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The Scrivener: There Are Fairies At The Top Of My Garden

So how do you prevent fairies from colonizing your front lawn? Brian Barratt offers a surprising “solution’’.

To read more of Brian’s enchanting words please click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page. And you are missing lots of fun if you don’t visit his Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

At the time of typing these lines, the Winter Solstice is not long past. Days are getting longer. Old Sol is rising with promise. Other things are rising, too, in the cold mists of the night.

Basidiomycetes, in the form of Fly Agaric, are pushing their way through the moist Winter soil.

Or, to put it another way, there are bright red toadstools, with creamy white spots, around the silver birch tree on the front lawn. They arrive like magic, almost overnight. Perhaps the fairies bring them.

‘An enjoyable day of amusement for the late autumn days is a toadstool hunt — a party of boys and girls searching in the fields to see how many distinct kinds of funguses they can find.’

Oh, how terribly jolly, but how risky. Fortunately, that piece from Arthur Mee’s dear old Children’s Encyclopædia also carries a warning that ‘we should not eat any at all except under the advice of grown-up friends…’

Grown-ups in past times might have done some pretty weird things with those toadstools. They certainly had ideas about birch trees. In 1653, Nicolas Culpeper advised readers that the birch is the tree of Venus. The juice, when distilled, was a remedy for ‘stone in the kidneys and bladder, and is good also to wash sore mouths’.

Evidently, from other sources, it was also the tree of Cerridwen. She was a witch in the times of King Arthur, who turned herself into various creatures in order to chase and get rid of her ugly son. Nice lady. He escaped, and became the fair Taleisin, ‘radiant brow’.

Venus or Cerridwen, take your pick.

It isn’t surprising, then, that in parts of England a birch tree decorated with red and white flags and placed against a stable door, was said to protect horses from being hag-ridden by witches. It also prevented fairies from knotting their manes. Maybe they still do that on May Day in the more secluded hamlets of Herefordshire.

We’re back with the fairies. There are no horses on the front lawn, so there’s no need to worry about their manes. However, some sort of protection against those fairies is probably required. Who knows what else they might do? And we certainly don’t want a witch dancing round her favourite tree on the lawn. Not when the neighbours are looking, anyway.
The toadstools grow round the birch tree. They are obviously linked, naturally and magically. The remedy against danger is therefore to protect the tree and thence the toadstools. It is to be found in Secrets of Art and Nature, which was published in 1660:

If a Tree be starved, it will become more juycefull, if you dig in about the roots and stock, and pour in stale Urine of Man, or Beasts Piss.

The second one is easy to apply. Beasts do it frequently, when owners take their dogs for walkies along the street. The first one is a bit more difficult. Best not to apply it during the day. The neighbours and their lace curtains, you know. As it must be stale, not fresh, it’ll be a matter of collecting it in a bucket, saving it for a while, and applying it later . . .

Good gracious, is that the time? Please excuse me — I must just pop outside for a minute. It isn’t only fairies who do strange things at the top of my garden.

© Copyright 2007 Brian Barratt


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