Fairy Circles, being Enchanted

Enigmatic features predominating in the Namib desert, occurring to a lesser extent in north-western South Africa, Angola and as far afield as Australia and Wyoming USA. The Giribes plains in north-western Koakoland are profuse with 150 000 circles. Image above - a riding safari dwarfed by the immensity of the Namib Desert - Fairy Circles in the foreground

Geometrically perfect these bare, grass-fringed circles vary from 2 to 12 metres in diameter have many scientific theories as to their origin. Perhaps the most prominent being that they are the result of subterranean termite activity. Other theories range from toxic plant residue, radioactive eruptions and even something extra-terrestrial.

None, however, address the enigma of the intriguing word ‘fairy’ in the description and one is left wondering how it came to be incorporated into ‘serious’ scientific publications. The word seems more at home in a J.R.R. Tolkien essay – although he often preferred the older spelling of ‘faere’. The Himba tribes in the north-west Namibia, where the circles are particularly dense, attribute their occurrence to the foot-prints of gods or natural divinities. Much more imaginative explanation!

Scientific explanations aside, those who allow themselves to be captivated - enchanted even - by these mysterious landscapes with their many unanswered questions, come to realise we are but passers-by with restless minds. We vainly attempt to penetrate the mysteries of existence where words fail to adequately capture the experience.

(image left Wolwedans Fairy Circles)

Sadly we often deny the profoundness of the experience and limit ourselves to a mundane existence and a partial world-view. Allow the magic, allow the enchantment - it might take you down a road less travelled.....

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