Legends of Fairy Rings

Mushroom circles, also known as fairy rings, have played a part in my imagination since I was young, and in history for thousands of years. I don’t recall where I first heard or read of the legends of fairy rings, but I know I was drawn into them quickly–like everything else of Celtic origin. Of course, there are scientific explanations for fairy rings, but we’re not talking about them here, okay? Okay.

fairy ring, also known as fairy circle, elf circle, elf ring or pixie ring, is a naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms.

fairy circles
Plucked from the Fairy Circle, T.H. Thomas Illustration

Though there are many different legends of fairy rings, the one I started out with was the one that warned people not to enter a mushroom ring, lest you be transported beyond the veil, where you are forced to dance until you pass out–or die–of exhaustion. If you happen to get in and out of one, then the faeries will continue to harass you, causing all sorts of mischief in your life. Stealing things, breaking things, etc.

The many other legends of fairy rings range from simple retaliation of the fae that leaves the ring-intruder simply humiliated, to curses that were believed to doom a man to hang within the year. Few stories were actually lighthearted and fun.

Personally, I’ve only seen about three mushroom rings in my entire life. The first was when I was at a park with two of my girls. It was a glorious autumn day and I was pushing my girls on swings when a strong wind blew. I looked over my shoulder partly to protect my face from the cold wind when I saw the fairy ring, growing out of the fallen leaves. My oldest daughter wasn’t sure what the big deal was, (she was maybe 6 at the time) but thankfully, she was old enough to be told the legends of fairy rings.

I count that as one of my favorite mom moments.

The second is hard to remember, but I’m pretty certain I had another sighting before my last one that was in a graveyard about two years ago. Mushroom rings really grow just about anywhere and people used to believe that they moved around overnight, so the sighting of one immediately brought warnings of otherworldly visitors.

fairy-rigerThese days, some will say, “silly fairytales”  while others will swear by them, claiming that something special–or something terrible–happened on the day they came across one.

What about you? Have you seen one? Do you have any tale to share surrounding such a sighting?

There’s a song about the legend I know, called “Dance of the Wild Faeries.” I’ll share that below, with the lyrics.

Dance of the Wild Faeries

I wandered alone to the forest one night
Led by a music strange to hear
And followed the glow of a shimmering light
That seemed to grow distant as I grew near

The woods were alive with the fragrance of spring
But winter was everywhere clear to see
The moon shone bright and a bat on the wing
Beckoned me closer and said to me:

“A clearing close in the forest you’ll find
A fabulous banquet, a fairy ball
If you close your eyes and you open your mind
The veil disappears and you’ll see it all”

Come and play as the wild fairies play
In a magical circle, a fairy ring
You won’t want to leave and forever you’ll stay
Where the vision is bright as spring

Come and dance the wild fairy dance
Spin in a circle as fast as light
Once you begin you are caught in a trance
And the world can grow old in a single night

When I closed my eyes to the shimmering light
All memory faded and I could see
That a mushroom circle of red and white
And myriad fairies surrounded me

Beyond all space and beyond all time
On gossamer wings did the fairies fly
With a joy unknown to a music sublime
The fairies danced, and there danced I

Come and play as the wild fairies play
In a magical circle, a fairy ring
You won’t want to leave and forever you’ll stay
Where the vision is bright as spring

Come and dance the wild fairy dance
Spin in a circle as fast as light
Once you begin you are caught in a trance
And the world can grow old in a single night

“Those who seek us surely find us
See the trail we leave behind us
Some bewildered, some enlightened
Some are brave, some are frightened

Are we kind or are we vicious?
Nectar poison or delicious?
That, my sweet, you will discover
Fairy foe, or fairy lover”

Come and play as the wild fairies play
In a magical circle, a fairy ring
You won’t want to leave and forever you’ll stay
Where the vision is bright as spring

Come and dance the wild fairy dance
Spin in a circle as fast as light
Once you begin you are caught in a trance
And the world can grow old in a single night

I wandered alone to the forest one night
Led by a music strange and clear
If you happen to pass when the moon is bright
And the veils are thin you will find me here
If the veils are thin you will find me here

Whether or not you’re a believer in magic and the fae, the legends of fairy rings are always a fun piece of history to carry.

Check out our list of the best music for writing fantasy!

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