Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Transforming "Spiritual Warfare": Day 31 (Mississippi)

Note: If you are unfamiliar with my "Transforming 'Spiritual Warfare'" aka. Mushroom Hatred Remediation Program, you might want to read the midpoint recap, Transforming "Spiritual Warfare": Back to Business &/or the project's inaugural post, Transforming "Spiritual Warfare": Day 1 (Hawaii), to understand what I am attempting with this post. (I know it's weird, but what magick isn't?) If you are not familiar with the theocratic prayer campaign referred to in this series, see Desultory Philippic's excellent discussion 40 Days of Light, To Bring Back the Darkness, &/or the coverage over at the Wild Hunt.

Mississippi Delta cotton field at sunset by artist Jerrie Glasper. Image @ WikiCommons.

Mississippi really gave me a challenge. I have never been there, which does not help, nor do I have a very strong sense of the landscape, environment, climate, etc. When I think of Mississippi, it is not an image that comes to mind, it is a sound -- the sound of the Delta Blues. Ooooh, how I love that sound. But, this is not about sounds I like, it's about how I pieced some semblance of a working out of not-a-whole-lotta information or inspiration & now I gotta get it written down (weeks after the fact) & move on.

TY WikiCommons.
I began with my usual meandering across the internet in search of imagery & fungal partners. My meander became an increasingly frustrating pursuit of what should have been something quite simple. But no. Mycological information is not particularly forthcoming or prevalent for Mississippi. Imagery is worse. As my process stretched over days, I had this growing feeling that Mississippi was hiding, keeping its secrets to itself. Every image in the Wikimedia Commons looks like something is cropped out. The photos are myopic, incomplete & lifeless. Every one of them feels as if just outside the field of vision, something important, something of substance is being omitted -- deliberately.

Ultimately, I came across the above painting by Mississippi artist Jerrie Glasper contributed/uploaded to the Commons'Mississippi main folder by the artist himself -- a very kindly gesture. I chose it, not because the painting looked like "Mississippi" (whatever that is, because I still don't really know), but because it calms me & the cotton blooms reminded me of the fungi du jour. Of course, like everything else in Mississippi, I had a very difficult time getting any complete information about Mr. Glasper because the website hosting his bio would not load. Only just moments ago, as I made a last ditch effort to add his link, did it finally load... ah, but what connections, what simpatico! Just look at this:
"He has, lately, focused on painting Mississippi delta "blues artists" and the music culture that is rich with characters who are both whimsicial as well as philosophical in their approach to coping with the trials of life. "I love capturing the expressions of love, joy, and pain in the faces of blues singers," says Glasper. I also try to convey the power of faith and hope for a better tomorrow, which is a cornerstone of blues music." -- from bio.
You know, it's amazing. Somehow, without fail, every single time I do this, the pieces all fit together... 

... a "better tomorrow," I like that. Let's go there.

Since Mississippi wasn't particularly communicative about its native fungi, I decided to search for evidence of a specific fungi with which I had been itching to work. It's a jazzy little ditty named Sphaerobolus stellatus (commonly known as cannonball fungus, shpere thrower, or artillery fungus) that really packs a punch. These little, star-shaped, impish fungus-bombs are sassy & irreverent, wreaking havoc on homes, automobiles, boats... Yet they are so diminutive they remain nearly invisible to the naked eye. Sneaky, cheeky, pesky & just wait, they are brilliant too -- I'll prove it.

(Just in case you want to check my homework: Yes, they most decidedly haunt the Mississippi landscape. See The Shotgun Fungus in Home Landscapes, courtesy the Mississippi State University Extension Service.)

So, what makes them special? Sphaerobolus once belonged to a group of fungi (Nidulariales) which produce fruiting bodies that contain what can be described as "spore balls," or spore mass "eggs" (the technical term of which is peridioles). These "eggs" are housed in a cup-like or nest-like peridium. Most of the fungi in this egg-making category are the lovely little bird's nest fungi, whose peridioles are dispersed by rain water, animals & other environmental factors. Despite reclassification into their own order, the Sphaerobolus bear many similarities to the Nidulariales. BUT. They take spore dispersal to an entirely different level.

Sphaerobolus stellatus: Stages in the liberation of the peridiolum. TY Wiki
Unlike the bird's nest fungi, Sphaerobolus stellatus produces only one "egg" per "nest." The "nest" is made up of several layers, each with a different function. As the fruiting structures mature, the outermost layer of the peridium splits, creating a star-like opening. Then, given adequate light & moisture, changes in osmotic pressure within a deeper, gelatinous layer of the "nest" cause it to become more turgid. This process of pressurization creates a force (of 1/10,000 horsepower) that ejects the "egg," propelling it out of the "nest." Distances measured for this feat have reached 14 feet vertically & 17 feet horizontally. 

If that isn't astonishing enough, the fruiting bodies ("nests") of this fungus are phototrophic, so the spore "eggs" will be aimed at the nearest or most predominant source of direct or indirect light. How cool is that? I have never been witness to a spore discharge, but the experts say they make an audible popping noise upon ejection. Madness. Sheer madness.

Perhaps you feel I must be weaving up a mycological fairy tale. Perhaps you are having difficulty imagining this feat of fungal glory. Perhaps you need to see this in action...

Of course none of these wondrous features are what put them in the forefront of most human minds. No, no, it is because the spore masses of Sphaerobolus stellatus are dark & sticky -- very, very sticky. 

Eris. Could she be inside a Sphaerobolus?
The end result is messy. Especially since these little beasties are very gregarious, love landscaping mulch & have spore masses that can remain viable for at least 12 years. It's like they never go away. They cling to cars, adhere to siding, stick to plants, trees, shrubs. They give contractors & insurance agents great headaches. It makes me giggle. Did I mention they like dung too? Nothing is better than tiny dung rockets shooting about the yard, clinging with impunity to your Lexus & vinyl siding. They are the teeny-tiny Discordians of the fungi world & I am so very pleased to know them. (Apparently, I am not the only nutbar enamoured by the cannonball fungi, David Arora writes in his tome Mushrooms Demystified, "It makes a marvelous (albeit Lilliputian) pet...") 

Onward with some invocation in the name of a "better tomorrow": May the rascals in Mamma Nature's nest make mayhem of those energies that would impose their order on our freedom! 

"Bullshit makes the flowers
grow & that's beautiful.
-- from "Greyface," Principia Discordia

Sphaerobolus stellatus
Ich sage euch: 
man muß noch Chaos in sich haben, 
um einen tanzenden Stern gebären zu können.

I tell you: 
one must still have chaos within oneself, 
to give birth to a dancing star.    --Nietzsche

1 comment:

Jerrie Glasper said...

Sir, I share your anguish and mental quandary, as it pertains to peeling away the pseudo-history in an effort to get a fleeting aroma of the real tree of life, which is hidden deeply in Mississippi's folklore. I strive, but, no peace I find. I am but a weary traveler in a strange and beautiful land that is filled with fear and mystery and awesome wonder. Oh Mississippi! Of thee I sing!

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