Folklore: The Colour Green

“Hope rules a land forever green” – Wordsworth

When Spring is near after looking outside at a winter wonderland for the past few months, one’s heart sings for the sight of lush green plants and trees.

Green represents nature in all her glory, a symbolism of wisdom ie. Gaia mother earth awakens so does The Green Man.

Below: The Green Man ‘Oak King’ wall canvas depicted by the artist Anne Stokes.


In myth, the colour green reaches far back to the Ancient Egyptians, according to the historian Ellen Conroy wrote in her book “The Symbolism of Colors” (1921). Thoth, (Egyptian moon god) would lead the fresh souls of the dead to “a green hill of everlasting life and eternal wisdom.” Sounds peaceful, does it not? Osiris ruler of the underworld was depicted with a green face by the Ancient Egyptians. The ancient Druids wore green robes, the colour of Ovates, (a person who would become a Bard or a Druid) Green has a dark side that most of us have experienced. “That person is green with envy!” is an old English expression relating green with a negative emotion. Labeling someone “a green-eyed monster,” again represents jealousy. The planet Mercury has been associated with the colour green, it symbolizes wisdom and knowledge.


Above, 1795 engraving of a Jack in the Green, perhaps by Isaac Cruikshank in Public Domain

A Jack in the Green or Jack O’ the Green, an English folk custom related to ‘May Day,’ (May the first,) celebrations that welcome Spring and the renewal of life. A person wears a conical wicker framework that is decorated with green foliage, walking in a procession with musicians.

King Arthur’s Holy Grail design was allegedly fashioned from an Emerald.

In China Thursday was the day to wear green emeralds for good fortune.

The Hindus believe that the Emerald (May month’s birthstone grants memory and knowledge similar to Apollo’s green Laurel tree. The Ancient Egyptian goddess Isis dubbed Goddess of the crescent moon, was also known as “The Lady of the Emerald,” meaning her soul had reached a high level of purity, enough for her to gain immortality. Taurus the Bull is the Zodiac sign for those born from April 20th-May 21st, May’s gemstone is Emerald ruled by the Greek goddess Venus, goddess of love and beauty. The green Emerald was said to protect lovers. If it was bright, the wearer was loyal, if it became discoloured it meant that person was unfaithful.

Green in the Catholic Church is noted as an elementary colour in liturgy. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by the Irish folks and their Diaspora. The Irish wear green for good luck annually each March 17th. Saint Patrick is the Patron saint of Ireland. According to legend he used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans of his day.

Image Below of Shamrock in Public Domain


Emeralds were once said to have healing powers. Hippocrates crushed them into a fine powder and used them to heal eyes.

Photo below The Chalk Emerald ring, containing a top-quality 37-carat emerald, in the U.S. National Museum of Natural History


Green eyes have been written by some romantics as beautiful gems. Legend has it the Celtic Tuatha de Danann and the Sidhe had red hair or fair (blonde) hair and green eyes called ‘Fair Folk’ were once thought to be the descendants of the ‘Faeries.’

Today, green eyes have been rated as the most popular eye colour. One popular children’s book comes to mind is Anne of Green Gables written by Canadian author Lucy Maude Montgomery in 1908. The book is about the adventures of her protagonist Anne Shirley an orphan growing up at the Green Gables farm in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Anne just happens to be a fiery red-head with green eyes, that we all love. A novel that reaches all ages and has sold around the globe in several languages.

Anne of Green Gables Cover Art by Claire Keane


“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Sources & References:

*Featured Photo, sculpture of ‘Gaia Green Lady’ crafted by Welsh artist Kathleen Minton. Acid Design Number: D14768-11147-34940

*Ellen Convoy, The Symbolism of Colors 1921. London William Ryder & Son Limited.

*Gross, Paul (illus), Crofts, Sarah Jane (2002). Fowler’s Troop and the Deptford Jack in the Green: A History of an Old London May Day Tradition. Rainbarrow P. ISBN 0-9542661-0-2.

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