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.).
The Nightingales Nest
Up this green woodland-ride let’s softly rove,
And list the nightingale— she dwells just here.
Hush ! let the wood-gate softly clap, for fear
The noise might drive her from her home of love ;
For here I’ve heard her many a merry year—
At morn, at eve, nay, all the live-long day,
As though she lived on song.
This very spot, Just where that old-man’s-beard all wildly trails
Rude arbours o’er the road, and stops the way—
And where that child its blue-bell flowers hath got,
Laughing and creeping through the mossy rails—
There have I hunted like a very boy,
Creeping on hands and knees through matted thorn
To find her nest, and see her feed her young.
And vainly did I many hours employ :
All seemed as hidden as a thought unborn.
And where those crimping fern-leaves ramp among
The hazel’s under boughs, I’ve nestled down,
And watched her while she sung ; and her renown
Hath made me marvel that so famed a bird
Should have no better dress than russet brown.
Her wings would tremble in her ecstasy,
And feathers stand on end, as ’twere with joy,
And mouth wide open to release her heart
Of its out-sobbing songs.
The happiest part
Of summer’s fame she shared, for so to me
Did happy fancies shapen her employ ;
But if I touched a bush, or scarcely stirred,
All in a moment stopt.
I watched in vain :
The timid bird had left the hazel bush,
And at a distance hid to sing again.
Lost in a wilderness of listening leaves,
Rich Ecstasy would pour its luscious strain,
Till envy spurred the emulating thrush
To start less wild and scarce inferior songs ;
For while of half the year Care him bereaves,
To damp the ardour of his speckled breast ;
The nightingale to summer’s life belongs,
And naked trees, and winter’s nipping wrongs,
Are strangers to her music and her rest.
Her joys are evergreen, her world is wide—
Hark! there she is as usual— let’s be hush—
For in this black-thorn clump, if rightly guest,
Her curious house is hidden.
These hazel branches in a gentle way,
And stoop right cautious ‘neath the rustling boughs,
For we will have another search to day,
And hunt this fern-strewn thorn-clump round and round ;
And where this reeded wood-grass idly bows,
We’ll wade right through, it is a likely nook :
In such like spots, and often on the ground,
They’ll build, where rude boys never think to look—
Aye, as I live ! her secret nest is here,
Upon this white-thorn stump ! I’ve searched about
For hours in vain.
There! put that bramble by—
Nay, trample on its branches and get near.
How subtle is the bird ! she started out,
And raised a plaintive note of danger nigh,
Ere we were past the brambles ; and now, near
Her nest, she sudden stops— as choking fear,
That might betray her home.
So even now We’ll leave it as we found it : safety’s guard
Of pathless solitudes shall keep it still.
See there! she’s sitting on the old oak bough,
Mute in her fears ; our presence doth retard
Her joys, and doubt turns every rapture chill.
Sing on, sweet bird! may no worse hap befall
Thy visions, than the fear that now deceives.
We will not plunder music of its dower,
Nor turn this spot of happiness to thrall ;
For melody seems hid in every flower,
That blossoms near thy home.
These harebells all Seem bowing with the beautiful in song ;
And gaping cuckoo-flower, with spotted leaves,
Seems blushing of the singing it has heard.
How curious is the nest ; no other bird
Uses such loose materials, or weaves
Its dwelling in such spots : dead oaken leaves
Are placed without, and velvet moss within,
And little scraps of grass, and, scant and spare,
What scarcely seem materials, down and hair ;
For from men’s haunts she nothing seems to win.
Yet Nature is the builder, and contrives
Homes for her children’s comfort, even here ;
Where Solitude’s disciples spend their lives
Unseen, save when a wanderer passes near
That loves such pleasant places.
Deep adown, The nest is made a hermit’s mossy cell.
Snug lie her curious eggs in number five,
Of deadened green, or rather olive brown ;
And the old prickly thorn-bush guards them well.
So here we’ll leave them, still unknown to wrong,
As the old woodland’s legacy of song
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
Advice from a Tree
By Ilan Shamir
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!
My Secret Place
There’s a magical place that I often visit,
where all of my dreams and wishes come true.
A special place where I can be myself,
where happiness always seems to follow through.
In this place are creatures that roam,
so beautiful, magnificent, and free.
Just like us they have open hearts,
and a special language that they speak.
The forests here are so alive,
plentiful are the fruits that they bare.
Nothing but peace and harmony dwells within,
and tranquility floats in and around the air.
There is no sun or moon,
the temperature is always just right.
You can sleep all day and never have to worry,
about having to leave here at night.
Patience is a way of life here,
no one rushes to get to where they want to be.
People hold their heads up high and smile,
they’re always proud to have you in their company.
You can find all of the solitude that you seek,
love and peace are so ominous here.
Every one respects and supports one another,
and their trust and loyalty will never disappear.
In tiny little caves live the most beautiful elves,
many with families of their very own.
Each one is unique with his or her own colors,
always seeking friends, never wanting to be alone.
The elves come out and frolic in the forests,
while unicorns roam and graze in the grassy fields.
With their powerful and majestic wings,
they bring a feeling of strength and security.
Fairies fly free throughout,
their fluttering wings sparkling bright.
Lighting up this magical universe,
like thousands of lanterns dancing in the night.
Stars decorate the clear night sky,
blazing afar, wanting to be seen.
They bring hope and encouragement to one and all,
creating a wonderful and tranquil scene.
The unicorns are so delicate yet strong,
their awesome presence will captivate you instantly.
Enchanting the hearts of all who come across them,
nothing can ever stand up to their uniqueness and beauty.
This is a place that I turn to,
whenever I am down and blue.
A wonderful and exciting trip,
that I would recommend for everyone, even you.
Friends, please take my hand and join me,
let us fly away into the sky.
Where miracles happen every day,
so that you don’t have to wish or cry.
You will love this enchanted place,
my special and wonderful escape from time.
It helps me to forget about my problems and sorrows,
Even though it only exists in the back of my mind.
“The Road Not Taken” by : Robert Frost is a favorite poem of his, I often re-read it and sometimes think of it when out in our local woods here in County Kilkenny.
This weekend I hope you can find time to walk your own path and roads, enjoy yourself and get to relax and put the last week behind you .
The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
If you take a walk through some of the many Irish woodlands at this time of year, it may appear that there is little to see or take any images of. However I just love the textures and colours to be found during these months. Often the woodland floors are wet and this adds to some wonderful light to be found in photographs.
These Images are from a walk yesterday in one of out local woods.
Winter in the Irish Woodlands
So far the early mornings this week, the first week of December 2014 have been perfect , bright clear blue sky’s, an overnight frost that has melted away by 9am leaving the fields and woodland paths very wet and damp.
One walk with molly I love doing on mornings like this is in Ballykeefe woods county Kilkenny, this is a circular walk around the nature reserve that slowly claiming to a viewing point at the top of the hill, the view here is just wonderful. There is a bench to sit on after the walk and the landscape views below are of all the farms between the these woods and the mountain of Slievenamon just across the county border from county Kilkenny and into county Tipperary.
The images below are from this walk and the last image shows the landscape views from the wooden bench at the top of the hill
On the 12th of February this year Ireland was hit by the remains of a hurricane given the name of Darwin, by the time it hit us it was down rated to a storm but its power was truly stunning.
Locally in counties Tipperary and Kilkenny there was a lot of damage to peoples property and farm building but the forests and their trees where the most affected. Irish Forestry lost almost one years worth of timber , the same amount that would have been harvested in 2014.
It is only in the last month that most of the local fallen trees have been removed, sadly however to do this it has meant clear felling very large areas of our local woodlands.
The images here where taken during the the year and include the after effects of the storm and then images of Forest workers during the process of clearing some one sq mile of Breanomore forest near the mountain of Slievenamon, County Tipperary.
The last set of images show how the forest looks now, a vast area has been cleared. The effects of Storm Darwin are still very clear even now in November and the work to remove damaged and fallen trees will continue for sometime to come.
A true reminder of the power of nature.
The results of the February storms
Forest workers clearing the trees
The Forest after being cleared