Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Fairy Rings

My son's girlfriend asked me the other day 'Why has Jim next door made a small circles out of stones in the middle of his lawn?' - perplexed - I said 'Who knows what Jim gets up to in his garden'
On further inspection - well not much inspection - I only had to look out the upstairs window, I found that this was a small circle of fungii.  It got me to thinking - as it was halloween time - I wonder if there was a connection.

I found myself trawling through lots of information available on the interweb!! -
It seems that all over Europe there are many superstitions surrounding these 'magical' rings - folklore stories are abound by them.

It is not only fairies that are associated with these rings.  Elves, Pixies, Witches, Dragons and even the Devil can 'claim' to be responsible for these phenomenon! 

One story is said to be that fairies sit around the mushrooms and use them as dinner tables - In Dutch folklore - it is said that these rings form in the place where the Devil leaves his milk churn.  French folklorist claimed that these 'rings' were guarded by giant bug eyed toads that would curse who ever would dare enter the 'ring'    

In my research I came across this traditional Scottish Verse which pretty much describes the danger of such places.......
He wha tills the fairies' green
Nae luck again shall hae :
And he wha spills the fairies' ring
Betide him want and wae.
For weirdless days and weary nights
Are his till his deein' day.
But he wha gaes by the fairy ring,
Nae dule nor pine shall see,
And he wha cleans the fairy ring
An easy death shall dee

For those who need a translation:

He who tills the fairies green
No luck again shall have
And he who spills the fairies ring
Betide him want and way
For weirdless days and Weary nights
Are his till his dyin day
But he who goes by the fairy ring
No duel nor pine shall see
And he who cleans the fairy ring
An easy death shall die   

It is thought that one of the reasons these rings featured in so many different stories was that the older generations often told youngsters such tales to discourage their inquisitiveness to touch or eat these often poisonous mushrooms.       

In reality 'fairy rings' are a result from the natural tendencies of mycelium (the underground spreading organisms) which spreads out to create these rings.  They slowly move out in an ever increasing circle as the decay of the older mycelium releases nutrients into the soil.  The first sign to the eye is the 'bloom' called barsidiocap - the fruiting body of the fungii - which we call 'mushroom'.  Their spores are released in a circular fashion - thus producing 'fairy rings'.    

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