The 23rd of April is St. George’s Day, and there is all kind connections between Saint George and the pre-Christian god The Green Man from the Anglo-Saxons to the modern era. Moreover, the Green Man and Saint George are important in the Islamic religion as well.
When I was reading about ancient Yahwistic religious beliefs during my research for The Jezebel Effect, I noticed some interesting connections between archaic beliefs and modern theology, particularly regarding the oak tree and eldritch symbolism for divinity.
In ancient Hebrew the word for oak tree is “elah/elon/elan/allon”, which is the root word for the Hebrew and Arabic words signifying God, “el/elohim” and “ilah/allah”. The oak tree is also associated with the Green Man, vegetative deity or nature spirit that was worshiped throughout Europe and the Middle East prior to the advent of monotheist religious conversions. The Green Man was usually represented by a face made from foliage … particularly oak leaves.
Although widespread conversions to Christianity and Islam supplanted the older pagan religions, the Green Man – like the root word of oak tree — remained a covert but significant part of the ideology of the newer faiths.
For example, in Eastern Orthodox and Western Christianity the roles of the Green Man were largely subsumed by St. George (sometimes called Green George), who is best known for slaying a dragon but who was also said to bless crops, guarantee fertility, and usher in the return of spring. Moreover, the motif of the Green Man was depicted in the architectural features of many medieval churches or other religious sites for more than a thousand years.
The Muslim religion also venerates St. George, because was martyred for his belief in the God of Abraham and is considered to have died in a state of Islam. St. George is also associated with The Green Man, known as Al Khidr, ‘the Green One’, a Qur’anic figure who appears in order to instruct the worthy on the mysteries of God.
There are multiple mosques dedicated to the Green One, most notably Qubbat Al-Khidr, which is located within the terraced site of the Dome of the Rock in Palestine, and the Uzbekistan mosque of Al-Khidr in Samarkand.
It isn’t just the oak tree and the Green Man that still find expression in modern religions. Almost all major religions also feature trees prominently in their mythology/doctrine. Something to think about when you see Christmas Trees!
During the Regency period King George IV established the Most Distinguished Order of St Micheal and St George in 1818 to recognize exemplary service in the diplomatic corps, linking even glad-handing and backstairs dealings on behalf of Great Britain as a patriotic way to please the Lord God and defend England from dragons. (Spoiler: Mary Crawford’s husband will one day be awarded this honor.)
Saint George was also called into service during World Wars I and II, encouraging Allied soldiers in Great Britain to defend the crown and country from the enemy, and, as the patron saint of Moscow, to defend Mother Russia from German invasion.
For more reading on the cult of Saint George, I recommend the book by Giles Morgan which I really enjoyed: