”There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.” ~Washington Irving
Autumn is my favourite season and this week the weather, after an unseasonably warm start, has resumed normal service, that is, wet and windy. I enjoy going out into nature all year round, but the woods in autumn is a magical place indeed. Autumn, along with spring, are transitional seasons, are liminal and at these times the spirit of the woods can be most potently felt.
Autumn is also mushroom season and for those willing to look a little deeper, there are many woodland mushrooms that can be found. As always, foraging is about taking only what you need and repaying the genius loci with an offering of some sort. The more you familiarise yourself with a place, the deeper your connection with the genius loci will be and the more you will begin to understand what offerings to leave. Sometimes it might be as simple as offering your time and service picking up any rubbish. Other times it might be a pouring of water or the leaving of nuts and seeds.
Today I took a couple of fly agaric, those beautifully enticing but toxic toadstools of fairy tales. I’ll use these to make an ointment, which when applied to the skin can help induce trance and soul flight. I also found some delicious penny bun mushrooms that are now currently drying out in my airing cupboard. These I’ll add to casseroles, soups and stews.
Sometimes though, quite often in fact, I escape into the woods for the sheer pleasure of being beneath the boughs and autumn is such a good time to do this. The leaves are just beginning to turn orange and red and the autumn sun glinting through the them is beautifully hypnotic. It is worth just going and sitting quietly simply for the sake of being in the woods. So this autumn, why not make an effort to get out where you live, even if it’s only stepping outside your front door and rediscover the beauty and spirit of the darker months.