Faerie doors in a British forest – the stirrings of nature worship?

From the BBC website

From the BBC website

I was absolutely delighted and intrigued to read in the BBC News that locals have been putting tiny faerie doors on trees in Wayford Woods, Crewkerne.

Regular readers of my blog may know that I am fascinated with Shinto customs of leaving little offerings in sacred forests, especially at hokora (miniature shrines) which look a little like Western “faerie houses.” This is done in order to give thanks to the kami of the forest and to ask for their continued blessings.

In Wayford Woods, the faerie doors have been put up in order to delight the local children, who leave messages and gifts for the faeries. Although it is being done whimsically, I can see a lot of parallels with the Shinto custom of leaving offerings for kami in nature. I feel that this movement expresses a real, subconscious need to express the sense of awe and respect for nature, and to somehow connect with the “spirits” of nature, which many Westerners see embodied in faeries. In fact, I find a lot of similarities between faeries and kami and I personally view faeries as simply a type of kami.

faeriedoor2

A “faerie house” left at the woods, looking very much like a Shinto hokora

Moreover, the offerings themselves do resemble the sort of offerings you might find in a sacred Japanese forest or shrine. The messages left by children remind me of the wishes people often write and leave at shrines, or those tied to bamboo at Tanabata. The doors perhaps serve a similar function to torii gates – a symbol of the divide between the mundane human world and the spiritual world of the fae. There are even tiny houses that bear an uncanny resemblance to  hokora there. Although entertaining children may be the primary reason for creating these faerie shrines, I suspect that adults too feel somehow fulfilled in viewing and contributing to these offerings.

The woods’ trustees have expressed some alarm and concern at the sheer amount of faerie doors and other offerings that have appeared in Wayford Woods, but I really hope they don’t try to stop this movement (provided it does not cause significant disruption to the natural ecosystem, which it doesn’t look like it will). To me, it’s a sign that people long to re-connect with their long lost spiritual relationship with nature, through reviving the stories of faeries. And once people are instilled with a feeling of wonder and respect for forests, they will certainly think twice about destroying them.

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4 Comments

Filed under Nature & Environment, Places, Shinto / Japanese Religion

4 responses to “Faerie doors in a British forest – the stirrings of nature worship?

  1. EmilyAnn Frances

    My concern here is for the trees. If these doors are affixed in any way by nails or something that goes into the tree it could might end up hurting it and contributing to decay. I think if people want to do this there should be some controls to preserve the natural state of the forest as it is. The addition of fairy doors brings a different level of interaction between nature and participant. Reverence leaves the thing as it naturally is.

    Here in the US we have the lovely Muir Woods outside of San Francisco. I’ve been there twice and each time I felt it was like being with God in all the magnificence of the cycle of life. Decaying and dead trees stood with living trees. All was as it should be.

    I think a profusion of fairy doors could be done in a way that won’t hurt the forest and leave the little critters who live in trees to go about their lives undisturbed. There could be a section Where the doors are permitted but it must be in a way so that increased human activity does not harm the beings and creation that call the forest home.

    My concerns are also more people equals more opportunity for littering. There are still those who look at nature as just something they pass through.

    • There’s definitely some environmental concerns of course, but provided the activity is localised to a small area and excess/non-biodegradable items are removed periodically, I don’t think there’s too much harm.

  2. A tree by Lake Harriet in Minneapolis has a resident elf-People (esp. kids) leave notes & offerings for him. http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-plans-party-for-elf-answering-letters-for-almost-20-years/265050671/

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