Paracelsus, a Medieval alchemist, identified four magical creatures that symbolized the elements that make up our world: air, fire, water, and earth. Today’s DotW brings you one of them.
In 2008, a French man was arrested for stealing garden gnomes. By the time he was caught, he had accumulated a donsy (Yes, that’s the collective noun for them. Look it up) of 170 gnomes.
Gnomes have gotten a bad rap. There’s more to them than silly-looking bits of statuary. Just about the only thing that Gnomes have in common with garden Gnomes is that they are both small creatures with a connection to the Earth.
According to Paracelsus, gnomes are one of the four kinds of creatures that represent the fundamental building blocks of our natural world: the elementals. Gnomes represent the most core element–Earth. The other three are:
- Salamanders (Fire)
- Undines (Water)
- Sylphs (Air)
In their original form, Gnomes are more like what we think of as Dwarves, more likely to mine for gold than to stand around in pointy red hats. Personally, I wonder if there’s a connection between that distinctive cap and Redcap, who we talked about earlier.
In the Middle Ages, Gnomes were depicted as small, old men, usually with a hunched back. They lived underground and a Gnome named Gob ruled as their king.
The females of the species are called Gnomides.
In the Eighteenth Century, the Abbé de Villars, in his Comte de Gabelais, claimed that Gnomes are docile creatures, willing to serve human magicians, in particular giving them all the gold they needed.
While garden Gnomes might just seem like a whimsical addition to a rose patch, the theory behind them might actually go back to a pagan idea that they also helped out with things that grow. So maybe instead of just kitsch, garden Gnomes are actually a form of sympathetic magic, calling on earth spirits to bless the garden. Ever think of that one, huh?
- Melville, Francis; The Book of Faeries: A Guide to the World of Elves, Pixies, Goblins, and Other Magic Spirits, 2002, Quarto Inc
- Lewis Spence, An Encyclopaedia of Occultism, Cosimo, Inc., 2006