Spontaneous shrine in Kern County, CA. Photo: Shady Grove Oliver
My friend Shady Grove Oliver blogs about spontaneous shrines. She writes that a "type of stranger-ritual is performed by passersby who stop or change course specifically to experience the shrine up close. Despite the fact that shrines are often located in sparsely populated areas and they often have at least one offering of minimal value (be it a teddy bear or an entire carton of cigarettes), they are rarely vandalized. Rather, the visitor is cooperative, does not interfere with the aesthetic, and does not behave in any way contrary to the orderliness expected of them. To vandalize a shrine would be to pollute a sacred space with impure intentions and actions. However, the strangers who come into contact with the shrines have no personal connection to the deceased or to the living who constructed it. What makes a spontaneous shrine something not to be tampered with? Why is it seemingly understood that there is just something wrong about disturbing a shrine? What gives the shrine its magical ability to make people act in a way they ordinarily would not?"