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Posts Tagged ‘fairy’

You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness – perhaps ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things…
~Walt Whitman

Sometimes, it’s good to know less than more.  Acquiring more knowledge of a subject often removes a soft veil of mystery that leaves only the bare facts visible.  The magic disappears. 

The numerous types of lichens, mosses and fungi make the woods seem more magical for many of us.  Is this because we typically know less about them than other living things in the forest?  If I encounter new, unknown varieties on a walk in the woods, why does this make the excursion more enchanting?  Perhaps, sometimes, it’s best to not know the names of things so that mystery and wonder can survive.

Though correct identification is helpful if they’re going to be eaten, nature’s myriad types of fungi need not be named in order to be enjoyed for the beauty of their subtle colours and forms.  Their ability to uplift our spirits are nonetheless.  And it may just be easier to imagine them eaten by elves or sat upon by delicate faeries if their exact variety is unknown to us.

I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.
~  Harry Emerson Fosdick

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fungi 10

Fall is an excellent time to see fungi in Nova Scotia’s woods.  Whether growing on the ground or on decaying trees, these life forms are varied, with some species being edible.

fungi

Of the ten types of fungi I managed to photograph in my yard in the past week, I am only confident of the identification of one, the orange jelly at bottom centre which is considered edible if boiled.  Even with the use of an Audubon field guide, I’m still wary of my ability to correctly identify the less colorful varieties.  Despite minute differences, they all look so similar to one another.

Although a distinction is often made between mushrooms and toadstools, with toadstools often considered toxic and with a tapered (as opposed to straight) stalk, there is no scientific basis for this.  The edibility of mushrooms is best determined by experts rather than through trial and error.  The adage that there are old mushroom pickers and bold mushroom pickers, but no old, bold mushroom pickers is probably true. 

fairy rings and toadstools by richard doyle

Due to the poisonous and hallucinogenic nature of some fungi, they have often been given magical properties in art and literature.  Faeries and gnomes are frequently depicted beside toadstools as in the 19th century painting of Fairy Rings and Toadstools (shown above) by Richard Doyle.  I once came across one of these ‘fairy’ rings in my yard.  They originate in the growth of fungi around the outer edge of the decaying underground roots of old trees.  It seemed pretty harmless in the light of day, but who knows what magic transpired in its midst during moonlit nights.

fungi with copper pennies

Copper penny test to determine toxicity of mushrooms as per Wind's comment

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TheQuarrelOfOberonandTitania

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1846) by Sir Joseph Noel Patton

The faeiries must have been quarreling last night.  Though it was Midsummer’s Eve, it was rainy and windy.  Inclement weather is a sign that arguments are taking place in the realm of faerie folk.  In ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ the king and queen of the faeries have an argument that affects the elements: 

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents

from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by William Shakespeare

path into the woodsI’d been tentatively planning to sit outside on this night, under an Elder tree in the hope of seeing the King of the Faeries.  Midsummer’s Eve is the only night of the year when this is supposedly possible. 

Yesterday afternoon I set up a solar generated light next to my chosen Elder tree so that I could easily spot it in the dark.  The tiny light , which is in the shape of a hummingbird, changes its color from blue to purple to red to green.  It looks enchanting in the night landscape throughout the seasons.

I set out into the woods at 10:30pm to get a sense of whether or not the faeries might be out.  By then, the trail was already soaked and every green thing was covered with water. 

It was the last night of the old moon, so it was very dark in the woods.  Even if it hadn’t been overcast and raining, it still would have been the darkest of nights. 

At least the mosquitoes weren’t bad.  They can’t fly around in heavy rain.  But neither can the faeries, I soon realized.  I’d have to wait until next year at least to catch a glimpse of the King of the Faeries.

Before heading back inside, I took a couple of photographs.  The flash from my camera lit up the surrounding trees.  There are many Mountain Ash trees in this area.  These are akin to Rowan, which are magical in their own right. 

elder at night

I’m sure many of you don’t believe in faeries anymore.  Perhaps it’s time to reconsider and ask ‘why not?’  A belief in faeries does put a sparkle on the day, and just as with the wild creatures in the woods, just because you haven’t seen them yet, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want them to be geniuses, read them more fairy tales.

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.

~ Albert Einstein

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The Great Turf by Albrecht Durer

The Great Turf by Albrecht Dürer (1503)

Did you ever get lost in the woods in familiar territory? Maybe it happened because you stepped on an enchanted clump of  ‘stray sod.’  

Stray sod blends in with the rest of the turf in meadows and forests and is only discernible to the forces that created it.  Some believe that it grows on the back of a tiny fairy that spends his time hunched over on the ground, waiting patiently.  Woe to the walker or hiker who has the misfortune of stepping upon it. He or she will quickly lose their way, unable to figure out their intended direction or wheareabouts. 

Usually, neither children nor adults will wander too far into unknown wilderness.  When things begin to look a little too strange, a survival instinct will kick in whereby they’ll feel spooked and turn towards familiar territory.  Unfortunately, some people (not unlike myself) lack this instinct.

I’ve been lost in a lot of places:  Paris, Rome, Athens, a small town in Germany, Halifax, Dartmouth… the list is long.  My sense of direction leaves something to be desired.  As you can imagine, I’ve also been lost in the woods.  A lot.  Sometimes while alone, but at other times with children in tow.  As if being lost isn’t bewildering enough, it’s even more difficult to appear like you know where you’re going when you just don’t have a clue.   If stray sod did not exist, people like me would have had to invent it – if only to save face.

There is one way to supposedly break the spell of the enchanted turf, and that is to take off one’s jacket, turn it inside out and put it back on again.  Unfortunately, I get so disoriented when lost that I can never remember to do this. 

leprechaunThe Irish were among the first Europeans to settle in the Eastern Passage/Cow Bay area.  When they left Ireland, I don’t imagine they left their faith and superstitions behind, but brought them along with them to the New World.  Among their beliefs would have been those associated with faeries and leprechauns.  Though to some it may all seem like nonsense, living on the edge of a misty bog, I do find it difficult not to believe…

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

 

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