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The Jack-in-the-Green

— Roy Judge
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“a turning point in folklore studies which showed how much could be learned from a systematic investigation of historical evidence” Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain

The ‘Jack-in-the-Green’, a dancing figure in a foliage-covered wicker shell, is often centre-stage in contemporary May Day celebrations. Many have chosen to see him as a survival from pagan religious ritual, an expression of the ‘Green Man’, and the embodiment of the spirit of spring. But Roy Judge’s exhaustive historical survey finds no evidence for the ‘Jack’ before the mid-eighteenth century, when he originated among the May Day revels of the urban lower classes aimed at collecting money. The evidence (including the book’s forty images) suggests that the ‘Jack’ has only taken on his mythological significance in the twentieth century, largely thanks to the influence of Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. The book concludes with a geographical survey, giving references to all known ‘Jacks’.

This revised edition brings the subject up to the present time and includes an account of the emergence of the ‘Green Man’ as a symbol of the modern ecological movement.

The late Dr Roy Judge, who died in November 2000, was a recipient of the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s Gold Badge, and was awarded the Folklore Society’s highest honour, the Coote-Lake Medal, in recognition of his outstanding research into the customs of May Day.

Paperback, xii + 212 pages, illustrated | London: FLS Books, 2000 | ISBN: 0903515202