Even though many might have forgotten it and even though many might have no knowledge of it anymore. There was a belief in Eurasia, North America and Africa that our Ancestors had in common. Nowadays, these things are seen as primitive, silly – or these symbols are twisted, turned around and used by New Age-Esotericists. There is almost no tribe on this earth, who didn’t know them. Do you know them, too? Did you grow up with them? Have you heard of their tales, the fairy tales?
There is a kind of people, who are tiny, really small, and they usually like to live in nature, amongst the rivers, mountains and forests. Anthropologists refer to that belief as Animism. The belief in a consciousness and soul of nature. There probably isn’t any ancient culture, who didn’t have tales about them. So did Europeans, and the Ancestors of the modern Europeans, too. The Proto-Indo-Europeans. Well, it is up to each if you’d like to believe in them, or try to grasp the message, the symbolism behind it. But, let’s see how wide spread this belief really was. Dwarves and gnomes seem to prefer to live in nature, being left alone. In Scandinavia, they are called the “Tomtenisse”, with their little hats and cute way of looking, they can appear as both well mannered or they can play tricks on you. The Småfolk, the little people, live in Sweden. They love to steal your socks, steal your livestock or damage your property, if you have not asked them for permission to live there.
The Romans, Germans, Celts and the Slavic tribes all knew them. Amongst Germanic tribes it was believed that they have the power to put you right into ecstasy, filling you with sexual lust and desire. The Celts knew about their presence. They are usually hard workers, farmers and they took care of animals and other living beings that were in need. It is especially around Beltaine, Maifest in German, that their presence was most powerful and had the most impact on us humans: It was then, when they were manipulating us and our instincts, forcing us to procreate and have children. The Maypole, Maibaum, is a phallic symbol for a reason. There is many symbols behind their appearances. Their hats can be seen as a symbol of sexual desire, of lust, a phallus. Their beards are a symbol of wise, knowledgable and old, ancient beings. Sometimes, they prefer to live within certain trees, such as the Holunder, the Elderberry or the Birch (Elderberry is the Frau Holle tree, the pagan Goddess Holda, the Great Mother, and the Birch in norse Myths is connected to Freya. Freya is fertility. You see the connections? All these symbols have a meaning, a reason!).
In India, they are known as the Deva. And the Deva do indeed contain life force and energy, breathing life into the plants and animals. The Great Mother of everything, Maha Kali, will give birth, nurture and recycle in the great cycle of life and nature. She can be dark because she brings transformation and death, but also gives birth. She isn’t evil. She is one Aspect of the forces of life. Just like the German pagan Goddess Holda. Holda, Frau Holle, Berchta (or the norse Hel, if you wish) is the Great Mother, gives birth to everything. It is because of her, that the Perchtenläufe take place in the Alps, even though this has become more and more forgotten, too. Her name is Berchta in Bavarian, she makes sure that the winter spirits of darkness will be removed. She brings transformation. Or the greek God of Pan with his flute. They all have their little people, their little folk and they all work for them, the Great Everything.
In North America, amongst the Pueblo-Native Americans, the Kachina-people play an important role. The Kachina are THE reason, why people can live there. They make sure that this arid place gets rain, that there is water, and that people can grow food. They will appear with their masks during deep shamanic dances. The Kachina can have a darker appearance, too. They demand respect and acceptance. You need to offer them respect, so that they will work with you. Otherwise, your garden will fail and it will be a bad year for you and your family.
Amongst the Crow-Nation of Native Americans, the Apsáaloke, it is a wide spread belief that the Nirumbee, the little people, live in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. At times, they will come and steal tobacco and food. And because of that, you offer them something as a sign of respect and acceptance, otherwise they can cause problems. Just like the Austrian and Aavarian traditions of the Alps, where farmers, especially in Tyrol, used to offer flour and beer to the Bergmandl’ and the Salamander that inhabit areas of the Alps. They can cause bad weather, make your hike miserable and steal your diary cows. In Iceland, there is the Huldufólk. These little fairy-like people live in the mountains, amongst water and ice, deep down in the soil. You have to ask them for permission to live there, build your house and have your livestock on THEIR land. They are also seen as wise, ancient and old. And they also do have different Aspects, both light and dark. These are old, ancient ideas and beliefs.
This has got nothing to do with New-Age trends, nothing to do with weird Guru’s. Somehow, most of these ideas were known amongst all ancient hunter and gatherer cultures. We Europeans were hunter and gatherers, too. Indeed, we were. When people talk about Asatru and European Paganism, we shall take a look at these hunter and gatherer cultures and their animistic beliefs. Without them, there would have been no Odin and no Thor. It’s true. The basic belief is that these gnomes and dwarves are the consciousness of mother nature itself. They’re full of symbols that one needs to understand before waving it off as primitive or ridiculous. They truly are a pagan piece of history.
These tales are old and in fact, modern science has proven through phylogenetic Analysis, that the fairy tales that we all love and grew up with are in fact up to 4000 and even more, up to 5000 years old. Tales like the Beauty and the Beast, the Smith and the Devil, Little Redriding Hood, these tales have their origins back to the Stone and Bronze Age. The so called Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index has compiled a massive amount of tales and analyzed them. It seems as if some of the most famous tales do have their origin from the Proto-Indo-Europeans and even though we hardly know anything about this ancient language and the origin of these pre historic people, much points to that fact. There is multiple theories on whether or not they came out of what today is the Ukraine or the Punjab region of India. But one thing is clear:
Next time you see a garden dwarf, smile but don’t just think how silly the belief in them is. Try to grasp and understand the deeper meaning, the message and the symbols instead. You don’t have to belief in little people with hats, but the message of the wonders of life and consciousness is something to ponder and think about. It’s way older than us. It is ancient.