Thursday, 2 December 2010

The fairy ring, myth and science

Fairy ring

A great deal of folklore surrounds fairy rings.
Their names in European languages often allude to supernatural origins;
they are known asronds de sorciers ("sorcerers' rings") in France,
and Hexenringe ("witches' rings") in German.
In German tradition, fairy rings were thought to mark the site of witches' dancing on Walpurgis Night.

In Tyrol, folklore attributed fairy rings to the fiery tales of flying dragons;
once a dragon had created such a circle, nothing but toadstools could grow there for seven years.
European superstitions routinely warned against entering a fairy ring.
French tradition reported that fairy rings were guarded by giant bug-eyed toads
that cursed those who violated the circles.
In other parts of Europe, entering a fairy ring would result in the loss of an eye.
Fairy rings are associated with diminutive spirits in the Philippines.

Scandinavian and Celtic traditions claimed that fairy rings are the result of elves or fairies dancing.
Such ideas dated to at least the mediæval period;
The Middle English term elferingewort ("elf-ring"),
meaning "a ring of daisies caused by elves' dancing" dates to the 12th century.

In his History of the Goths (1628), Olaus Magnus makes this connection,
saying that fairy rings are burned into the ground by the dancing of elves.
British folklorist Thomas Keightley noted that in Scandinavia in the early 20th century,
beliefs persisted that fairy circles (elfdans) arose from the dancing of elves.
Keightley warned that while entering an elfdans might allow the interloper to see the elves
—although this was not guaranteed
—it would also put the intruder in thrall to their illusions.

The folklores of the British Isles contain a wealth of fairy lore,
including the idea from which fairy rings take their name:
the phenomena result from the dancing of fairies.

In 19th-century Wales, where the rings are known as cylch y Tylwyth Teg,
fairies were almost invariably described as dancing in a group when encountered,

and in Scotland and Wales in the late 20th century, stories about fairy rings were still common;

some Welsh even claimed to have joined a fairy dance.

Victorian folklorists regarded fairies and witches as related,
based in part on the idea that both were believed to dance in circles.

These revels are particularly associated with moonlit nights,
the rings only becoming visible to mortals the following morning.

Local variants add other details.
An early 20th-century Irish tradition says that fairies enjoy dancing around the hawthorn tree
so that fairy rings often centre on one.

A Devon legend says that a black hen and chickens sometimes appear
at dusk in a large fairy ring on the edge ofDartmoor.

A Welsh and Manx variant current in the 1960s removes dancing from the picture
and claims that fairy rings spring up over an underground fairy village.

These associations have become linked to specific sites.
For example, "The Pixies' Church" was a rock formation in Dartmoor surrounded by a fairy ring,
and a stone circle tops Cader Idrisin northern Wales,
believed to be a popular spot for fairy dances.

Many folk beliefs generally paint fairy rings as dangerous places, best avoided.

Sikes traces these stories of people trespassing into forbidden territory

and being punished for it to the tale of Psyche and Eros.

In it, Psyche is forbidden to view her lover, and when she does so,

her palace disappears and she is left alone.

Superstition calls fairy circles sacred and warns against violating them lest the interloper

(such as a farmer with a plough) anger the fairies and be cursed.

In an Irish legend recorded by Wilde,

a farmer builds a barn on a fairy ring despite the protests of his neighbours.

He is struck senseless one night, and a local "fairy doctor" breaks the curse.

The farmer says that he dreamed that he must destroy the barn.

Even collecting dew from the grass or flowers of a fairy ring can bring bad luck.

Destroying a fairy ring is unlucky and fruitless; superstition says it will just grow back.

A traditional Scottish rhyme sums up 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.

Numerous legends focus on mortals entering a fairy ring—and the consequences.

Most often, someone who violates a fairy perimeter becomes invisible
to mortals outside and may find it impossible to leave the circle.
Often, the fairies force the mortal to dance to the point of exhaustion, death, or madness.

In Welsh tales, fairies actively try to lure mortals into their circles to dance with them.

Entering the ring on May Eve or Halloween night was especially dangerous.
One source near Afon fach Blaen y Cae,
a tributary of the Dwyfach,
tells of a shepherd accidentally disturbing a ring of rushes where fairies are preparing to dance;
they capture him and hold him captive, and he even marries one of them.

Freedom from a fairy ring often requires outside intervention.

A tactic from early 20th century Wales is to cast wild marjoram and thyme into the circle and befuddle the fairies;
another asks the rescuer to touch the victim with iron.

Other stories require that the enchanted victim simply be plucked out by someone on the outside,
although even this can be difficult.

Other folk methods rely on Christian faith to break the enchantment: a stick from a rowan tree
(thought to be the wood from which the cross of Jesus Christ was built) can break the curse,
as can a simple phrase such as "what, in Heaven's name",

A common element to these recoveries is that the rescuer must wait a year and a day from the point where the victim entered the ring.

Mortals who have danced with the fairies are rarely safe after being saved from their enthrallment.
Often, they find that what seemed to be but a brief foray into fairyland was indeed much longer in the mortal realm, possibly weeks or years.

The person rescued from the fairy ring may have no memory of their encounter with the sprites,
as in a story from Anglesea recorded in 1891.

In most tales, the saved interlopers face a grim fate.
For example, in a legend from Carmarthenshire, recorded by Sikes,
a man is rescued from a fairy ring only to crumble to dust.

Some legends assert that the only safe way to investigate a fairy ring is to run around it nine times.
This affords the ability to hear the fairies dancing and frolicking underground.

According to a 20th-century tradition of Northumberland, this must be done under a full moon,
and the runner must travel in the direction of the sun;
to go widdershins allows the fairies to place the runner under their sway.
To circle the ring a tenth time is foolhardy and dangerous.

A story from early 20th century England says that a mortal can see the sprites
without fear if a friend places a foot on that of the person stepping beyond the circle's perimeter.

Another superstition says that wearing a hat backwards can confuse the fairies
and prevent them from pulling the wearer into their ring.

a legend from Pont y Wern says that in the 13th or 14th century,
the inhabitants of the town of Corwrion watched fairies dancing in a ring around a glow worm
every Sunday after church at a place called Pen y Bonc.
They even joined the sprites in their revels.
The legend survives in a rhyme:
"With the fairies nimbly dancing round / The glow-worm on the Rising Ground.

Fairy imagery became especially popular in the Victorian era.

Thomas Hardy uses a fairy ring as a symbol of lost love in The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886);
the character Michael Henchard passes a fairy ring
and remembers that he last saw his wife Susan there when he sold her to a sailor in a drunken rage.

Victorian poets who have referred to fairy rings in their works include

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Eliza Cook, Robert Stephen Hawker, Felicia Hemans, Gerald Massey, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
W. H. Cummings composed the cantata The Fairy Ring,
and William Butler Yeats wrote of them in The Land of Heart's Desire (1894).

African Fairy circles

are enigmatic barren patches,

typically found in the grasslands of the western part of southern Africa.

They are most prolific in Namibia, but are also present in Angola and South Africa.

These fairy circles consist of round areas barren of vegetation;

as yet there is no clear picture as to how they are formed,

although scientists are researching the matter.

One theory suggeststermites as the creator of these circles,

but recent studies have stated that there is no evidence termites would cause this phenomenon.

In the oral myths of Himba people these barren patches are said to have been caused by the gods and/or spirits and natural divinities.

A fairy ring, also known as fairy circle, elf circle, elf ring or pixie ring,
is a naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms.

Fairy rings also occupy a prominent place in European folklore as the location of gateways into elfin kingdoms,
or places where elves gather and dance.

According to the folklore, a fairy ring appears when a fairy, pixie, or elf appears.
It will disappear without trace in less than five days,
but if an observer waits for the elf to return to the ring, they may be able to capture it.

The rings may grow to over 10 metres (33 ft) in diameter, and they become stable over time as the fungus grows and seeks food underground.
They are found mainly in forested areas, but also appear in grasslands or rangelands.

Fairy rings are detectable by sporocarps in rings or arcs, as well as by a necrotic zone (dead grass),
or a ring of dark green grass.
If these manifestations are visible a fairy fungus mycelium is likely present in the ring or arc underneath.

(Mycelium (plural mycelia) - mushroom roots,

are the vegetative part of a fungus,
consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae.
The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro)

It is through the mycelium that a fungus absorbs nutrients from its environment.
One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds.
Petroleum products and pesticides that can be contaminants of soil are organic molecules.
Therefore, fungi should have potential to remove such pollutants from the soil environment, a process known as bioremediation.
Mycelial mats have been suggested (see Paul Stamets) as having potential as biological filters,
removing chemicals and microorganisms from soil and water.
The use of fungal mycelia to accomplish this has been termed "mycofiltration".

There are two generally recognised types of fairy ring fungus.
Those found in the woods are called tethered,
because they are formed by mycorrhizal fungi living in commensalism with trees.

Meadow fairy rings are called free, because they are not connected with other organisms.
These mushrooms are saprotrophic.
The effects on the grass depend on the type of fungus that is growing;
when Calvatia cyathiformis is growing in the area grass will grow more abundantly;
however, Clitocybe gigantea will cause the grass to wither.

There are about 60 mushroom species which can grow in the fairy ring pattern.

The best known is the edible Scotch bonnet (Marasmius oreades),

commonly known as the fairy ring champignon.

One of the largest rings ever found is in France. Formed by Clitocybe geotropa,

it is thought to be about 600 metres (2,000 ft) in diameter and over 700 years old.

On the South Downs in southern England,

Calocybe gambosa has formed huge fairy rings that also appear to be several hundred years old

Please watch video
six ways mushrooms can save the world

Reminds me of Avatar - connection to the peoples land....

love & light