Green Man Nature Spirit Symbolism in George Romero’s Movie “Season of the Witch or Jack’s Wife”

by Sophia diGregorio.

Young_Pan_by_L._Bakst

Young Pan by L. Bakst {pd}

(I am a huge fan of this movie and this is my third review and analysis of it at this blog. The first one is entitled, “Traditional Witch’s Review of the 1973 George Romero Movie, “Season of the Witch,” aka. “Hungry Wives” and “Jack’s Wife” and the second one is entitled, “Review of “Season of the Witch” (1973) or “Hungry Wives.”)

The Green Man is a nature spirit who represents licentiousness and liberation in the untamed wilderness. He represents mankind’s untamed nature. You’ll see  images of the Green Man in a lot of people’s gardens because he’s a spirit of growth and abundance.

He represents the difference between the “civilized” town-life and life in the wild, untamed forest. The pagans and the wise ones usually lived outside the city and were closer to nature, so he might be seen as a representation of paganism vs. Christianity. He is sometimes associated with Cernnunos, Pan, “The Horned God” or the Satyr.

Christian doctrine is opposed to the natural man. It is something I heard often among the Mormons. They said that god doesn’t like “the natural man” and his natural desires must be subordinated to the will of god. We find it in the Bible in the King James version of 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

To many neo-pagans, Wiccans and other modern witches, the Green Man may be seen as a symbol of personal transformation. His face sprouting with new growth is a representation of a person transforming from a Christian (city-dweller) to a pagan (natural man or woman of the forest).

The Green Man motif is seen often in English literature. In Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” he is the fairy Puck, who places a spell on all of the people of the forest, including the fairy queen, the actors and the four lovers. The Green Man is a god of the Spring, of renewal and rebirth.’

Robin Goodfellow or Robinhood is another example of the use of the Green Man motif. Robin Goodfellow is a natural man, a law unto himself. He is a trickster and a little devil in the classic sense of the term, who gets the best of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

Another classic use of the Green Man motif can be seen in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The Green Knight is a representation of the unknown dangers of the forest. We see J.R.R. Tolkein make use of this theme in the first book of “The Lord of the Rings” when the hobbits first leave the shire and meet Tom and his wife.

In Season of the Witch, we see writer and director George Romero make use of this classic literary motif to show what is happening to the main character, Joan. Joan is a Catholic who is slowly transforming into a natural woman – a witch.

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Green Man Symbolism in Season of the Witch

If you haven’t already read my review of Season of the Witch, you’ll find them here: The first one is entitled, “Traditional Witch’s Review of the 1973 George Romero Movie, “Season of the Witch,” aka. “Hungry Wives” and “Jack’s Wife” and the second one is entitled, “Review of “Season of the Witch” (1973) or “Hungry Wives.”) These reviews discuss more of this movie’s theme and its overall use of symbolism.

Romero lamented in the documentary footage of the DVD for this movie that he didn’t have the money to shoot the scene where the main character, Joan, is being pursued in a nightmare by a man wearing a Green Man mask. He compares it to a similar scene in Rosemary’s Baby, which achieves a film effect closer to what he probably had in mind. But, the corresponding scene in Season of the Witch has marvelous symbolism in it and this really makes up for the whole thing. Romero’s use of symbolism throughout this movie is nothing short of brilliant.

You’ll want to pay close attention right from the opening sequence on because there’s nothing in this movie that’s not supposed to be there. The Green Man transformation happens to the main character, Joan, who is apparently a pretty heavily indoctrinated Catholic. While we’re all born witches, those who’ve been indoctrinated by the Christians have to find their way back to the forest and that’s symbolically what this movie is about… and it’s about women finding their freedom at the same time.

There is a sexual theme, but this has always been part of “selling your soul to the devil” – it’s in all the old witch trial accounts and folk lore about witches. Women who are witches are sexually free because they understand they are not owned by the church or a man. This is part of the green man transformation theme in this movie, which Romero really wrote to express his views on the Women’s Movement in the early 1970s.

Romero’s “Season of the Witch” is a movie is about both sexual liberation and witchcraft and these two things are intertwined throughout the movie. For example, in the ritual she conjures “Virago” – The term means a powerful, Amazon-like woman. So, she is conjuring her own power, essentially (this was adapted from Huson’s book and the original entity’s name is Vassago). And, the actress who plays this role is very statuesque and powerful-looking like an Amazon-woman, but her power has been usurped by her white, middle-class suburban life, which is what she has been told is an ideal. This was supposed to be the thing that made women happy, but she’s not happy, at all. Joan is about 40-years old and her life-choices were not very broad. Her friend Shirley is a little older and feels this even more intensely, that life has passed her by, she’s lost her sex appeal and she’s not ready for things to be over because there are so many things she wants to “cut loose” and do.

The man in the mask coming after her in her dreams is her own sexual liberation coupled with her interest in the occult, which subconsciously really scares her. She verbalizes her fear of the occult at the tarot reading and again before the conjuration. But, we really see her fear of both the occult and her own sexuality in the nightmare of the man in the Green Man mask.

Here the Green Man is a representation of Joan’s freedom from both Christianity (Green Man is a representation of the god of the witches) and her life in “the dog pound,” which is the prison of the middle-class existence of women. As much as Joan wants what he represents, she is afraid of him, so she her subconscious mind produces these nightmares about him chasing her though the house.

The ending is a little ironic, if that’s the right word. She ends up shooting her husband. As much as she’s afraid of witchcraft and all it represents, she is even more afraid of staying trapped in her present situation. Her fears drive her to accidentally shoot her husband.

Joan doesn’t like swearing and in the extended version, she and Shirley are about to leave Greg and Nikki during the discussion about witchcraft because of his use of foul language – in the theatrical version he uses the “F” word, which we’re used to now, but was really out of line, especially in the company of women in the 1970s. Also, at the dinner table, when she’s wearing the ashes on her head, the tea pot starts shaking (as if from her annoyance or anger) at her husband who is swearing on the phone. And, then the last thing we hear from her husband as he’s trying to open the door downstairs in the rain is “Son of a …” – and then there’s the shotgun blast and he’s dead!

I urge you to see Season of the Witch, especially if you like complex horror or have an interest in the subject of witchcraft because this movie portrays it very well.

The movie was done in Philadelphia in 1972 and released in 1973. But, it wasn’t promoted properly and maybe it was a little too deep for some audiences, especially those who were expecting a porno movie, which was one of the ways they tried to promote it. That’s why they called it “Hungry Wives.” The original title was “Jack’s Wife.” It wasn’t re-released again until 2005 under the title “Season of the Witch.” By this time people knew who George Romero was. But, this movie isn’t much like his later work. It’s much better, I think.

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“What’s Next After Wicca? Non-Wiccan and Traditional Witchcraft“ was written to show the true history of Wicca in Britain and the development of neo-Wicca in the U.S. It tells the benefits and the drawbacks of what has become the most popular, accessible and socially acceptable form of witchcraft. Wicca is the most popular aspect of the occult today, but it is certainly not all there is. This book encourages readers who want more to continue their exploration of witchcraft and their study of its origins.

It was written by a metaphysical bookstore owner who often heard the question, “What else is there?” Find “What’s Next After Wicca? Non-Wiccan and Traditional Witchcraft“ by Sophia diGregorio at Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Amazon.com: “What’s Next After  Wicca?  Non-Wiccan and Traditional Witchcraft

Other books  by Sophia diGregorio

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