Oct 25, 2012

Up The Airy Mountain

This is my post as a participant in Pagan Culture's "All Hallow's Grim" celebration - The Dark Side of Faerie.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I wander in the woods quite a bit.  I love to walk with friends, but often go out alone as well (having told someone where I will be.)  The Valley hills are far from vacant.  Filled with birdsong, the woods also house deer, coyote, bear, cougar, lynx, moose and more.

There are plenty of common sense ways to stay safe while wandering alone in the woods.  I take my cell phone (fully charged.)  Even if there is no cell service, the face of the phone is reflective and can be used to signal.  It is good idea to have water and some sort of sealed food in your car, as well as a blanket and a lighter or waterproof matches.  A small first-aid kit is a great idea too.  Wearing suitable clothes and shoes is a must.

While walking, be aware of your surroundings.  Are there animal tracks?  What do you hear?

Here's the part that should be self-evident:  do not follow anything.  Do not track animals (unless you are a hunter.)  Do not follow flickering lights.  And don't bother following trails of mushrooms.

Having given those cautions, I can honestly say that I've done all of those things.  I was never one for taking advice.  My most recent run-in with the odd, was a brief stop within a circle of trees that I had found after following a trail of mushrooms.  The mushrooms themselves, circled the trees and I stood within that circle listening to the buzz of the hummingbirds above me.  After a very short time, I wandered back to the car and looking at the clock on my dash, realized that the few minutes I'd been standing there had, in fact, been almost an hour.

A circle of mushrooms is sometimes called a "faerie ring."  Considered in folklore to be a gateway to the faerie realm or simply evidence of a faerie fete, the ring is the subject of many myths and cautions.  Stories about people losing time, dancing until they lose their toes, or becoming blind after seeing the faeries are common.

A ring also has ties in folklore to witches, who are supposed to be prone to dancing in a circle, leaving a "hexenringe" (witches' ring) and the devil, who apparently leaves rings wherever he sets his milk-churn.

 Image:  Plucked from the Fairy Circle

The Fairies
Up the airy mountain,
  Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
  For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
  Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
  And white owl's feather!

~William Allingham

As for the fae's connection to Halloween, W. B. Yeats has this to say:

"On November Eve they are at their gloomiest, for according to the old Gaelic reckoning, this is the first night of winter. This night they dance with the ghosts, and the pooka is abroad, and witches make their spells, and girls set a table with food in the name of the devil, that the fetch of their future lover may come through the window and eat of the food. After November Eve the blackberries are no longer wholesome, for the pooka has spoiled them."

~from "Trooping Fairies"

This Hallows, I'll be leaving offerings out for the passing dead, as well as a generous plate in the side garden. That garden has always been rather 'active' and as long as I am polite and offer a good drink and some occasional treats, everything I plant there grows marvelously without any help at all from me.

And the next time I head up into the hills, I will not follow trails of mushrooms, or flickering lights, or paths into the trees.  But if I do, I will be sure to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.


mrsduncanmahogany said...

Beautiful post! Wished I lived closer to the forest....

Hex Parker said...

Good rules to live by and beautiful pictures as well. :D

Lois said...

I live in the inner city, but very close to my house is the Niagara Escarpment. There are many trails including the Bruce Trail, which snake across the escarpment. Some people live there in the rough, so I don't often go off the paved path into the brush when I am alone. There is a cool energy on the Escarpment.

Linda Wildenstein said...

Oh my, you tell a wonderful tale. I envy you the woods so close. And we seldom see a fairy ring here in the desert but the fae here are very active as well....
Very good reminders for treks where humans are but the visitors.
I really enjoy your contribution to The Darker Side of Faery....Oma Linda

Ms Misantropia said...

Traditionally in Sweden, we don't have Halloween. Instead we also celebrate this time of year by visiting and leaving little offerings to our beloved dead. Candles, flowers, pictures and other things.
Love the story about when blackberries go bad. I love blackberries, but the definitely have a best-before-date.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy picture-text posts.
And the traditional bits of Faery lore, very cool.

petoskystone said...

The woods are no longer close enough for me to walk through. Maybe by my next move, they will be:)

Wendy the (Very Good Witch) said...

Loved reading this post! I should like to leave some offerings for the ancestors this year...what a nice sentiment and ritual! :o)

the wild magnolia said...

This is the best post, I loved it. A faerie story for real! A well told story, kept me eagerly ready. A fitting story for All Hallows Eve.

Happy All Hallows Eve. Loved the pictures too!!

the wild magnolia said...

This is the best post, I loved it. A faerie story for real! A well told story, kept me eagerly ready. A fitting story for All Hallows Eve.

Happy All Hallows Eve. Loved the pictures too!!

Magic Love Crow said...

This is a wonderful post! I truly enjoyed your pictures! It was amazing what happened to you! Thanks for all the information! This was very interesting! I will be leaving some food out for offerings. Hugs, Stacy

Jeanne said...

A great post! Beware those 'Shrooms! :0)
I have encountered a few places in my life that have had a bit of a time warp about them. Very surreal!

Misty said...

This was a wonderful blog post! Losing time in the Forest is So easy to do even without fairy friends! I am hoping to get to the woods myself this weekend and hopefully find some mushrooms to follow!! <3

Susan said...

awesome post! Both cool and interesting!
please come visit:

Thanks, Susan

Sunshineshelle said...

This is a great post, like I walked in the woods with you... Well maybe I danced a little too... Be careful with those breadcrumbs though... Take a compass as well ;)

Birgit said...

How very interesting!

By the way, Hexenringe is plural while Hexenring would be singular. :)


Magaly Guerrero said...

I shall tie a red ribbon to my black cap, wear a green jacket, dance in circles and leave all kinds of sweets to wee folk.

This was lovely ;-)

Rue said...

Thanks for the correction Birgit - of course you would know! ;)