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Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic

Fairies, Demons, and Nature Spirits

'Small Gods' at the Margins of Christendom

Editors: Ostling, Michael (Ed.)

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  • ​Shortlisted for the Folklore Society's 2018 Katharine Briggs Folklore Award
  • Considers the historical relationship between Christianity and 'small gods', including fairies, demons and nature spirits
  • Brings together scholarship from a wide range of of theoretical perspectives and disciplinary approaches
  • Examines case studies spanning two thousand years, from Egypt to the Andes and Indonesia
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  • ISBN 978-1-137-58520-2
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Hardcover $109.00
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  • ISBN 978-1-137-58519-6
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About this book

This book examines the fairies, demons, and nature spirits haunting the margins of Christendom from late-antique Egypt to early modern Scotland to contemporary Amazonia. Contributions from anthropologists, folklorists, historians and religionists explore Christian strategies of encompassment and marginalization, and the ‘small gods’ undisciplined tendency to evade such efforts at exorcism. Lurking in forest or fairy-mound, chuckling in dark corners of the home or of the demoniac’s body, the small gods both define and disturb the borders of a religion that is endlessly syncretistic and in endless, active denial of its own syncretism. The book will be of interest to students of folklore, indigenous Christianity, the history of science, and comparative religion.

About the authors

Michael Ostling is Honors Faculty Fellow at Arizona State University, USA, and Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland, Australia. Author of Between the Devil and the Host: Imagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland (2011), he writes on witchcraft, popular religion, history of emotions, theory in Religious Studies, and critical pedagogy.

Reviews

“Their work provides new critical perspectives and an even more welcome corrective to the burgeoning fairy mythology industry on Internet blogs and popular publishing. … this recently published study is a welcome addition to the growing academic interest in fairy lore.” (Juliette Wood, Folklore, Vol. 131 (1), 2020)

“This is a good collection, and it is impressive to see how each contributor applies the survival-in-vanishing framework to their chapter. This makes the edited collection feel connected despite the vast number of topics covered, and this is not always easily achieved. There is excellent work in here, and perhaps its most impressive achievement is that it will enable the reader, even non experts, to see a bit further into the subject … . ” (Ciaran Jones, Journal of Religious History, Literature and Culture, Vol. 5 (1), 2019)

“This strong collection constitutes a very good first step towards a reconstruction of our thinking about fairies, demons and nature spirits. Its placing of these ‘small gods’ within the actual expansion of Christianity rather than as historically precedent allows for a broad and sensitive historical investigation.” (The Judges of the Katharine Briggs Award 2018, folklore-society.com, November 26, 2018)


“This fascinating interdisciplinary collection illuminates a range of elusive spiritual creatures who in theory should occupy no place in the Christian cosmos. The scope is impressively broad, and readers are consistently challenged to think in new ways about Christianity’s often surprisingly dependent relationship with older forms of belief.” (Peter Marshall, University of Warwick, UK)

“This substantial volume takes fairies out of the scholarly closet and celebrates them as productions of local culture and spirituality that have somehow weathered the process of Christianization. The editor’s valuable introductory essay sets the stage for contributions ranging from Estonia to the Amazon and from Late Antique Egypt to present-day California. This collection will delight historians, students of religion, anthropology, folklore and anyone fascinated by the revolving door between paganism and Christianity.” (Charles Stewart, University College London, UK)

Table of contents (15 chapters)

Table of contents (15 chapters)
  • Introduction: Where’ve All the Good People Gone?

    Pages 1-53

    Ostling, Michael

  • The Threat of Headless Beings: Constructing the Demonic in Christian Egypt

    Pages 57-78

    Frankfurter, David

  • Secrets of the Síd: The Supernatural in Medieval Irish Texts

    Pages 79-101

    Bitel, Lisa

  • The Good, the Bad and the Unholy: Ambivalent Angels in the Middle Ages

    Pages 103-122

    Newman, Coree

  • Between Fallen Angels and Nature Spirits: Russian Demonology of the Early Modern Period

    Pages 123-143

    Antonov, Dmitriy

Buy this book

eBook $84.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-137-58520-2
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF, EPUB
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $109.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-137-58519-6
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Immediate ebook access, if available*, with your print order
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Fairies, Demons, and Nature Spirits
Book Subtitle
'Small Gods' at the Margins of Christendom
Editors
  • Michael Ostling
Series Title
Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic
Copyright
2018
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan UK
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s)
eBook ISBN
978-1-137-58520-2
DOI
10.1057/978-1-137-58520-2
Hardcover ISBN
978-1-137-58519-6
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XV, 366
Number of Illustrations
4 b/w illustrations
Topics

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