While travelling in Southeast Asia earlier this year, I learned a lot about the spiritual world. Many people there believe spirits are everywhere and outside virtually every house in Thailand and Laos you will find a little temple where the spirits live so that they don’t have to stay in heaven all the time.
Great efforts are made to keep the spirits happy, with gifts of food, incense and even vases of flowers. In the countryside the rice spirit is called Mother Pho Sop. She is a beautiful woman with long hair who sits with her legs folded backwards. She happens to be fragile and easily scared so farmers have special ceremonies to keep her calm.
It was therefore not a great surprise to learn about the fairies that live in Maine, USA. Fairies, perhaps like the Thai rice god, are tiny human-like creatures but they happen to have wings. They also have magical powers. I was walking along the Shoreland Trail in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens last month when I saw what seemed like little houses built at the base of trees and up against deadwood. A sign said they were houses for fairies. These houses were quite unlike the spirit houses of Thailand, however, for they were made of twigs, bark, cones and leaves.
I understand these structures just kept appearing, which was probably not a great surprise because fairies are said to have lived in Maine for centuries, particularly on the islands and along the coast. Some say the first fairies were found in the woods of Monhegan Island, which is 19km from Boothbay Harbour where the Gardens are. Farmers built these homes to encourage fairies to stay and keep watch over their crops and children during the long, harsh winters.
Visitors to the Gardens have continued to build fairy houses. Now there are so many houses that they have had to establish a fairy village. Every year during the first weekend in August they also have a Fairy House Festival.
I bought a book in the gift shop there titled Fairy House Handbook, which has lots of information about tools and materials to build a fairy house at home. I bought that and a fairy skirt and wings for my granddaughter. I would like to encourage her to start a fairy village in the Rocky Mountains where she lives. It’s another harsh environment that could use some help from the spirits.
“So listen, touch, and look around—in the air and on the ground.
And if you watch all nature’s things, you might just see a fairy’s wings.”
– Author unknown
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2012