Fairy beliefs - practically every article written on the subject of fairies suggests that people once believed in them. It is true to say that people would avoid certain actions for fear of tempting fate rather than actually believing in fairies. The modern world of science has similar parallels for example one of the world’s most popular sports, Formula 1 is purely based on science, mathematics and engineering. It is also a dangerous sport and there is no number 13 and it is not that people actually believe that 13 is bad luck but why should one tempt fate and add to the already high risk nature of the sport? (Cars did carry the number 13 until a spate of fatal accidents occurred in the 1920s to drivers with number 13, prompting the French automobile club to stop using the number and the tradition remains to this day.)
Fairy rings also occupy a
prominent place in European folklore as the location of gateways into
elfin kingdoms or places where elves gather and dance. According to the
folklore, a fairy ring appears when a fairy, pixie, or elf appears. The
circular pattern of the mushrooms looks like a place where fairies
danced in a ring holding hands.
In an Irish legend recorded by
Jane Wilde (mother of Oscar), a farmer built a barn on a fairy ring
despite the protests of his neighbours. He was struck senseless one
night and a local "fairy doctor" was called to break the curse. The
farmer says that he dreamed that he must destroy the barn. - No doubt
this particular variety of mushroom was hallucinogenic!
Collecting dew from the grass or flowers from inside a fairy ring can
bring bad luck. While destroying a fairy ring is both unlucky and
fruitless as it will just grow back. Also science tells us some
mushrooms in fairy rings are poisonous and inhaling mushroom spores can
cause a respiratory disease called Lycoperdonosis.
distillers traditionally discard the first 50ml of distillate known
sometimes as the fairy portion. Science tells us that the first few
drops from a still contain nasty and unwanted substances like methanol
which have a lower boiling point than alcohol and therefore come out of
the still first.
Therefore we can conclude that some superstitions were useful in learning scientific knowledge.
Image: A fairy ring on a suburban lawn in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.