than just another replacement deity to be worshipped unthinkingly. The Green Man, Lyon suggests at one point, is 'the entry point to Faerie' – if you’re comfortable with metaphor and symbolism, and allow the Green Man to represent an entry point into a different way of thinking rather than any depressingly literal interpretation, then I seriously recommend this book.

  • George Barnett
    2019-01-18 11:27

    I loved so much of this book much of which referred to the area of Herefordshire and the Marches I am very familiar with having grown up there, and shared a fascination with Kilpeck, Garway, and many of the other places described. The author ranges across ideas and philosophies some of which I struggled to follow. The complete absence of a bibliography is a great shame. It would have been nice to have had some suggested further reading, including for example an "idiot's guide" to some of the ideas within metaphysical philosophy. As mentioned by other readers her habit of referring to others in the book by one initial was strange. I immediately recognised three of the individuals concerned. One of them even wrote the "blurb" on the back cover for goodness sake! The author can write well though, and expresses herself with humour at times. I wasn't always certain of the joke since the book was as much about her as about ideas of the green man, so I remain uncertain whether she was serious or poking fun at herself when she said things such as "I reconsidered my position on the Lord's Prayer"! The book was full of such grand assertions some of which are clearly meant to amuse, whereas others seem genuinely earnest. It is a shame some of the denser philosophical musings lacked the lightness of touch she showed elsewhere.For all it's faults however this was an enjoyable and stimulating read.

  • Karen
    2019-01-17 06:27

    This enjoyable book chronicles the author's exploration of the place of the mythical figure the Green Man in the 21st century. She starts by noting an increased interest in the Green Man in our time and toys with the idea of trying to start a new religion, a sex cult, centered on him. The sex cult idea doesn't last very long, though, before she meanders on to another theme. She visits sites in England and Germany where carved Green Man images are to be found. She also visits a couple of pagan festivals, consults a shaman about communicating with trees, constructs a sacred grove, muses about Christian appropriation of pagan symbols, the roots of Nazism in nature worship, panpsychism, trance music and many other topics. The book moves from topic to topic in an organic way, so that it's hard to tell if you're getting anywhere even though you are surely being entertained.One complaint: other people in the book are referred to by their first initial only. It's irritating because it raises unnecessary questions: have I come across this person before? Why don't I get to know this person's name? I wish she had not made this editorial choice.

  • Polly Krize
    2019-02-06 06:38

    I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.Extensively researched and well written, the history of the Green Man is covered in this book. The symbolism of this well known British folk legend overflows into the present day. From medieval times to the present, the Green Man is an important pagan tradition, and these stories are fascinating.

  • Eileen Hall
    2019-01-30 09:30

    A well researched book about the origins of the "Green Man" and his "roots" (sorry!) in folk law history, religion, paganism and the countryside.Great read!I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher Faber and Faber via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review.

  • Mills College Library
    2019-02-10 09:26

    398.36821 L9913 2016