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The Legend Of The Moss Men Who Went To War Covered In Bryophytes

The Moss Men cometh.


Rachael Funnell


Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Digital Content Producer

moss men bejar

Camouflage to make the Ewoks proud. 

 Image credit: Ytha67 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0

From skull lichen usnea to “mummy brown” paint, humankind is said to have found all sorts of unlikely uses for strange materials, but our latest favorites are the Moss Men of Béjar. Their legendary and unique use of moss would put them alongside insect larvae and weevils when it comes to camouflage approaches, and they’re celebrated every June in the Procession of the Hombres de Musgo.

The Moss Men were born out of war. When invaders arrived in the Iberian Peninsula from Africa, it triggered a chain of events that – following centuries of back and forth between the Muslim and Christian kingdoms – led to a fateful feast day of Saint Marina of Bitinia.


According to a 2001 paper by Javier Martínez-Abaigar and Encarnación Núñez-Olivera from Universidad de La Rioja, the legend of the Moss Men probably originated from 1209 when Christians were hiding in the mountains of El Castañar around 3 kilometers (19 miles) from Béjar, Spain. It was June 18, marking the celebration of Saint Marina, a virgin who’d lived undercover as a male monk in an eighth-century monastery.

Following a big party at La Centena, the Christians covered their clothes and weapons with moss so that at dawn they could head to the enemy Muslim fortress and hide, camouflaged by their mossy surroundings. When the fortress gate was opened, they launched their day-long battle to conquer the town.

The legend is celebrated in a parade that sees people dressed head-to-toe in moss march the streets of Béjar, commemorating the battle that’s said to have freed it from Muslim occupation around eight centuries ago.

“The tradition of the Moss Men has survived until the present day and is commemorated every year in the procession of the Corpus Christi festivity, which is celebrated nowadays on the ninth Sunday after Easter,” wrote Martínez-Abaigar and Núñez-Olivera. 


“An additional tradition involved the pilgrimage of the people from Béjar to the hermitage dedicated to Saint Marina, which was built in the 12th century at the site where the Mass was said before the battle.”

Bryophytes are a group of plants that include the mosses, alongside liverworts and hornworts, explains the British Bryological Society. Like plants, they get their food through photosynthesis, but a weakened root system and high tolerance for wetting and drying arguably make them a better material to work with when creating botanical armor.

In fact, moss is so hardy it was once revived after spending 1,500 years locked in permafrost. Meanwhile most suits today can’t even hack a casual slutdrop. Smh.


humansHumanshumansancient ancestors
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