While walking through the wood yesterday I came across a Fairy ring. The ring of fungi is caused by the mycelium which moves outwards from the centre. After using up the nutrients, the centre dies and a ring of mushrooms is formed each year.
There are many folklores about fairy rings, some say they are good luck, other say they are bad omens. Some stories speak of fairies dancing around the fairy rings on a full moon, while other stories are of the fairy rings being a portal from our world to the fairy realm.
Most fungi have a common, colloquial or local name for them, normally based on the way they look. Some of the fungi I can find on my local patch have names such as Witches butter, Jelly ear, Deadman’s fingers, Elfcups, Earthballs, as well as Chicken of the wood, Plums and Custard, Beefsteak and Jack O lanterns.
There are many fantastic names of fungi that I have yet to have come across such as Snaketongue Truffleclub, Pink Disco or Barometer Earthstar.
Some fungi have whole myths or stories based around them.
Fly Agaric is probably the most well known and most easily recognised.
Many stories are centred around the ability of being able to fly after ingesting Fly Agaric. This poisonous fungi can have hallucinogenic effects, inhibit fear and the startle reflex. People think they can fly, or witches use it to fly and this may even be where the story of Santa’s flying reindeer came from as reindeer as known for eating Fly Agaric.
Crampballs were carried to protect or cure you from cramps. They are locally known as King Alfred’s cakes after the King allegedly took shelter in a peasant woman’s house, he distracted her so much she burnt the loaves of bread she was baking.
Stories of whole towns or villages being affected by madness or witchcraft, such as 16th Century, Salem are now thought to have been caused by Ergot fungi poisoning, while Stinkhorn’s have been blamed for outbreaks of cholera and madness.
Many plays, books and films have references to fungi and their myths or their medicinal use. In Alice in Wonderland, Alice eats one side of a mushroom to make herself bigger and one side to make herself smaller. In Harry Potter, fungi is a well used ingredient in potion making. Even video games such as Mario use mushrooms or Toadstools to enable you to gain an ability.