This afternoon, I rode my bike down to the park and took a walk. This is the same park I’ve mentioned previously, the restored prairie area about a half mile from my house. It had stormed earlier today and another was brewing, so between storms I took this opportunity to wander.
This kind of weather – overcast, shifting between gusts of wind and stillness, moist air and storms on the move – is weather that is charged with magical potential, and during these conditions I find it easy to feel the touch of Spirit and the presence of the Other Worlds.
I left the concrete path and went into the prairie area where the trails are cut through high grasses, and fewer people go. There is a certain area with clumps of thick brush and a few groves of trees that I headed towards; an inspirited area of the park, and there in a circle of gnarled Lindens I know a spirit dwells. It seems to be some sort of surly goblin-creature, who would rather not deal with any passer-by, so I said a polite hello and moved on.
Right next to the Goblin’s Trees there is an area carpeted by fine grass that seems always matted down as if from being trod, within a circle of trees. It has always felt to me like some kind of ritual space, but I’ve never seen any evidence of offerings or ceremonies there – but I’ve come to suspect that those who dance in that circle probably aren’t ‘people’ in the strictest sense.
Furthermore, on the edge of this brushy area is a spot that’s recently been cleared of bushes. This newly made clearing is hard by a crossroads of three trails. I’ve never stopped to inspect this clearing before today.
I was prompted to enter the clearing because I spotted something unusual on the ground. At first I thought it was the bulb of a daffodil or tulip upturned from the cleanup of this area, but upon closer inspection I saw that it wasn’t, and had no idea what it could be. It was firm but gelatinous, and seemed to have burst out of a shell or skin still visible on the ground. I then figured it must be some kind of mushroom just coming up out of the earth; perhaps a Stinkhorn, which I’ve also heard called the Devil’s Cock*.
As further evidence of this being a budding Stinkhorn mushroom, I later spotted a mature one past its prime, near the bridge where the old Elder bushes grow. Stinkhorns are fungi in the order Phallales, and have a pungent, unpleasant smell kind of like that of a wet dog.
The whole of this clearing seemed steeped in an Underworldly energy. Dying trees that had been girdled stood on its margins. At a few points around the clearing, smooth stones stood out on the ground – strange for an area that had until recently been overgrown.
Near one leafless (but live) tree and a white stone lay the legbone of a deer. Overall the place had a very funereal air. With Samhain approaching I thought of the thinning of the Veil between the Worlds, and the presence of the Dead – here in this strange clearing by the crossroad. When I stepped out onto the trail to take my leave, a little Darkling beetle was crawling at my feet.
I walked on, past another inspirited area (here there is some kind of spirit that, as far as I can tell, attracts or feeds on the energy of dying creatures) where I spotted a lovely tree whose crimson leaves carpeted the path.
One solitary leaf hung in the straw colored grass, silhouetted against the storm-blue sky.
As I left the prairie trails and rejoined the concrete walking paths, I felt as if I had been allowed a glimpse into the secrets of this place, and how they manifest at the coming of the Dark Half of the Year.
*Many years ago, a woman of my acquaintance who was a Witch told me that one such mushroom had come up on her rural property (this was around Samhain-time as well), but she had no intention of taking the offered bargain – she said that if a Witch rode the mushroom like a phallus to “fuck the Devil” she would gain great power, but would be the Devil’s own. I have never since encountered this kind of folklore in regards to the Stinkhorn mushroom.