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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mythological Species of Humanoids: An Introduction

Why are they important?
Mythological races or species of humanoids (humans-like creatures) are a universal story motif, every culture has some unique humanoids populating their stories and legends. This makes sense, since it is a very useful tool to have on your story telling utility belt. The purposes these humanoids serve are:

  1. common enemy - to unite against for warring factions of human neighbors
  2. explanation for natural events – helps ease confusion and fear caused by misfortunes such as illness or droughts
  3. alternative to humans – since humans have flaws, outside opinions and commentary can be helpful, acting as counselor and judge
  4. relatives - beings who resemble our former selves or future selves in some way to give advice or a hope of help that doesn't necessarily have our limitations, acting as an older or younger sibling on a species level
  5. sometimes all of the above at once and often fascinating to boot.
What about mythological deities?
Gods and nature spirits can also serve many of these functions, but act as parents instead of siblings. This brings me to a necessary discussion of how myth is related to religion.

What if your beliefs are on my list of mythology?
Don't sweat it. I have included my own beliefs among this list of mythological humanoids, because inclusion in the list of myths is not meant to imply nonexistence. Most, if not all, the beings on this list were at one time or are still believed in. I personally believe in the Christian God, angels,saints and possibly some form of nature spirits, but find many of the beings included on this list both fascinating and appealing.

Almost all humans feel that there is something out there beyond what we can see with our eyes and feel with our hands. In my opinion, even most people who think this universal feeling is a trick of our minds, atheists for instance, want to believe the trick. As evidence I offer the popularity of D&D, Sci Fi (aliens) and comics books (super heroes) among atheists. Despite what Stephen Hawkings, Issac Asimov, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan suggest, there is no real scientific evidence for intelligent life in outer space, just probabilities and those are debatable. Aliens and super heroes therefore function as modern versions of mythological humanoids.

What is the difference between religion and myth?
In my view, myth and religion are two sides of the same coin. Other people's beliefs, no matter how similar to our own, function as myths to us. And if their beliefs are dissimilar to our own we dismiss them, often with a derogatory laugh, as just myths.

Let me get on my soap box here for a minute:  

Myths should not be treated with derision. Others beliefs or one time beliefs are important. And our own current beliefs should be held carefully. We all need to realize that everyone is just trying to figure out what this life we are living is all about. I personally feel that being able to laugh about our own beliefs is a very healthy and helpful perspective.

Okay, I'll get off my soap box and use normal print now.

So whether you : believe in an established modern or ancient religion, make your own up or are a Sci Fi guru, the Other Beings we long for are hard to understand and are open to at least some interpretation. Therefore myths abound. Delving into other people's myths or our own beliefs trying to understand them helps us learn about an even more difficult to understand being: ourselves. And understanding ourselves and our fellow humans is crucial.

That is why I love thinking and writing about mythology. Here are some examples of mythological humanoids from around the globe: Elves, Fairies and Dwarfs (I've already posted on the connection between them, but I will post on them separately in the future as well.), Pixies, Pookas(Pucas, Pwcas), Buccas (Bwcas), Pucks, Brownies, Sprites, Will-O-Wisps, Selkies, Mermaids and Mermen, Loreleii, Korrigans, Nereids, Oceanids, Leprechauns, Clurichauns, Sidhe/Shee (Daoine Sidhe), Tuatha De Danann, Banshees, Sith, Changelings, Hobs, Gnomes, Knockers, Goblins, Kobolds, Hobgoblins, Orcs, Trolls, Centaurs, Minotaurs, Satyrs, Fauns, Nymphs, Dryads, Hamadryads, Imps, Yetis, Nixes, Nisses, Necks, Genies, Ifrit, Peri, Werewolves, Vampires, Snake people, Incubus, Succubus, Norns, Duerger(dark dwarfs), Liosalfar(light elves), Svartalfar(dark elves), Jotun(Frost Giants), Fire Giants, Valkyrie, angels, Medusas, Gorgons, Fates, Harpies, Seelie and Unseelie Courts, Kitsune/Fox Maidens/Fox Fairies, Sylphs, Seven Sisters, Corn Maidens, Kachina, Gahe, Nesaru, Thunder Birds, gods, cyclops, titans, the Golden Race, flying monkeys, monkey people, Manticores, Sphinxes, devils, demons, Jinn (Djinn, Genies), Lares, Manitou, Asgardians, Vanir, Olympians, Egyptian gods, nature spirits, Furies (Erineyes), Sirens, Hesperides, Winds, Naiads, Undines, Glaistigs Muses, Seasons, Horas, Ogres, Gargoyles, Fairy God Mothers, Bogie Men, Boggarts (boggles, bogles), Mara, Werebeasts, Berserks, Wereboars, Spriggans, Fir Darrig, Wichtlein, trows, Hulda Folk, hags, redcaps, Rusalki, Asrai, Merrows, wood elves, Chupacabra, ancestral spirits, the dead, oni, Star Beings, Corn Maidens

Here is a list of human groups who have passed into story and legend and seem to be more than human now: saints, ancestors, Wild Men and Women, wizards, alchemists, yogis, Buddhas, Zen masters, ninjas, shamans, medicine men, witches and warlocks, witch doctors, sorcerer, druids, oracles, lotus-eaters, Argonauts, heroes, Amazons, Scyldings, Geats, Vikings, Gypsies, smiths, Knights of Fianna (Red Branch), Knights of the Round Table (Camelot), Knights of Charlemagne, Knights Templar, Nibelung, Cossacks, Volsungs, Nephilim, Philistines, Nazis, Trojans, Greeks, Romans centurions, savages. Their positions and powers are also interpretable and so I include them, too.

What do I plan to do with this list?
I plan to post summaries of different Mythological Humanoids. Note: Many mythological creatures serve some or all of the same purposes listed above, but in my opinion the humanoids myths are more interesting, so I will start there.

If there are any mythological humanoids you know of that I didn't include please tell me about them. I want to be as thorough as possible. And there are many counties whose myths I know nothing about, but would like to.

At some point in the future I will also post a classification system for Mythological Humanoids that I am working on. As a biology major I love to classify!


Anonymous said...

I wonder if another function these humanoids serve is to fulfill a longing for connection with the physical or spiritual world. In LOTR elves are like a connection between humans and immortality, they are something we wish we could be, just a bit closer to the light of the creator. The same with nature spirits, we so strongly desire to connect with our surroundings, to their being yet we can't simply communicate with them so such beings help bridge this. What do you think? I'm Heath btw, BronzeOracle at mythicscribes. :o)

KC Trae Becker said...

Hi Heath, I like your explanation of these mythological species being connections to help us communicate and feel closer.
The yearning many of us feel for that something-just-beyond-us, that we can almost sense and know is wonderful, is a powerful ache.
Probably why I feel so drawn to read and write about this topic.