Moss is one of the most prevalent of woodland and forest plants, it covers almost all of the trees, living or dead. It green colour is one of the strongest to be found and when found in any patches of sun light breaking through the trees can be stunning.
Commercially there is a substantial market in mosses gathered from the wild. The uses for intact moss are principally in the florist trade and for home decoration. Decaying moss in the genus Sphagnum is also the major component of peat, which is “mined” for use as a fuel, as a horticultural soil additive, and in smoking malt in the production of Scotch whisky.
Sphagnum moss, generally the species S. cristatum and S. subnitens, is harvested while still growing and is dried out to be used in nurseries and horticulture as a plant growing medium.
The practice of harvesting peat moss should not be confused with the harvesting of moss peat. Peat moss can be harvested on a sustainable basis and managed so that regrowth is allowed, whereas the harvesting of moss peat is generally considered to cause significant environmental damage as the peat is stripped with little or no chance of recovery.
Some Sphagnum mosses can absorb up to 20 times their own weight in water. In World War I, Sphagnum mosses were used as first-aid dressings on soldiers’ wounds, as these mosses said to absorb liquids three times faster than cotton, retain liquids better, better distribute liquids uniformly throughout themselves, and are cooler, softer, and be less irritating. It is also claimed to have antibacterial properties. Native Americans were one of the peoples to use Sphagnum for diapers and napkins, which is still done in Canada.
In rural areas, types of moss were traditionally used to extinguish fires as it could be found in substantial quantities in slow-moving rivers and the moss retained large volumes of water which helped extinguish the flames. This historical use is reflected in its specific Latin/Greek name, the approximate meaning of which is “against fire”.
Preindustrial societies made use of the mosses growing in their areas.
Laplanders, North American tribes, and other circumpolar people used mosses for bedding. Mosses have also been used as insulation both for dwellings and in clothing. Traditionally, dried moss was used in some Nordic countries and Russia as an insulator between logs in log cabins, and tribes of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada used moss to fill chinks in wooden longhouses. Circumpolar and alpine peoples have used mosses for insulation in boots and mittens. Ötzi the Iceman had moss-packed boots.
The capacity of dried mosses to absorb fluids has made their use practical in both medical and culinary uses. North American tribal people used mosses for diapers, wound dressing, and menstrual fluid absorption. Tribes of the Pacific Northwest in the United States and Canada used mosses to clean salmon prior to drying it, and packed wet moss into pit ovens for steaming camas bulbs. Food storage baskets and boiling baskets were also packed with mosses.
Today was a typical Autumn day here in country Kilkenny, we have had some mixed weather over the last few days, some sun , some rain. Today was mild but wet, so all the falling leaves were full of rain drops something I just had to capture 🙂
Working with Trees and Tree Spirits
Trees are probably the most evolved of all plants. There is a special relationship between trees and humans, as trees produce the oxygen that we need to breathe, while we exhale carbon dioxide which trees thrive on. You could say that our exhalation is their inhalation and vice versa! Trees are multidimensional beings. They have their roots deep down in the earth which signifies their connection to the Underworld. Their trunks and lower branches are in our world, the world of men, which in shamanic terms is called the Middle World. The branches of tall trees reach high in the sky which makes them a bridge into the Upper World. In fact, in many cultures shamans journey into the Upper World by visualizing themselves climbing a tall tree to the very top and then flying up into the sky! Trees also connect us to other realms, such as the Faerie Realm, which is in a parallel dimension to ours.
The cutting down of forests and trees in our reality gradually destroys the Faerie Realm as well. Tree spirits are only loosely connected with their physical bodies, the actual visible tree. Because they are multidimensional and enjoy great freedom on the astral, and because of their connection to other realms, they can help us in journeying and inter-dimensional travel. Besides, meditating with a tree can be very relaxing and helps us to get grounded. Trees are great energy converters as well. They can transmute our negative energies and help us heal. This is shown by the very fact that they thrive on our metabolic waste products (carbon dioxide). For this reason we can draw energy from a tree without depleting it simply by giving it some of our unwanted energy in exchange.
Hairy Wood Ants (Formica lugubris) photographic project
Over the last few years I been involved working on a project around county Tipperary,Ireland involving photographing nests of Irish Wood Ants (Formica lugubris), this has been one of the most interesting photo project I have ever worked on.
The images in this post are captured between 2014 and 2017 ….
These Ants are on the international endangered species list and exist in locations that are kept reasonably private, just to find and get to see these nests themselves is a task and an amazing feeling.
When you get closer to the nests for the first time you will notice just how large they are (3 feet off the ground) and how many Ants that each colony contains, each nest can hold tens of thousands of Ants, the entire surface of the nest is on the move with Ants coming and going from small entrance holes. This flow of movement is 24 hours long during the months that the Ants are active.
They create a clear trail through the woods as they clear a path, traveling both outwards from the nest and returning again with food for the Queen Ant living deep in the ground under the nest itself.
It is thought she lives in a protected area some two meters underground.
In order to protect themselves and nest with its queen, they can shoot out acid some four feet from their bodies.
I will be working on this project most of this summer and look forward to each return, watching these wonderful Wood Ants is an amazing experience and working around them with a camera is great fun.
In the bleak midwinter
By Christina Rossetti
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
Our local woodlands in September begin to fill with many kinds of fungi, its an almost magical sight, they make great subjects for Macro photography. You need to be happy getting down into the damp and muddy forest floor but the results can be well worth the effort.
Here are some basic facts about Fungi …..
Mushroom Magic and Folklore
Go for a walk in the woods on any given summer day, and you’ll see fungi galore popping up, nestled in amongst the ferns and trees. After a rainstorm, peek out in your backyard and you may see tiny spores beginning to sprout in the grass, forming what’s known as a fairy ring. Mushrooms grow in all shapes and sizes and colors, and – depending on where you live – you might find some that are conducive to magical practice.
It is important to note that unless you are absolutely positive about the type of mushroom you have picked, you should never ingest it or take it internally. There are many toxic mushrooms which look similar to edible ones – if you’re unsure about what you have found, check with a naturalist or other mushroom expert.
That having been said, there are a number of folk magic uses for mushrooms, and you can incorporate these at a symbolic level, rather than actually ingesting them. Let’s take a look at some of the legends and myths about mushrooms from around the world.
In many areas, the appearance of a ring of mushrooms on the ground is cause for either rejoicing or alarm. In Great Britain, these circles are known as fairy rings – and they are where the Fae come to dance and frolic after a rainstorm. However, like many other locations associated with faeries, humans who dare to enter such a ring may find themselves asleep for a hundred years, or worse yet, whisked off to the land of the wee folk, never to return.
In Holland, these rings are believed to be left when the Devil sets down his milk churn – once he picks it up, there’s a big circle left in the grass. In some countries, such as France and Austria, these rings are associated with sorcery and malevolent magic, and travelers are well-advised to steer clear of them.
Vance Randolph says in his book Ozark Magic and Folklore that in many parts of the Ozarks, it is believed that “mushrooms must be gathered when the moon is full – gather ’em at any other time and they will be unpalatable, or perhaps even poisonous.” He adds that it is said that mushrooms growing in an orchard where apple trees are in bloom are always edible.
One of the best known mushrooms, at least in European culture, is the red-and-white Fly Agaric. This mushroom appears often in illustrations of fairy tales – you might see a gnome or a fairy perched on top of one. Experts believe that the Fly Agaric was used as a hallucinogenic by northern European shamans and religious leaders. Interestingly, it contains two toxins that reduce the body’s response to fear stimulus, so it may have been ingested by warriors prior to battle. In central Europe, the Fly Agaric is associated with the Yule season, and there is a theory that Santa Claus’ red and white suit originated in the colors of this magical mushroom.
In ancient Egypt, mushrooms were a rare delicacy indeed. They were associated with immortality, and as such, only royalty could consume them – because, after all, royal persons were descended from the Egyptian gods themselves. Hieroglyphs found in Egypt indicate that mushrooms were being consumed with meals as long as 4,500 years ago.
In China and Japan, mushrooms were associated with longevity and strength – partly because some of the most popular mushrooms that grew there were known for stimulating the immune system. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms, in particular, have been used in herbal remedies for centuries.
Mushrooms have been used by many cultures throughout time as part of ritual and religion. The toxin psilocybin is found in certain mushrooms, and the use of hallucinogenic fungi has been documented in rituals dating back thousands of years. Entheogen researcher Giorgio Samorini describes the discovery of rock art representing mushroom cults in Libya and Algeria from 7,000 – 9,000 years ago in his article The oldest Representations of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in the world (Sahara Desert, 9000 – 7000 B.P.).
Out of the Woods
Out of the woods
the trail turns,
the field rises
wet with morning drizzle;
the path narrows,
a bevy of birds
an urgent chorus,
thru the eyelets
of my shoes
My socks are damp,
the bottom of my jeans
the bark on my
a dry stream bed now
all is naked,
become a lifting fog
Secrets of the Forest
There’s a dead tree connecting the earth to my heart,
And yet it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
One silver root, and four dark leaves.
A branch is at my neck,
And there is a leaf telling me secrets,
Gently in my left ear.
There are vines strung elegantly from trunk to my teeth
And I’ll play them for you.
The rain is the beat,
It’s the same as your pulse.
My blood runs cherry with every note.