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Mysteries, Fairies,Gnomes, Elves and Gargoyles
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By, Marie Bolt

 

Pixies Fairies Elves are fantasy spirits and beings that may sometimes be bad or good. It is believed by many that these mythical creatures live somewhere between heaven and earth.

Pixies Fairies Elves and others appear in many shapes and in almost all cultures. Many people think they are here on earth. Others think that they are mystical creatures with magical powers that are sometimes close to humans. Folklore has many, many definitions. The term fairies is sometimes used to describe any fantasy magical creature. Goblins and gnomes fit this description as well as some more ethereal creatures such as Pixies Fairies Elves.

Pixies Fairies Elves are some of the more popular names given to mythical creatures. If we consider fairies a family of fantasy creatures, Pixies Fairies Elves are the names that would apply to beings that are similar to humans with some additional powers. One of the most popular of this group is the Christmas Elves.
There are other names for members in this group such as faeries, fey, fae, elf, pixie, dwarf, wee folk and more.

Another group, less human in appearance, would include dragons, mermaids, unicorns, Pegasus and many others. These mythical creatures are a form of nature spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural or preternatural. Fairy Tales are the telling of stories about these mythical creatures and the legends that have evolved.

This site contains a great deal of information about most all mythological creatures including Pixies Fairies Elves. See the following pages for an in depth discussion of some of the better known mythical creatures.

Fairies--- Fairies might be thought of as small, feminine, very delicate creatures dressed in pastel or white cloths that live in fairyland. They do manage to get involved in human lives, but always with good intentions.

The Tooth Fairy is another very popular Fairy. Is the tooth fairy real? YES! This question is answered on the page Click here for more about Tooth Fairies.

There is a great deal of Fairy Art being done by famous artists such as Amy Brown Fairies. Some of the fairy artwork is free and can be found on an internet search, such as free fairy art or free fairy graphics.

Fairies pictures are also very popular for doing fairy drawings, especially pencil drawings of fairies. Young people may sit for hours doing a pencil drawing of a fairyor other fantasy creatures.

Elfs--- They are very beautiful youthful looking men and women with great magical powers. They live underground or in caves in the forest. These are almost always near a well or spring. Elfs live a very long time and some are considered to be immortal.

Dwarfs--- A Dwarf is a magical creature that is associated with age and wisdom. Their pictures almost always are with beards. They have great knowledge, particularly of craftsmanship. Metallurgy is one of their great skills. They are said to have made some of the great artifacts of legend.
Click here for more about Dwarfs

Leprechauns--- Leprechauns are Irish mythical creatures that seem to be found only in Irish folklore. They are described as male faerie that appear as tiny, wizened face old men that inhabit the isle of Ireland. There are many leprechaun legends and leprechaun stories that come from the early 19th century.
Are Leprechauns Real? Click here to find out.
Click here for more about Leprechauns

Mermaids--- Mermaids are legendary creatures that live in the sea and have the upper body and torso of a beautiful woman and the lower body of a fish. Mermaids are thought to be enchantresses who are capable of wooing men to their deaths through the sound of their songs. The term "Sea Sirens" or "Sirens mythological creatures" is sometimes used instead of mermaids. This occurs often in Greek mythology.
Are Mermaids Real?

Dragons--- In early cultures, Dragons, when they appear, seem to be created from parts of various creatures. Most images have eagle's feet and wings, lion's front paws, head of a snake, scales like a fish, giant horns and a alligator body and tail, which sometimes extended the whole length of the creature. A mythical creature with this many weird characteristics, it might be fun to learn how to draw a dragon.
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Fairy Tales--- There are many fairy stories and fairy tales about these fantasy creatures. Some of the more popular fairytales are Cinderella, Tinkerbelle in Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and many more.
http://www.all-about-fairies.com/

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fairyface.jpg

Faeries
By, Marie Bolt
 
Fairy godmother : In fairy tales, a fairy godmother is a fairy with magical powers who acts as a mentor or parent to someone, in the role that an actual godparent was expected to play in many societies. There are present in Charles Perrault's Cinderella, Dickens'The Magic Fishbone and many more.

Abonde -- Dame good fairy who brings children presents on New Year’s Eve. [French. Folklore: Brewer Dictionary, 3]

The Sleeping Beauty Fairies -- Flora, Fauna, Merriweather are fairy guardians sent to watch over mortals throughout their lives.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother -- She fulfills Cinderella’s wishes and helps her win the prince. [French Fairy Tale: Cinderella ]

The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio

Fairy from Beauty and the Beast -- In this case it was the prince’s utter selfishness in the presence of an ugly yet powerful fairy that caused him to become the Beast.

Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby -- This fae is a water elemental who guides young Tom (who fell into the river and thus became a water baby) in his new lifein the book The Water Babies, by Rev. Charles Kingsley, published around 1863.

The Sugar Plum Fairy -- In the story, The Sugar Plum Fairy rules the Land of Sweets. She puts on a fabulous celebration for Clara for saving the life of her former-nutcracker Prince, when they come to visit this magical land.

Thumbelina -- Very charming tale from the viewpoint of fae who are no bigger than a thumb and living amongst nature by Hans Christian Andersen .

Tom Thumb -- This old English tale is based upon legends of a tiny character who was especially well-known amongst the common folk, often used to scare.

Lady of the Lake -- The fae that guards Excalibur, the magical sword, in Arthur legends and myths.

Iolanthe -- The mistress of fairy revels, who arranged all the fairy dances and songs, committed the capital crime (under fairy law) of marrying a mortal human.

Ondine -- A water spirit who falls in love with a dashing knight and then marries him, so she can get a soul. A soul, that is, the way people of the time defined it. This was another tragedy that was also made into a ballet.

Alberich and Mime -- Dwarves in the Ring Cycle story operas by Wagner. Alberich was known as king of the dwarves or elves (depending on different versions of several tales of the time) in German folklore and myth. Variously spelled Aelfric, Alferich, Elberich.

Ariel -- The fae servant to Prospero, in Shakespeare’s, The Tempest. That Ariel, a male, had been imprisoned inside a tree by an evil sorcerer until Prospero freed him. He was then indebted to become a slave until his loyalty and service finally set him free.

The Seven Dwarves in Snow White.

Mazilla -- The wicked fairy godmother of homely Princess Turritella, in The Blue Bird, by Madame d'Aulnoy.

Queen of Elphame (or Elphen) -- a beautiful, magical fae who can shape shift, often seen as evil, in Thomas the Rhymer and other stories.

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Gargoyles

 by ॐ Marie Bolt ॐ

When asking "why are there gargoyles and what are they for", in my experience most people seem to mean the Medieval ones. So, this is what a distingushed Frenchman Emile Male and most critics after him said:

No symbolism can explain the monstrous fauna of the cathedrals...
If ever works are exempt of meaning surely these are...
All attempts at explanation must be foredoomed to failure.

E. Male, _L'art religieux du XIIIe siecle en France_ 8e edition p. 121, 124

So, studiously ignoring those words of wisdom, here are some possible explanations I've come across:

rainwater plumbing (this is certain but does not explain why so many are carved creatures, nor the various forms)
warding off evil - a "kiss my ass" keep away deterrent to demons
warding off evil - a "don't bother, we're here already doing demonic stuff" deterrent to demons
a reminder to parishioners of the perils of evil - bad guys are marginalised to the outside of the church (but why so high up and hard to see?)
as pagan symbols to encourage believers in pre-Christian ways to come to church (make them feel welcomed or at home, as it were)
decoration (but why so ugly? why so hard to see)
a juxtaposition or balance of ugliness against the beauty inside the building (a very medieval concept which we find hard to understand these days)
insurance policy against building collapse, related to warding off evil (this one's obscure and I think it says more out modern interpretation of the medieval mind than architectural principles)

For some of the more interesting ones (mooning or nose picking or caricatures), they may possibly be:

symbolic object lessons on the perils of unconventionality
carved out of mischief (e.g. there are defecating gargoyles, these are generally difficult to see, being high up or in obscure parts of the building)
as retribution for not paying the stone carver (see Freiburg defecator)
fun (who knows what the medieval sense of humour was? see also a modern nose picker from Ely Cathedral
caricatures of people maybe local clergy, which may be mischief or fun or possibly honour. Here are some modern ones: imploring man and man wearing glasses, both at Ely.

I've tried to give some more detail on these ideas in other sections below and in general witterings. Go to top of pageTop Go to index list of gargoyle buildingsIndex
Architectural History

Gargoyles in the strict plumbing sense of the word (see Etymology) have been around since the time of the Ancient Greeks or before. They became very popular on architecture in Medieval times, with a resurgence in the Victorian era, and to some extent more recently. Other periods have none or few carved ones. Saxon churches (a little before Medieval times) that I've seen usually have troughs but whether these are original or later additions is hard to say. Large buildings of the Elizabethan period (a little after Medieval times) did use channels or troughs but I've never seen or heard of carved ones.

Their first usage in the last thousand years or more seems to have been in the early 1200's as channels or tubes to shed rainwater from buildings, to keep the rainwater off the buildings themselves and away from the foundations. Strong evidence for this purely plumbing interpretation is that initially most were made of wood, some made of the more expensive stone, and were generally undecorated.

As time progressed, more stone ones appeared as did lining some with lead and decoration in the form of carvings of people or animals or grotesque representations of these (grotesque in the sense of being extravagantly formed, bizarre, ludicrous, absurd, fantastic and also in the sense of being ugly and frightening). Often these carvings are so imaginative as to bear little or no resemblance to any conventional creature and are the products of fertile imaginations and skilled hands.

They are common on the more expensive buildings from medieval times, particularly cathedrals and churches, and particularly France, and particularly the Gothic style. A few plain ones survive on non-religious buildings like the odd castle but rarely compared with relligious buildings. Presumably, as today, the average wage did not run as far as paying for ornate stone guttering for your own humble dwelling.

It seems that this increasingly ornate carving extended to non-functional architectural features resembling them, so that "gargoyles" appear on the sides of towers and walls, and to stretch the term even further, inside the buildings (though these are more correctly called "grotesques" and "chimeras", of which gargoyles are only one kind).
Go to top of pageTop Go to index list of gargoyle buildingsIndex
Religious History

During the 1200's when gargoyles first appeared (and at many other times), the Roman Catholic Church was actively involved in converting people of other faiths to the Catholic, often very keenly indeed (as the Christian but non-Catholic Cathars could testify). The argument for decorated gargoyles runs as follows. Since literacy was generally not an option for most people, images were very important. Since the religious images (if any) that non-Christians were accustomed to were of animals or mixtures of animals and humans (e.g. the horned god, the Green Man), then putting similar images on churches and cathedrals would encourage non-Catholics to join the religion and go to church, or at least make them feel more comfortable about it, or at least ease the transition.

This argument has reasonable grounds if you think about some of the other accomodations the Christian (not just Catholic) church has made, such as fixing the birth of Christ at around the winter solstice to fit in with existing pagan celebrations. Even the Romans made similar adaptations, e.g. in Britain the Celtic goddess Suli worshipped at modern day Bath bore a remarkable resemblance to the Roman goddess Minerva. Rather than replace Suli and upset the locals, both were incorporated into and revered in the Roman baths there. It's amazing how flexible an established church can be if it needs to be - pagan images? no problem if it puts bums on seats.
Go to top of pageTop Go to index list of gargoyle buildingsIndex
Mythical and Spiritual Connections
Facts:

Religion and superstition (not entirely incompatible) were both very important indeed to people of medieval times, much more so than to most "westerners" today. People looked to God or gods and other supernatural beings for answers to fundamental questions and for help and especially protection.
Suppositions & Logical steps:

What could be better protection for your place of worship than to put images of supernatural beings on it, although ones on your side naturally. Images of God or the Holy Spirit, perhaps, but these were frowned upon and anyway who knew what God really looked like?. Images of Christ might be better, but then Christ was also a man and he was already inside the house of God. Images of the old gods might work, but of course that would be heresy. It's a small logical step to the use of gargoyles as protectors and the myths about their abilities.
The Gargoyle Myth and how gargoyles drive off evil:

I've put comments in brackets().
They can stand guard and ward off unwanted spirits and other creatures.
If they're hideous and frightening they can scare off all sorts of things.
They come alive at night when everyone's asleep (and you can't see them to prove that they don't) so they can protect you when you're vulnerable.
Better still, the ones with wings can fly round the whole area and cover the village or town as well as the church. (And if someone does see something, who's to say whether it was just a bat or one of the gargoyles on the wing?)
They return to their places when the sun comes up (and no-one can prove that they weren't out and about, and no-one respectable who rises and sets with the sun is going to be mistaken by them for an enemy and be dealt with).

If you want to see an example of the kind of gargoyle that fits the myth, look at the ones on Woburn church.
A comment on the tame ones:

This doesn't really explain the rather tame looking ones. These could possibly be explained by the architectural trend towards more ornamentation and decoration. I think many of the slightly grotesque ones can be explained by the myth if you note that some concepts were simpler for most people in medieval times, for example, pulling your lips wide apart in a grimace using your hands and trying to look scary ("gurning") was a terrific joke. Presumably it was also more scary than now, given that any kind of deformity could be worryingly reminiscent of deformity from incurable diseases or unexplained acts of God or devil, both things to be feared. Some of them have just got to be jokes though.
Other possibilities - a warning to the populace:

An appealing idea for explaining medieval gargoyles, is as a reminder or warning to the populace of the evil all around outside and the safe sanctuary inside the church. Evil takes many forms, from women carrying the devil on their backs (very symbolic, very unenlightened and non-PC) to bug eyed human faces twisted into monstrocities, to demons, dangerous beasts, hideous human horrors, and hairy men who have descended terribly into the brutal and frightening level of the beast. Better the beauty and serenity inside, come on in and forget the trials of the world outside for a while and pray for your soul and your salvation from the horrors shown outside.

Of course it could be as much a case of the gargoyles saying (metaphorically) "Hey you Jimmy! Yes you! Who do you think I mean? Watch yer step, laddie, we've got our eye on you. One step out of line and you've had it, you're meat, with our teeth in it."
Other possibilities - insurance policy against building collapse:


Gargoyles originated somewhere between the 11th and the 13th Centuries. They served two purposes - to scare off evil, and to divert rainwater. Many have open mouths because they also functioned downspouts to divert rainwater from foundations. As a result, many of the early Gargoyles also had rather long necks. The word "Gargoyle" originates from the old French word "Gargouille" meaning "Throat" but which also fairly well describes the gurgling sound of water coming through the downspout.

The Catholic Church originally used Gargoyles as a visual reminder to their Pagan converts, many of whom were illiterate. They were something of a "sermon in stone", or a warning of sorts to teach the people how to behave in a non-written way. They are now pretty much ornamental and assume many different forms.

Most gargoyles are grotesque, but stone carvers in the past also honored relatives and friends by carving their faces into them. As they evolved, they morphed into often very elaborate statuary.

As Gargoyles evolved, they became symbols of sorts, using recurring themes, mostly related to Paganism. The five basic groups are listed below:

.....Faces with multiple smaller figures and one large figure, or one figure with mouth agape and protruding tongue: Symbolizes the insignificance of the individual and how vulnerable we are to larger powers.

.....Detached heads: A real practice of the Celts, who were head hunters. They worshiped the heads they severed and believed these heads held supernatural powers.

.....Ambiguous gender and species: Specimens again date back to the Pagans. The Pagan religions existed to overcome chaos and peril. These Gargoyles are representative of the fear of the unknown. This type of Gargoyle is now known as "Grotesque."

.....Head entwined with branches and leaves: A branch coming out of the mouth or surrounding the head was a sign of divinity to the Celts. The Druids often depicted oak leaves, as the oak was sacred to them. This is often referred to as the "Green Man" today.

.....Sexual Themes: Used by the Pagan religions as symbols of fertility. If used on outside walls, they were thought to discourage evil. Again, we go back to the universal fear of sexuality that exists even today.
http://www.gardensablaze.com/Gargoyles/Gargoyle%20History.htm

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gnome.jpg

Gnomes are small creatures that are found in a variety of forms. They appear to have much in common with the old cave-dwelling dwarves and the two are sometimes said to be related.

What Are Gnomes?

Gnomes are small humanoids who are often described as "gnarled" or even "misshapen". Some think they are mortal creatures, some that they are related to the fairy folk, others that they are strange elemental creatures. According to the alchemist Paracelcus - who appears to have originated the name "gnome" - they are earth spirits.

Paracelcus also believed that gnomes were turned to stone during the day by the rays of the sun, an attribute more commonly associated with the troll.

Possible derivations of the word include the Greek genomos meaning "earth dweller" and gnosis or "knowledge". It is sometimes said that gnomes hoard knowledge in much the same way that dwarves hoard gold.

Most traditions say that the gnome is an earth dweller, living in tunnels and caves below ground. However one occasionally hears stories of forest gnomes who appear to be their cousins. These, according to folklore, are turned during the day not to stone but into toadstools.

Some legends say that gnomes can make themselves invisible to ordinary mortals and be seen only by those with second sight.

Garden Gnomes

The garden gnome is a common sight in some countries. These little ornaments cause something of a schism. There are those who adore them, believe they bring luck and like to buy and collect them. There are many others who cannot stand the sight of them.

The history of garden gnomes begins in Germany in the early 19th century. These early examples were made from clay and were as much works of art as garden ornaments. They are, of course, highly prized by collectors.

To many gnome fans, the "dark ages" began in the 1960s with the introduction of mass produced plastic figurines. To others, these have a kitsch charm of their own.

Although the garden gnome is considered a figure of fun by many, it has its loyal fans. It is still possible to buy quality garden gnomes of individuality and style, sometimes hand made.

Gnome in woods photograph taken in Alaska by Theresa f Koch

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