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The Mushroom Ring

The Mushrooms
Mushrooms may grow in naturally occurring arcs or circles. They can expand a diameter of ten feet or more, growing into other rings. As the mushrooms use the nutrients of the ground, they begin to die and create dead zones. This often occurs as the mushroom rings cross into the territory of other mushroom rings. At times, the above ground components of a mushroom may die but leave the underlying fungus in the soil. This can create a grassy ring, making the grass above appear withered or varying in color. Almost appearing as a path in the grass that has been mashed down by continue wear and tear.
The edible Marasmius oreades is best known as the "fairy ring mushroom", other species of fungus, some of which are poisonous to humans, may also form arcs or rings.
The Folklore
Fairy ring folklore can be found through out Europe. Each has some element of metaphysical or magikal undercurrent.
One of the first appearances of fairy rings comes from German-speaking Europe. Fairy rings were known as hexenringe or "witches rings". These rings were created by witches gathering and dancing in the forest for pagan rituals. Their energy left behind would create a 'fungus' and mushrooms would grow in their place. Many locals would see this as a warning sign, and avoid the area.
In English folklore, mushroom rings were also known as fairy or pixie rings. These were caused by fairies or pixies dancing in a circle. As they wore down the grass, they left a circular pattern of basidia (a type of mushroom) behind. Toads would then sit on the mushroom and poison them, creating a 'toadstool'.
In Scandinavian folklore, these circles were created by elves. Like the English legends, they were created by elves dancing in circles leaving their magikal presence behind in the form of mushrooms.
Various folklore stories call these rings gateways, or transporters. Some describe these as doorways into the fairy world. Others tell tales of these rings transporting people who mistakenly walk into their circle, taking them to far off places or strange lands. Others tell of taking unwary people to the same place, but in a different time.
The Literature of Mushroom Rings
Fairy rings have appeared in literature for many centuries and continue today. Do a simple search on for "Fairy Ring" and you'll be given a list of more than 160 modern offerings. But the rings have appeared in older literature and fairy tales as well. One of the most notable, Shakespeare mentions the ring in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
One of the connections for Fairy rings today associates them specifically with the Mid-summer festival sabbat. There's little in fairy legend to make this specific connection, other than it being a common growing season for mushroom. However, that hasn't stopped many pagan traditions, especially Fairy traditions utilizing these rings as part of their holiday.
The Witch's Almanac by Elizabeth Pepper, suggests practioners seek out a mushroom ring. For communion with the energy left behind. The thought there being, the magikal energy is still fresh from the dancing and celebrations during the previous nights ritual. Like most plants, mushrooms can be utilized in various ways. From eating on a salad, to simmering into a tea. But it's very important to know which mushrooms are safe and which ones are poisonous. You really need to know what you're doing with these mushrooms before using them in food, creams or teas. Not all mushroom rings contain non-poisonous varieties. If you decide to pick a mushroom; make sure you know what it is and if it's safe for using in potions, salves and alike.

Source: 1, c4, c20, m21, m26, 017, o22, o30, o32, o35, o36, o37
Created:   07.02.2006       Updated: 07.31.2010