Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Santa Mushrooms and Trees For Life
These are SO beautiful - fly agaric mushrooms, loads about at the moment, young ones are round and they go flat as they get older. These are the traditional toad stools that fairies and gnomes sit on - but the original German means seat of death, not seat for a fairy! They are poisonous and hallucinogenic and pieces were floated in milk to attract flies (they smell a bit like chicken apparently), then the flies died of wild dreams I suppose.
I took this photo in a campsite in Cornwall at the weekend, it is gorgeous and added an amazing splash of colour to a dull day. The red and white is supposed to have inspired the colours for santa's costume. This story tesll why - it is from a website on the folklore of plants etc
Fly agaric has been a popular icon for the Midwinter and Christmas festivities in central Europe for a long time and is found on Christmas cards and as replica decorations for tree and wreath. Our current concept of Santa Claus can be traced back as an amalgamation of several characters of popular European folklore, such as a more pagan Scandinavian house goblin who offered protection from malevolent spirits in return for a feast at midwinter, and the fourth century Byzantine archbishop who became St Nicolas and was renowned for his kindness to children. More recently it has been suggested that the Siberian use of fly agaric may have played a part in the development of the legend of Santa Claus too. At midwinter festivals the shaman would enter the yurt through the smoke hole and down the central supporting birch pole, bringing with him a bag of dried fly agaric. After conducting his ceremonies he would leave the same way he had come. Ordinary people would have believed the shaman could fly himself, or with the aid of reindeer which they also knew to have a taste for fly agaric. Santa is now dressed in the same colours as the fly agaric, carries a sack with special gifts, comes and goes via the chimney, can fly with reindeer and lives in the 'Far North'.
I love coming across these - gorgeous.
Saturday is the start of National Tree Week. We did an interview with them for Saving Species today and the point was raised that we probably plant too many trees - especially in the wrong place. There is no point in manically planting trees everywhere, just where they are needed and form part of a coherent landscape. Anyway - happy Tree Week - I hope you find some of these growing under your local tress (but don't eat them!)