Monday, August 30, 2010


Fairies of the Meadow, Nils Blommer
Faerie Mushrooms I, Jamestown, NC
Faerie Mushrooms II, Jamestown, NC

I spotted the irregular white circle from a distance while enjoying an early morning drive in the cool of the summer’s day. It had formed at the edge of a rather wide expanse of grasses behind a neighboring church yard. It must have sprung up almost overnight after a generous rainstorm quenched the land the previous evening. Modern biologists inform us that the “fairy rings” can start when a single mushroom drops its spores around itself. The spore germinates; a fungus grows and creates mushrooms. Over time, new generations of the faerie shelters grow outwards as the local nitrogen levels are depleted. Rainstorms coax the fruiting bodies of the fungi to poke their heads up from the soil. One of the largest rings ever found is in France and is over 700 years old and 2,000 feet in diameter.

Before people understood fungi, however, they believed that faeries had danced a circle dance in the night which resulted in the formation of mushrooms the following morning. Isn’t that a much more intriguing explanation? These rings are reputed to be gateways into faerie kingdoms. The ring will generally disappear in about five days without a trace, but if you patiently wait for a faerie to return, you may be able to capture it on camera. While we move about in our daily routines, spirits rise and their dance is all around us. The entire cosmos circles in a vibrantly delicate balance at both the micro and macro levels. At the subatomic level of all matter, atoms move in vibrating circles around a centered nucleus and our planet earth delicately circles our life sustaining sun. The days and the seasons also follow the circular dance of life.

J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, writes that “When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces, and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.” Ancient myth and folklore describe their nature as magical, ethereal creatures. Some have a dark side, but since we’re just speculating, I prefer the more fanciful side. They were reputed to tangle the hair of sleepers and pinch them in the night if they didn’t think that the house was clean enough. Bread is associated with home and hearth, so it was customary to place a piece in your pocket to keep faeries at bay. Other protective charms include cold iron, church bells, St. John’s wort, four-leaf clovers, and wearing clothing inside out.

I returned to the faerie ring this morning with camera in hand only to find that the cold iron of an alien’s mowing machine had destroyed the gateway. But perhaps I’ll return by the light of a full harvest moon after the next life-giving rainstorm and peer from behind a nearby oak tree to witness another circle dance. And I’ll be sure to wear my shirt inside out and have a dry piece of bread in my pocket.

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