Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fairy Cave - Spelunking in a mystical cave

THE cave is notable because of its connection to legend.

To the local Bidayuhs, the human-like rock formations inside the cave were formerly real people.

According to folklore, there used to be a village near the cave. But because of their cruelty to a pair of orphans, the villagers were cursed and turned into stone.

The two orphans wanted to participate in a festival held in the village but the villagers made fun of them before chasing them away.

For the villagers’ heartless treatment of the orphans, fairies were said to have put a curse on them. That’s how the cave got its name — Fairy Cave or Gua Pari as the locals call it. I have heard about Fairy Cave, situated near Bau town, since I was a teenager but it was not until recently that I managed to see it for myself. I tried looking for some of the rock formations outside the cave around the foot of a mountain but didn’t see any as the fenced up area was covered with vegetation.

There are also claims Fairy Cave takes its name from a stalagmite structure at its entrance, said to resemble a Chinese deity.

That claim could have come about because the cave has long been frequented by the Chinese living in the area and from afar. Even today, debris of joss sticks left behind by deific devotees can still be seen strewn near some of the rock formations inside the cave.

The superstitious Chinese come to pray at these stone figures, believing they are representations of spiritual beings.

What is a fairy?

Some have associated fairies with pagan myth or religion. They are generally thought of as supernatural beings living alongside humans, possibly within a slightly different dimension.

Some myths have it that fairies are either immortal or extremely long-lived, and come in a variety of usually humanoid shapes and sizes.

Anyway, what constitutes a fairy can change from culture to culture and tradition to tradition. However, a few things carry across whereby most are of the idea that a fairy is a being of mystery and possesses power.

According to some beliefs, the fairy has assumed the role of a kind of pretty genie, relegated to such work as making wishes come true and hauling off fallen teeth.

The pictures of the fairy that we come across in today’s media show them as benevolent, wise, and kind.

They bestow gifts on Sleeping Beauty or help Cinderella out of trouble or act as a sidekick to a boy who does not grow up. Hence, the term fairytales.

Interestingly enough though, while popular culture today reveres the fairy as a creature of good, it hasn’t always been so.

In the past, fairies were thought to be suspicious creatures, mischievous in the best of times, and downright evil in the worst. They were blamed for missing children, certain illnesses and bad luck during travel.

Folklore pertaining to the origins of fairies are varied. One school of thought insists they are the spirits of the dead while another claims they are fallen angels — cast out of heaven — yet not evil enough to be thrown into hell.

While these ‘dark angels’ could roam the earth, they were still subjects of the devil and must pay him a tithe — usually in the form of children or wayward travellers.

Still another theory espouses that fairies are a distinct species altogether — in the manner of Big Foot or Yeti.

Yet, it’s not just the fairy’s origin that is being debated. Even their very appearance is uncertain.

Sometimes, they’re described as tall, willowy and enchantingly beautiful, other times as dazzling, winged and no bigger than a foot called a demifey.

On some occasions, they may possess a magic wand, and at others, no wand at all.

Anyway, as soon as I came out of the car on arrival at Fairy Cave, I looked up at the sheer limestone cliff in front of me. Next to it was a four- to five-storey concrete stairway.

While ascending the flight of steps, I turned aside to look at the limestone wall and noticed a smaller set of stairs running closely to the rocks. It was steep, narrow, and looked very dangerous to climb. I guess it could be the old stairwell used by visitors or tourists in the past to reach the mouth of the cave.

On reaching the top, I discovered there were more steps to climb. Altogether, I climbed 185 steps to reach the entrance of the cave. There, I saw interesting stalagmite and stalactite formations.

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