A Couple of Stories on a Rainy Afternoon

Hey y’all! It’s Michael again, being home with a bum arm means lots of blog post from me. 🙂

Stories are a big deal here at Brigit’s Hearth. We tell them, write them and live them. Lacy and I enjoy reading stories from across the globe, we enjoy telling them to each other (and to our bunny) and we enjoy making them up too. The two stories that follow are a testament to that, the first, concerning the origin of “Fairy Rings” and stone circles was one that came to me yesterday as I drove around seeing the rings of mushrooms everywhere from the recent rains. The second, describing why the Red-tailed hawk has his distinctive tail, is from Lacy’s mind. I hope you enjoy them, tell them to your kids (if you have any and if not pets like to listen) and maybe bring them out at your next Bardic circle (we just ask that you don’t publish them as your own).

“Why Fairy Rings are Made of Mushrooms and Why We Build Stone Circles.”

Picture: ‘A Fairy Ring’ by Walter Jenks Morgan

Many years ago, when the fairies were more active and we big people didn’t take up every corner of the world, the fairies would dance in the rain. However, they had no set places to dance and occasionally they would get caught in dance by the big people. One day the king fairy decreed that they should mark certain areas as safe for dancing and he asked all the fairies to help him find something to mark their dance circles.

So just before the next rain came, the fairies gathered to show off their ideas. First stepped forward a big, strong fairy carrying an acorn and he said, “I suggest we plant acorns around our dance grounds so that when the oaks grow we will be protected from the big people.”  And the king thought about the proposal before saying, “But oaks take a long time to grow and they will eventually grow together, making us move our circle and waiting for the next batch of oaks to grow. No, I do not think oaks, or any tree, would be right.”

Next came forward a fairy leading a wagon pulled by two cats carrying a large stone, “I propose we mark our circles with stones, the storms will not move them no matter how the wind blows, they are strong and will block us from the view of the big people.” The king thought for just a second and said, “You have raise good points but won’t a circle of stones be easily noticed by the big people. They aren’t exactly naturally occurring and, as we can tell, the stones are quite heavy. No, I don’t think stones are right either.”

Many more fairies came up with their ideas but the king dismissed them one after another. Finally, a young fairy boy came before the king holding a small mushroom. “Lord, I think the mushroom is the perfect thing for us to mark our dances with. See, mushrooms come in several sizes so that all of us can hide behind them. Also, they are fairly unremarkable to the big people as they pop up after a rain shower anyway. If a mushroom gets stepped on by a big person then another one will pop up quickly. Plus, they can serve as umbrellas for us when we want to walk home dry and food for us in the winter. What do you think, Lord?”

And the king smiled and looked out at the crowd of fairies, just as the first rain drops were beginning to fall he said, “Dearest Faye, we have found our dance hall!” And they all went to gather mushrooms to arrange in a circle where they could dance and this was the first fairy ring.

Many years later, a big person caught a group of fairies dancing in their mushroom ring and decided he wanted to make a dance hall for his people. Now mushrooms don’t grow big enough for people to appreciate so the man consulted a fairy that lived on his property about what to make his hall from. The fairy recounted the event of Fairy King deciding upon the mushrooms and the man thought that the stones would be perfect for the big people’s dance halls since they already made houses of stone. His idea was well-liked by big people of every tribe and they began to make stone rings throughout their lands. And sometimes, like at Stonehenge, they paid homage to the mushroom rings of the fairies by placing caps on top of their stones.

The Story of Red Tailed Hawk

Red tailed hawk used to be just a regular brown bird. Hawk spent all of his time flying around in the sky, flying past the trees on his strong wings. Hawk was very proud of his strong wings. He could stay in flight longer than any of the other birds. All of the other birds could crowd around and watch him fly, saying, “I wish I had strong wings like you.” Even Eagle admired Hawk’s wings. One night, as the full moon was rising, Mockingbird said to Hawk, “If I had wings like yours, I would never come down out of the sky.”

Suddenly, Hawk wanted to prove himself. He wanted to show the other birds just how strong his wings were. “Besides,” he thought to himself, “There’s nothing special about the ground anyway. Nothing but slow, weak animals live down there. Prey animals live down there.” So he took off quickly from a tree, and cried loudly so that all the other birds could hear, “I am Hawk, and I have the strongest wings of all birds in the forests and in the skies. I am so strong that I will never need to come back down from the sky. With Grandfather Sun and tonight’s full Grandmother Moon as my witnesses, I swear this now.” And with that, he ascended higher and higher into the sky, away towards the moon.

The sun rose and set, changed places with the moon, then rose and set again, and again, and again, and the moon grew smaller and disappeared entirely. The sun continued to rise and set, until the moon grew large again, and was almost full. Hawk was beginning to feel hungry. His wings were getting tired, and he knew he would need food soon. All of his usual food lived on the ground, and he usually flew down and caught it. But he thought proudly to himself, “I am Hawk, with the strongest wings around, and I don’t need to come down from the sky for anything.” His stomach still growled, though.

He was flapping his wings among the trees and trying to decide how to find his dinner when along came Peregrine. She flew quickly by with a mouse in her claws. Hawk suddenly knew how to get dinner. His plain brown feathers blended in with the forest around him, so we was able to sneak up on Peregrine. He flew at Peregrine, and knocked the mouse from her claws, sending Peregrine falling through the air. Hawk quickly ate his stolen dinner and flew away from the forest.

Now, Grandfather Sun had been watching this entire time. He was starting to set, and passed a full Grandmother Moon on the way towards the ground. “How long has Hawk been flying?” asked Grandfather Sun. Grandmother Moon replied, “It has been a month today. I am full again tonight.” Grandfather Sun told Grandmother Moon about Peregrine and Hawk, and the two decided to teach Hawk a lesson.

As Grandmother Moon rose higher in the sky, she came upon Hawk, still flying. “Hawk, why do you not come down from the sky? What is wrong with the ground?” The proud Hawk let out a cry. “Only slow, weak creatures live on the ground. I am a fast, strong creature. So I belong in the sky.” Grandmother Moon smiled upon the proud brown Hawk. “Hawk, you must learn to be more than your wings. Grandfather Sun told me what you did to Peregrine.” The Hawk responded, “More than my wings? What is a Hawk without his wings?” And with that, Hawk fell straight out of the sky.

Now, Grandmother Moon asked Mother Earth to catch Hawk gently, but when Hawk hit the ground all his pride was gone, and he was angry and scared. What if the other birds saw him on the ground? They would think that he was not strong. So he tried to be sneaky and take off again before anyone saw him. But suddenly, Hawk realized his wings were gone! How would he survive?

Hawk waddled quickly away into the cover of the trees. Frightened, he hid among fallen logs, and watched everything around him. He soon saw all sorts of creatures, some big, some small, some quick, some slow. He watched as swift deer leapt through the forest, carrying huge antlers on their strong necks. He watched as little snails crawled slow and steady across huge rocks, never stopping. He watched wolves hunt in packs across the land, led by strong leaders. He slowly began to realize that he had been wrong about the animals that lived on the ground. They were not all weak and slow; some were strong and fast like the deer. Though some were slow, like the snail, they carried big weights on their backs and worked steadily to get where they wanted to go. And not all animals that lived on the ground were prey animals; some, like the wolf, were strong, fast hunters.

He spent a little time on the forest floor, using his eyes and mind, which were still sharp. He watched the rabbits and mice he used to hunt from the sky. He learned all about them. He was slow and weak on the forest floor, but he began to understand what was so important about the ground. The biggest oak trees had their strong roots in the ground, even though their branches stood tall and waved in the sky. He began to feel very bad about what he had done to Peregrine and became ashamed at how proud he had been.

One day Grandmother Moon rose slowly from the horizon. He watched her move into the sky and wished he could do the same. He cried out to her, but she was too high to hear him. He waited all night long for her to come closer to the ground. When she was almost at the horizon, and the sky was beginning to lighten with the coming of Grandfather Sun, Hawk called out to her. “Grandmother!” he cried, as loudly as he could.

Grandmother Moon slowed down on her trip back towards the earth. She turned to look at Hawk. “Yes, my child?” Eagerly, Hawk replied, “Grandmother. I have spent time down on the earth, and I have learned to be more than my wings.” “Is that so?” replied Moon. “What are you then, that is more than your wings?”

Hawk told Grandmother Moon all that he had seen and learned, from the deer and the snails to the wolves and the rabbits and mice and even about the tall strong trees. He told her that he had learned to use his eyes and mind.

Grandmother Moon smiled as she always did. “If I give you back your wings, dear Hawk, you must promise to never do what you did before, and fly around all the time, and steal things from others.” Hawk shook his head. “Of course not. I have learned that a Hawk cannot spend all his time in the sky. But a Hawk cannot spend all his time on the ground, either.” Moon agreed, and disappeared into the earth. As Grandfather Sun crossed the horizon the sky turned a bright red, and Hawk’s wings came back. Hawk flew happily into the sky. As he flew upwards from the sunrise, his tail shone from the light of the sunrise, and it did not fade even as his flew further away, or when the sky began to lighten to blue. Grandfather Sun rose high into the sky and called out to Hawk. “Even though you have learned your many lessons, we have left you with a red tail, so that you can never again sneak up on others and steal from them. It will always be a reminder to come back down to earth, and be a strong hunter, not a thief. You will never again be able to catch Peregrine, as she now has the fastest wings in the land. Though yours may be strongest, you will never out-fly her again, and she will always see you coming.”

And so this is how Hawk came to be Red Tailed, and how Hawk taught us not to be too proud. Hawk’s sign also teaches us to balance ourselves between being grounded and having our head in the clouds. The right balance will leave us strong, productive, and happy. If you see a Red Tailed Hawk, it may be a message that your life is in need of balancing, and Red Tailed Hawk may be there to help you.

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