Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Faerie Rings, Stone Henges, and Solstices - Oh My!

It's days such as today that prove me to be an absolute menace to society while driving. No, I wasn't texting. Perhaps it's the distraction of the lovely and gentle breeze blowing the New Orleans crape myrtles (also spelled crepe) in the soft sunlight, flirting their lavender colors and making me look......or maybe the way the growing cumulonimbus clouds are piling up in the southwest of the city; their ominous and silent blue-grey monstrosities puffing along slowly, as if by their pace, they cannot be seen. I saw them. I felt them....and a beat of excitement that my plants and I might get to enjoy some afternoon rain (foiled again, it's super sunny now!) I actually think what started it was seeing the two fairy rings that I passed on the Elysian Fields avenue neutral ground while driving home. Below is a random internetz image of a fairy ring.
Seeing the first one made me smile and the other ring surrounded a small tree perfectly - making me say "wow!" and also smile. Why in the world should I smile? especially when I generally hate mushrooms!? For those of you who don't already know, a fairy (faerie) ring is a slightly unusual growth of mushrooms in a circle. They happen more often after heavy rains and when the soil is too rich...such as in a forest. It happens because underground, below the sprouting 'shrooms, lies a network of threadlike fungal growth that grows in arcs, pushing up mushrooms (the "fruit" part of the fungus) above. As a child, I learned that these rings were supposed to be where fairies (or elves) came out into our world during the night. They would stay for a few days and wait for the fairies to return. When the ring was gone, it meant that the fairies were gone and I could stop performing my daily backyard spy activities in hopes of catching a glimpse of them. There were also lilac rings where fairies danced at night, attracting the fae with their sweet scent and reflecting the moonlight with drops of dew. I can remember straining to see out of the window in my parents' bedroom when I was very young and believing that I saw the lights of a tiny ring of dancing fairies within the circle of lilacs. I'm glad I still have that memory.
As I was driving down the road, well-past the ring of mushrooms, I wondered if anyone else had noticed them today. They do not last very long and I was having trouble resisting the urge to drive back down toward the university and photograph the rings. Working through it in my mind and knowing the only view that my iPhone could handle of the full ring was from above, I aborted the idea and gave the car some gas as I had slowed down, surely annoying other drivers. Still, I wondered if many these days even knew of the origins of fairy rings or cared very much. Then, I wondered if one day no one would know to google the term fairy ring or even notice them at all. It struck me that they were once believed to be magical and that the community at large has no time for such things. Society as a whole just doesn't believe in magic any longer......or does it?

My thoughts surfaced to the fact that today is the Summer Solstice (the solstice will occur at 7:09 EST, June 20, 2012, tonight) and that I had only seen one picture flitting around Twitter and Facebook today of Stonehenge in the sunrise or sunset of a solstice......and it was from 2008! I've posted it below this blog post - it's from the Astronomy Picture of the Day archive (APOD).
Stonehenge has a number of legends associated with it. One is that sun-worshipping people could communicate with the sun and built Stonehenge out of sacred stones to help them. Another is that there was a race of giants upon the Earth long before men and places such a Stonehenge and Easter Island show evidence of structures built by these giants.
There are Arthurian legends as well. Then, there are the more common myths surrounding the ancient Britons' group of philosopher/poets called the Druids. According to JStor excerpts from Stuart Piggot's "The Druids and Stonehenge", there was an actual Celtic priesthood of Druids that believed in some sort of immortality and the transmigration of souls. They had rituals fairly often. Druids did also practice human sacrifice in some cases and they performed ceremonies of all kinds outside in circles of standing stones, the largest and most important of which was Stonehenge.

"Archaeologists have found four, or possibly five, large Mesolithic postholes (one may have been a natural tree throw), which date to around 8000 BC, beneath the nearby modern tourist car-park" (wiki)

Ok that's just cool.  Anyway, the that many people barely consider legends anymore. How often do you think of fairy rings, solstice magic, sacred rituals, other worlds and souls transforming? How often do we feel the magic of the sun? More often, we feel the heat of it here in NOLA.

I will go ahead and say it now: I much prefer a world with elements of magical things and occasional fantastic ideas that transcend what we can academically understand. I love the superstitions, legends, and myths they create. I also love sci-fi movies :-) Since I often notice unusual things and am distracted by them, taking time to ponder their significance has become a joy. I can remember in undergraduate college when I was walking across campus at night with a group of chattering friends on the way to the old McMaster Music Bldg at USC (THE USC, 1801), I made the whole group stop and look at the clouds passing across the full moon. They were in awe......for about five seconds. For me, however, the image has always stayed and I am perpetually in awe of the full moon. I look up at the sky.....and I do it often. I encourage you to do it as well. "Don't forget to stop and smell the roses" as they say. Perhaps it's the inner amateur photographer in me that captures images and holds them for ponderance and perhaps too, it is the romantic in me. Long live romanticism!

Not to discount facts and figures......after all, I am a nerd, I saw a fantastic Google plus blog by the Solar Dymanics Observatory's Camilla Corona (the most awesome chicken you'll ever meet!) that was full of information to help us understand today's reasons for the season and what a solstice actually is. Check it out here and learn about today's solstice LINK HERE

Enougth rambling for now I suppose. It's time for a spinach salad. But first, here's that fantastic summer solstice image to which I referred earlier:

Sunrise Solstice at Stonehenge
Credit & Copyright:
Max Alexander, STFC, SPL


Carson Craig said...

Lovely thoughts! The world IS magical... to set a foot upon the Earth and be aware of it is a miracle.

Randall said...

like the post a lot! just another glimpse into the wonderful mind of Caroline!