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Hunting for Mushrooms, the Magical and the Macabre
Foraging for fungi, one of Autumn’s simple pleasures…
Hello Creative Souls, 💜
Welcome to this Friday’s post and if you didn't realise, it's Friday 13th! I hope you have a spare 5 minutes and a cup of tea to sit back, relax and catch up with what I've been pondering on this week. I want to share with you the joy of mushroom hunting and also the energy of the nature spirits that are all around us this October. Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. 🧚🏼♂️
Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath
Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.
Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.
Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,
Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We
Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!
We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,
Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:
We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.
I love all of the seasons, each bringing their own traditions, changes in our daily routines, the weather, seasonal food and gifts from nature, but for me, one of the simple pleasures in late summer and autumn is to go out looking for mushrooms. I love heading out for my daily walks in the anticipation of seeing new mushrooms and toadstools that have popped up overnight. Keeping my eyes peeled as I trek across wet grassy fields, through the damp woodland and past mossy tree stumps, shiny wet undergrowth and hedgerows. I love looking up into the tree tops and spotting heavy white or yellow mushrooms hanging off the side of a tree, picturing the fairies perching on the mushroom ledges. According to the Woodland Trust there are over 15,000 species of fungi in the UK. They live on land, in the water, in the air, and even in and on plants and animals. They vary widely in size and form, from the microscopically small to the largest organisms on Earth (at several square miles large).1
Careful where you tread 🧚🏼♂️
As a child I remember going out for break-time at school, running out onto the school playing field, desperate for some fresh air and some freedom after being trapped in a stuffy classroom, finding myself slap bang in the middle of a fairy ring. Where had this mushroom circle come from? As a child, who wholeheartedly believed in fairies, this was so magical. Full disclosure here, as an adult I still believe in fairies, however, this was the first and last time I saw a fairy ring. After researching fairy ring mushrooms (Marasmius Oreades), it seems I may have gotten off lightly, as in twelfth century, England, folklore states that these rings are caused by the elves dancing. The dancing fairies of Britain and Ireland are not always the charming little sprites that are featured in many of the children’s books we all know and love. They gambol under the moonlit nights, their tracks only becoming visible the next morning. The mushrooms around the outside are small seats for weary party fairy-folk to rest on. There are stories of humans joining in with the dancing, being lured into the circle by mischievous elves or fairies, with mixed consequences. My advice would be to think twice before approaching a fairy ring, as merely stepping inside of one could have frightful ramifications.
Folklore & Myths 🧝♂️🧝
There are lots of mythical stories and folklore surrounding these mystical fairy rings. Some cultures believe that they are portals to another world, while others say that the mushrooms are simply used as dinner tables for the fairies. There is also the belief that they bring good fortune and that they are a sign of a fairy village underground. Another folklore story is that you should never step into a fairy ring, as you may become invisible or trapped there forever.2
In Somerset, the fairy ring is known as a galley or gallows trap, wandering into the ring could result in you becoming invisible permanently to other humans and being held captive by elves. This could mean disappearing into perpetual slavery in the magical kingdom below ground or being forced to dance to lassitude, delirium or even your untimely demise through fairy malevolence. 3
If you happen upon a fairy ring whilst out walking, after reading this tale you might think it a good idea to destroy it, however, according to legend, this is a pointless act as it will only anger the fairy-folk, who will likely curse you. Even if done by accident or by kicking the mushrooms down, it will bring you seven years bad luck. The ring will grow back, and bigger.
There is much folklore across Europe and the UK when it comes to fairies and mushrooms and as we are approaching All Hallows’ Eve, when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, I will leave you with this:
Run nine times, counter clockwise around the ring, preferably under the full moonlight or on All Hallows’ Eve and you may just hear the fairies who live underground. A word of warning - make sure you don’t overdo things as a tenth lap brings bad luck. On a brighter note, fairy rings can be beneficial as they can mark the site of buried treasure, although having researched the antics of the elves and fairies and what they get up to, I, for one, won’t be going anywhere near a fairy ring. If I happen across one, then I will admire it from afar and wish the fairy-folk well, as spotting a new fairy ring can bring good fortune and fertility.
A Cautionary Tale 🧡
This autumn I will continue to go hunting for magical mushrooms, which brings me such delight. A macabre fascination with the folklore and stories surrounding fungi. For millennia, humans have been both mystified and scared of mushrooms, toadstools and fungi. These organisms offer us so much when it comes to medicine and healing, but at the opposite end of the scale, it can offer us something far more sinister, so if you go down to the woods today I hope you find as much joy as I do in spotting the array of fungi that can be found, but my advice to you, is just look and admire but don’t touch!
🍁 I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, please share with others by clicking the link below.
🍂 Let me know in the comments whether you have seen a fairy ring or indeed a fairy?
🍁 Have you any folklore tales surrounding this phenomenon from your corner of the world?
Another way you can support me is by heading over to my YouTube channel where you find this week’s new video. I share with you my new art materials and paint Pink-Bonnet mushrooms. I also share with you our recent day trip to Fowey in Cornwall.
🌼 I will leave you with this quote to ponder on. A quote that has popped up more than once for me this week:
“In a time of destruction, create something.”
―Maxine Hong Kingston
Until next time creative souls,
Stay naturally curious,
Purple Ladybird Art Merchandise:
You can now get comfy, cosy tops designed by me, whether you are out in nature or just relaxing at home. Head over to my new PLA shop and see my new ‘Naturally Curious’ collection for creative souls.
Book Recommendations & Resources
The Magic of Mushrooms, Fungi in folklore, superstition & traditional Medicine by Sandra Lawrence
Mushroom Magic by Michael Jordan
Mushrooms - Collins Gem
The Magic of Mushrooms, p52, Sandra Lawrence