Thursday, 25 September 2008

Enchantment - in nature

The Green Man and the Magic Thorn
This Green Man can be found in church at Sutton Benger in Wiltshire. It has hawthorn issuing from its mouth with birds eating the berries. The hawthorn is the most magical of all trees (see previous post) Image taken from Mike Harding's A Little Book Of The Green Man. Mike Harding, although better known to most people as a comedian and musician, has done some thorough research into the Green Man who 'crops' up in churches and cathedrals. Believed to be a pagan interpretation of John Barleycorn - who dances before the May Queen as a symbol of the Corn Spirit that must 'die' and be 'reborn'. Mike Harding has his own website where more information can be found
The Green Man is also known as Jack-in-the Green, Green Jack, and Green George. I am only touching on the subject here and I will no doubt come back to it when I have done more research and have seen some examples of the Green Man for myself.
In tree mythology a dryad is a wood nymph that inhabits a tree. This tree was spotted at Avebury - not a hawthorn but with a hawthorn growing next to it.

Toadstools and mushrooms
Toadstools are sometimes known 'Fairy tables or chairs'. This picture was taken was taken earlier this summer in the ancient woodland of Highgate Woods in north London. Amazingly, this precious place survives and thrives in one of the biggest cities in the world. Highgate Wood appears in an earlier post back in July - although I no longer live near to it, it remains a place very dear to my heart. When I left London a few years ago the one thing I was truly homesick for was Highgate Wood - happily though I still get to visit it.

Wild mushrooms often grow in 'fairy rings' often up to thirty feet in diameter - in folklore these are said to be entrances to the underworld.
The Fairy Stone - Wiltshire

This sarsen stone is on a field boundary somewhere in north Wiltshire. I was shown this stone by a friend the just the other day - why it is called the Fairy Stone we do not know and will probably never know. Country people are very reluctant to talk about enchantment but that doesn't mean they do not believe in its spell and true country dwellers are often very superstitious. The stone was the inspiration for this particular post - which I publish with some reservations. I am intrigued by folk tales and 'fairy' tales, some of them quite dark. However, I am well aware that in writing about them, I am probably going be described by some of the more cynical readers who may stubble on my blog whilst wandering the web, as being 'away with the fairies'. Should I continue I ask myself, will my credibility as an observer of nature and its 'hidden magic' be questioned. Probably!
Does it matter? Of course not - these are just my own musings and meditations. As the years pass with ever increasing speed I think there is time to revisit the magic of childhood - to have a look around and then come back again into the real world. In these troubled times we all need a little enchantment - and it is all around us. We only have to use our imagination and look with a the clear gaze of a child.

A traditional impression of faery folk Victorian style - Titania
by Arthur Rackham

Winged Words
The winged words, they pass
Still everywhere,
Seeds of the spirit-grass
The dream-winds bear
From that heart-field to this,
Where thought as feeling is;
There's not a seed will miss
Life, once sown there.
They pass, the faery words,
In shade and shine,
As they were magic birds
This heart of mine
Gave shape and colour to,
As in the light and dew
The primal creatures grew
From germs divine.
Robert Crawford (1868 - 1930)