It has been used to build houses, make pottery, keep creatures cool, and is one of the oldest words in the English language. Mud.
The word dates back to at least 1400 and is derived from the original term “muddle”, meaning the lowest or worst of anything.
This ‘lowly’ material can also make you happier and healthier and possibly, more productive and smarter.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of the day a friend and I set up a mud pie stall in the street where I lived.
We had so much fun making those mud pies and the wonderful thing was the good-natured neighbours who paid real money to buy our pies and feign delight at eating them.
INCREASE HEALTH AND HAPPINESS BY PLAYING IN MUD
We didn’t know it at the time, and I dare say we would not have cared, but we were increasing our health and happiness by the simple act of playing in mud.
Studies have shown that microscopic bacteria present in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae stimulate nerves to release serotonin in our brains. Serotonin is the chemical responsible for making us feel happy and relaxed.
There are claims this bacteria could be as effective as antidepressant drugs.
The release of serotonin has also been shown to improve cognitive function.
If that isn’t good enough reason to go out and play in muddy puddles, then how about the fact that early childhood exposure to bacteria found in mud can be a protection against allergies and asthma in adulthood?
It also works to boost the immune system.
Scientists at the University of California found that another bacteria found in mud, staphylococci, can reduce inflammation after injury, when present on the skin’s surface.
This bacteria acts to calm down overactive immune responses which can lead to rashes and cause cuts and scrapes to become swollen and painful.
Animals love playing in mud. Mammals such as pigs, rhinos and elephants regularly ‘bathe’ in it to help keep cool.
MARVELLOUS MUDDY HOMES
Mud provides the perfect home for many animals, such as worms, frogs, snails, crayfish and clams.
The Australian mud crab lives in mangroves in shallow areas below the low tide mark and buries itself in mud during the day.
The Mud snake lives in mud around streams and cypress swamps.
The Mud-dauber Wasp uses mud to make its home.
That is smart thinking as buildings made from mud store energy for long periods of time, meaning interior temperatures change little from day to night.
The walls absorb the sun’s heat during the day and radiates this at night as temperatures drop.
An added bonus is they are fireproof, resistant to damage from termites and requite very little maintenance.
Ancient Egyptians built their homes from mud they gathered from the Nile River.
South Asian people constructed their mud-brick homes between 7000 – 3300 BC
The Mesopotamians used sun-dried bricks in their city construction.
The mud walls built in China, India and Africa, and even in the cold and wet climates of northern Europe have provided shelter for hundreds of years.
SKIN BENEFITS OF PLAYING IN MUD
Mud has been used in cosmetics for centuries. Various cultures have used mud for war paint, rituals, and make-up.
Ancient Romans regularly enjoyed the benefits of mud baths and many facial masks are made from mud that has been purified.
Mud’s healing properties work to detoxify, cleanse and soothe the skin.
MUCH MALIGNED MUD
And yet, this humble substance is often used to express negative feelings.
- “My name is mud” – means my reputation has been ruined.
- Similarly, you can “drag one’s name through the mud” – speak badly about someone.
- “Mud sticks” – means malicious allegations are difficult to dismiss.
- A “stick in the mud” is someone who is dull and resists change.
Perhaps the only time the word ‘mud’ is used with a positive connotation is when saluting a fellow drinker with “here’s mud in your eye”.
This is supposed to mean you wish the other drinker good fortune. The origins of this particular saying are, well, as “clear as mud” – not clear at all.
Despite all this mudslinging at one of the earth’s most important substances, mud is truly marvellous.
PLAYING IN MUD FOR ART
As an art medium, it offers so many opportunities to inspire creativity and imagination.
Mud costs nothing and there is plenty of it around. If you don’t have any mud around your area, make your own by mixing water and dirt.
Using mud in art means you are connecting with nature. Read, How to Spot Nature’s Hidden Treasures.
It also encourages creative thinking – a must if you want your children to get the most out of their education.
Mud was used to make some of the earliest artworks. Its variety of pigments means it is a wonderful base for homemade paints.
Mud that contains enough clay to hold it together makes an amazing sculptural medium.
Mud has been used to make clay pottery for thousands of years. Some of the pottery discovered by architects dates back to 27,000 BC.
If you would like some fun ideas for using mud for artworks, come back for this week’s Wacky Wednesday project – HOW TO MAKE MAGNIFICENT MUDDY MASTERPIECES.
In the meantime, here’s mud in your eye and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.