Today I thought I’d write a little bit about faeries and fungi. I’ve long been fascinated with fungi – often bright little splashes of colour popping up in woodlands, hedgerows and grassy fields. Sometimes they appear alone, sometimes in groups, or of course some as faery rings!
Like old gnarled trees, it seems mushrooms too have a watchful presence over their habitat. I think this is why my art often features mushrooms such as my Grumpy Waxcap and Woodland Amanita amongst others. I feel with these that while we may not always see them sitting there with their faces so clearly visible, we can sometimes catch a glimpse and get a clear sense of their personalities if we are observant enough!
In my paintings I aim to reveal their personalities. Often I think mushrooms do look rather grumpy but I think they are often just very serious about the roles they have or think they have such as guarding a particular tree. Many mushrooms do have very close relationships with trees and are essential for their survival, helping them to gain nutrients from the soil.
I think other faeries are drawn to fungi too and find many different uses for them – whether for simple seats and other furnishings or as decorative hats. This is reflected in the names some fungi are given such as parasol, Goblet Waxcap, Dryad’s Saddle, Green Elfcup and Elfin Saddle.
Names of other fungi indicating faery association include Old Man of the Woods, Brownie, Fairy Inkcap and of course Fairy Ring Champignon. Many Types of mushroom form rings, often said to be places where faeries gather to dance or sometimes places where their villages are hidden away. It would be so tempting I’m sure to join in any faery revelries you might catch sight of but there are so many tales of humans stepping into faery rings and only with difficulty escaping lest they become trapped for years, used as slaves by the faeries or being entranced to dance until the point of exhaustion or madness. They are said to be especially dangerous on Beltaine or Halloween. Even if someone is rescued, they may find they have been gone for many mortal years and on their return crumble to dust… Apparently, some protection is offered by wearing a hat backwards. I’m not sure why wearing clothes backwards is often found to be a form of protection from faeries – does it confuse or amuse them into distraction?
So do be wary of crossing into faery rings unless you have your backwards hat and remember these wise words from Shakespeare
If you see a fairy ring
In a field of grass,
Very lightly step around,
Tiptoe as you pass;
Last night fairies frolicked there,
And they’re sleeping somewhere near.
If you see a tiny fay
Lying fast asleep,
Shut your eyes and run away,
Do not stay or peep;
And be sure you never tell,
Or you’ll break a fairy spell.