Monday, August 10, 2015

August 10, 2015 - Amanita!

[This is a fairy tale, and in no way does the author imply or suggest that you ever nibble on an Amanita as they can be poisonous.  Leave them for the fairies.]

There once was a small group of fairies that were completely orange.  They would often gaze in a mirror at themselves because they adored the color orange and believed that they were the most beautiful of all fairies.  They never wasted a chance to tell all the other fairies of the forest just how beautiful they were.  They never wasted a chance to try to make the other fairies jealous.  After all, they reasoned, they were orange, and what fairy would not want to be orange?

The trouble is there were a lot more fairies in the forest who were not orange, and what’s more, they had no desire to be orange.  They were all getting very tired of hearing about how ugly they were and how beautiful the orange fairies were.  Of course, this was all told to them by the orange fairies, so you might imagine there was a bit of bias in the telling.  In any event, they had all decided that they’d had enough of the bragging from the orange fairies.

Eventually, an argument between the groups of fairies broke out with the orange fairies screaming horrible insults at the other fairies, and the other fairies hurtling acorns back at the orange fairies.  It was a terrible ruckus, and through it all the orange fairies kept chanting over and over about how beautiful they were and how ugly all the other fairies in the land were.  On and on it went until every creature of the forest had to block its ears just to have any peace.

Amanita muscaria (fly agaric).

Now it happened that a peapod pixie was nearby, trying to take a nap when the fight broke out.  He tried to block his ears, but as you know, peapod pixies have very sensitive ears and nothing he did would help at all.  At last he crept out from under his leaf, and while all the fairies were screaming and yelling at one another, he tossed a beautiful gold goblet right into the middle of the area with the most fighting.  At once, all of the fairies were silent as they stared at the stunning gold goblet.  Then in a very loud and booming voice he said, “Only the kindest may drink from this goblet!”  Of course no one knew where the voice came from because peapod pixies are so tiny that no one pays them any mind.

All eyes were on the gold goblet.  Each group wanted the goblet for themselves, but no group wanted to engage in serious warfare to get it because warfare between fairies can last several centuries at least and sometimes an eon.  Finally, an old and plain fairy came forward from the group of regular woodland fairies and he said, “Let us all go back to our homes and decide upon the best gift for one another.  In three days’ time, whichever side gives the gift that is kindest and truly from the heart gets to keep the goblet.”

The fairies all agreed upon this, and the woodland forest fairies all left together talking about what might be the best gift.  Some said a fairy harp that played heavenly music on its own.  Others said a fairy cow that never stopped giving sweet milk.  Still others talked about forging a beautiful sword with an enchanted hilt that could protect its owner from any assault that man might make.  And off they all went in deep conversation.

The peapod pixie smiled to himself and was about to go back to his leaf for his nap when he overheard the orange fairies talking.  “Let us make a beautiful bowl and fill it to the brim with the sweetest-tasting wine they have ever had, but let this wine be laced with a potion that will turn them all into toads!”  All of the orange fairies laughed at this and delighted in the chance to rid themselves once and for all of the other woodland fairies.

Now, the peapod pixie was quite angry at this, and that takes some doing as anyone who knows peapod pixies can tell you.  All he wanted was his nap, and now the orange fairies were planning the demise of all the others.  This would never do.  He had hoped to begin an era of kindness and giving among the fairies, not treachery, and so he decided on what he would do in three days’ time.  Then he settled down under his leaf for a long nap.

Sure enough in three days’ time, all of the fairies met at the spot where the beautiful gold goblet still stood.  The regular woodland fairies presented their gift first.  It was a pretty little cow that they had enchanted to give the sweetest milk whenever desired.  As you know, fairies love milk and this why we leave saucers of it outside for them at certain times of the year.  The orange fairies were skeptical, but the woodland fairies insisted they try the milk.  True to their word, it was the sweetest and best milk the orange fairies had ever tasted.  They were beside themselves with greed and lustily drank milk for a very long time.

At last it was time for the orange fairies to give their gift, and they brought forward the beautiful bowl filled with sweet wine.  “One taste of this intoxicating wine, and you will never be the same!” they said.  Of course, this was true but not in the way the woodland fairies thought.  They all came forward to sample the wine, and as they did so, the peapod pixie created a brilliant flash of lightning and yelled the magic word, “Amanita!”  While all the fairies gazed at the lightning, he quickly switched the poisoned wine in the bowl with the delicious wine he had placed in the gold goblet.

So the woodland fairies came forward and all drank the wine from the beautiful bowl.  They could not stop exclaiming at how wonderful and amazing this wine truly was!  Over and over they sang the praises of the orange fairies and their skill at wine-making.  All along, the orange fairies giggled to themselves at how gullible the woodland fairies were and how they couldn’t wait to see them all turned into toads.

Finally, the old and plain fairy, who had suggested they all make the best gift they could, came forward.  “Truly, your gift is the best,” he said, “and we are very grateful.  Surely, this gold goblet belongs to you.”  All of the woodland fairies cheered and agreed.  All of the orange fairies smiled and laughed as they approached the gold goblet.

Each orange fairy drank his fill of the sweet and voluptuous wine in the goblet.  They drank and drank and drank until they could drink no more.  While the orange fairies were drinking their victory wine from the gold goblet, the woodland fairies were drinking their gifted wine from the beautiful bowl.  Things got loud and cheerful as they often do when fairies are drinking wine, so none of the woodland fairies noticed for quite some time that a change had occurred.  At last they decided to take a break.

Imagine their surprise when they turned around and saw the forest floor peppered with strange orange mushrooms with warty white spots on top!  No one could deny that these mushrooms were beautiful to look at, yes, enchanting, in fact.  They were fat and fleshy and looked delectable.  None of them had seen mushrooms like this before, so while they all wanted to eat them, they were a bit cautious.  At last one of them decided to try a mushroom.

He took a bite.  It had a strange flavor to it, not particularly pleasant, but he ate the rest of it anyway.  Within a few minutes, however, he felt very nauseous.  In fact, he felt extremely nauseous, and it was a terrible feeling, but eventually that passed.  Then he felt very odd.  It was as if he heard a voice inside of his own head, and he could talk to this voice and it would answer back.  So he asked it all kinds of difficult questions and received all kinds of answers.  Eventually, that faded too.  Then he felt a bit odd and saw colors in a strange way and heard sounds that he had never heard before.  He felt very disoriented for a while.  Finally, it all passed, and when it finished he described it to all the other fairies.

They listened very well and realized that these were truly magic mushrooms they had found.  They decided to be very careful and cautious with these mushrooms, using them sparingly in ritualistic ways.  They gathered them and dried them and put them away in secret spots.

Oddly enough, they never saw the orange fairies again.  I can honestly say that no one was so very upset about that in any event.  Each year, however, they noticed that the strange orange mushrooms would appear for a few months all over the forest floor.  They decided to call them “Amanitas” after the strange word they had heard with the flash of lightning at the gathering.  They decided it was a good word.

And that is why to this very day, you will see Amanitas all over the forest floor at this time of year.  You will also notice that many of the mushrooms will have a nibble taken out of them here and there.  Those are fairy nibbles, and not far from nibbled Amanitas, you can usually find a peapod pixie fast asleep under a leaf.  If you nibble on an Amanita, don’t be surprised if the peapod pixie jumps up on your shoulder for a chat.

[This is a fairy tale, and in no way does the author imply or suggest that you ever nibble on an Amanita as they can be poisonous.  Leave them for the fairies.]

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