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Title: Fungi, Folkways and Fairy Tales: Mushrooms & Mildews in Stories, Remedies & Rituals, from Oberon to the Internet

item Dugan, Frank

Submitted to: North American Fungi
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/25/2007
Publication Date: 8/29/2008
Citation: Dugan, F.M. 2008. Fungi, Folkways and Fairy Tales: Mushrooms & Mildews in Stories, Remedies & Rituals, from Oberon to the Internet. North American Fungi 3 (7): 23-72.

Interpretive Summary: Fungi are manifest in a multiplicity of folktales and fairy tales, and in folk remedies and rituals. They appear as foods, poisons, diseases, decorations, dyes or tinder, even in insults, compliments, graffiti and video games. These and other impacts of fungi on folkways are here concisely reviewed under categories likely to interest professional and amateur mycologists, and accessible to the lay reader. The evolution of popular perceptions of fungi is sketched from Shakespearean times through contemporary European and American cultures. Provided are specific instances of how different cultures utilized or avoided fungi, responded to fungal diseases of crops or humans, or viewed fungi in the context of popular belief, superstition or religion.

Technical Abstract: Fungi (true fungi and fungus-like organisms such as slime molds) are documented in miscellaneous folkways (such as remedies, crafts and foodstuffs) and in oral and written folk literature (such as proverbs, folktales, fairy tales, drama and fiction). The impact of fungal phytopathogens and clinical fungi is documented in terms of folk rituals and popular beliefs, with reference to impact on agricultural communities, women and other social groups. Reference is made to the manner in which fungi have been documented in various indices of folktale types and motifs (e.g., Aarne, Propp, Thompson, Uther). Folk uses of fungal germplasm are categorized and documented with specific literature. Examples of cultural biases with regard to use or avoidance of fungi are provided, and ethnobotanical (ethnomycological) implications are briefly summarized.