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Essays on Using Fairy Tales to Understand Europe's Ancient Religions and Fairy Faiths

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Why Understanding Folk Religion is Necessary
The most important aspect of dealing with natural and magical beings is building a good relationship. Rituals, prayers, sogns, offerings, etc are all geared towards building this relationship. For thousands of years the way people passed on knowledge of how to build these relationships was through fairy tales and folk lore which are now known as folk religion. Thus many fairy tales have their roots in understanding human relationships with the magical world, though interpreting these can be daunting, we have been left many clues to help us do so. This site is focused towards many aspects of fairies and fairy tales including understanding their religious elements. Below are a few articles to help you do this.

In Search of Europe's Goddesses
Before the coming of the Indo-European's some believe that European's worshipped a goddess. Long after Christianity Her religion survived among the folk of Europe through their rituals and tales.

The Connection Between Humans, Fairies and Deities
Folklore and mythology tell us that Fairies, Humans and Deities are more closely related then many suspect.

Religious Elements in Fairy Tales
Learn to see and understand the religious elements within fairy tales.

Proto-Indo-European Religion
Learn about the first Indo-European's, the people who's religion became the Celtic, Greek, Roman, Hindu, Persian, Slavic and Germanic faiths.

Understanding the Motivation of Fairies in Fairy Tales
Understand the purpose and motivation of the fairies.

Pagan Finnish Prayers to the Fairies and Gods
Prayers to the fairies of the forest remained an important part of Finnish folk religion for a long time.

Mari-El - Europe's Last Pagans
Called Europe's last pagans the people of Mari-El have never converted to Christianity and still pray as a community in their sacred groves.

Links to Other Sites

Searching For Europe’s Goddess

Many have advanced the theory that before the coming of the Indo-European peoples the majority of European peoples primarily worshiped an ‘Earth Mother’ before the Indo-European peoples entered Europe some five-thousand years ago. That the warlike Indo-Europeans decimated her worshipers turning the people to the warrior deities of Zeus, Odin and others. This isn’t the whole story, however, for the Europe’s Goddesses didn’t truly disappear, indeed long after most of the deities of the Indo-Europeans had faded into obscurity people still worshipped goddesses. Those attempted to discover Europe’s original faiths have just been looking in the wrong places.

Its early spring, the ground is still touched by spots of melting snow with little rivulets clear cold water running down between the budding flowers and through fields which will soon be ready for planting. In the distance a Christian church bell can be heard ringing as it has in this village for over a thousand years. Even so a small group of young girls still follows these rivulets of water towards the river to sing and perform ceremonies in a beautiful cluster of trees which cling to the side of a river as it runs through the countryside as they have done since long before the coming of the Christian Church. Even here, in the fertile heart of the bread basket of Russia it’s obvious that water is the source of life, the source of fertility. The girls tie scarves to trees beside the river, they perform circle dances and sing and pray to the spirits of the water imploring them to dampen the earth and to keep it damp until harvest time. The nature spirits known to the Russians as Rusalky comply as they come out of the water and dance through fields damping the ground for the year, bringing their life giving water to what would otherwise be a lifeless earth. Meanwhile the girls cast divinations or swear oaths of eternal sisterhood, as they dance once more, free for the moment as the nature spirits they worship. Even over a thousand years after the Slavic nations had become Christian peasants still preyed to the water goddesses for fertility.
At this same time in Christian France and Wales girls approached other bodies of water, sacred wells with trees nearby to which they tied pieces of cloth. They then threw offerings into the water in hopes that the spirit of the wells can help them have children, grant them luck or make their fields fertile. At this time to the north in Iceland a woman could easily have been scolding her child for playing too loudly near the goddesses who live in the rocks before she offers the spirits of these rocks food in hopes that they will bring her luck. At the same time in Ireland the remnants of a story are being told of the goddess of a river who bore the Tuth De Dannon which the Irish believed to be the fairies.
Throughout Europe despite the best efforts of the Christian Church to stamp out the old religions and ideas people still made idols of “corn mothers” to secure a good harvest, gave food to the spirits in the rocks, and prayed to the rivers and wells for luck centuries after their conversion. The goddess and the spirits of the world survived not because people didn’t believe in the Christian god but because while it was nice to believe that they would go to the Christian heaven they still had to live, still had to survive with and against the forces of nature just as they had for thousands of years. So while the priests might change from worshiping Zeus, Jupiter and Odin to Christ for the safety of their nation and the soldiers might change their prayers for victory, such changes did not affect most people. Most people would pray to the higher gods of course and hope to get into heaven but then they would go home and spend the rest of the week asking for more fertile fields. So it is that most people in a society, the people who work the fields and live in the country will follow the old religion for thousands of years after the nations religion has supposedly changed.
Because it’s clear that much of Europe’s old faiths survived the coming of Christianity it seems likely that these faiths also survived the coming of the Indo-Europeans to a certain extent as well. There are three very good reasons to presume that at least to some extent the later faiths of Indo-European Europe would resemble at least to some extent those of Neolithic Europe;

1-Surivivle of belief among the people
As already pointed out many of the faiths and beliefs remained to some extent long after Europe became Christian, there were parts of Slavic Europe that believed in their Vila until the 1960s. The people of Greece still told stories of nymph like spirits until the last century as well. Ancient beliefs and folk magic’s were attested to all over Europe by researches in the 19th century; so even with the threat of hell fire and inquisition, even with their pastors and the powerful Church doing their best to stamp out such beliefs the belief in fairies and ancient deities survived for thousands of years. Assuming then that the Indo-Europeans could stamp out the beliefs of the Neolithic Europeans with limited mobility and less organized efforts seems laughable at best. Further it’s important to understand that the Indo-Europeans had three classes, each with their own separate concerns and each with their own separate beliefs. So while epics and sagas were written about heroes and warrior deities this is not the whole story of the ancient religion. The farmers and pastoral workers who integrated with Europe’s preexisting populations had a separate set of deities, many of which were likely borrowed from Europe’s Neolithic population.

2- There is a common misconception that at some point about 5000 years ago hoards of violent Indo-European horsemen pored into Europe bringing with them the invention of war as they quickly decimated Europe’s peaceful and defenseless peoples and cultures. In order to truly come to an understanding of Neolithic European culture we must begin by correcting this first mistake because while its true that the Indo-European peoples did come to dominate Europe such that 95 percent of Europe’s population in 1000 AD spoke a language descended from the Indo-Europeans its unlikely that they completely decimated the culture of the Neolithic Europeans. Rather if we examine the history of Indo-Europeans encounters with other peoples we see that the Indo-Europeans adopted deities from the peoples they encountered. For example the Germanic peoples seem to have adopted Odin from the Uralic peoples to the North. In Greece aspects of Zeus were adopted from the near east as were Poseidon, Athena and Aphrodite. The Romans adopted so much from the Etruscans that many Roman nobles claimed to be Etruscans decades after they had conquered them in battle. The goddess like women who weave fate which exist throughout Europe seem likely to have been part of the pre-Indo-European belief system. In addition the Germanic peoples spent hundreds of years after they had destroyed the Roman Empire trying to be Roman. The Indo-European migration into Europe was slow taking thousands of years, giving them plenty of time to meet and slowly adapt to new cultures and regions, even if they always seem to dominate them linguistically. Further most of the people of Europe only have a limited number of what are believed to be Indo-European genetic markers, showing that a large percentage or even a majority of the population in some area’s were pre-Indo-Europeans.

3-Proximity to each other
There is this strange tendency to think of Neolithic Europe and the Proto-Indo-European societies as developing in some form of isolation, as being extremely separate from each other. Europe is not isolated, however, rather it’s another part of the Eurasian landmass and its largest mountain ranges would tend to isolate only small portions of it. There are in fact direct entrances into Europe through the Eurasian Steppes and the Anatolian Peninsula which offer very little barrier between peoples as attested to by the number of raids made into and out of Europe through these two points. It makes no sense given the Indo-Europeans proximity to Europe to presume that they had a drastically different set of beliefs. Their different lifestyle of pastoralist vs agriculture fit their unique environments but it seems likely that they swapped religious ideas for thousands of years that they were neighbors with each other before the Indo-European Migration, and it may even be that many of their ideas evolved from the same source. The idea of a European goddess came from studying a people who shared much of the same territory as the Proto-Indo-European peoples, who traded with and likely intermarried with them for over a thousand years.
So given that Indo-Europeans were so apt to borrow from other cultures and that they had thousands of years of interaction with the peoples of Europe we must presume that to the extent that goddess worship existed in Neolithic Europe it must still exist, so where are they?

Their in the Water
Water fairies were among the most common and ultimately the most important deities of many of the Indo-European farmers and pastoralists and it seems likely that this importance was shared by the Neolithic peoples. Briggs in fact held that water fairies were the most common of all the fairy types the Celtic peoples believed in. Many of these well spirits appear to have existed before the Indo-European invasion and so were so important the belief in them survived from Neolithic Europe the way until well after the post-Christian era. There can be;

“No doubt the Indo-Europeans had no monopoly in religious feeling and observance of this (the worship of water) type; it may go back tens of thousands of years. But it must have been part of their religion, and its prevalence among their linguistic and cultural heirs must be due at least in some degree to the power of Indo-European tradition.” (M. L. West)

This makes sense because while the earth is omnipresent it is generally unchanging with the exception of earthquakes. When water runs through a desert however it is surrounded by fertile life; plants and animals thrive. There are few dances for good earth; there are no dousing rods or rituals to search for good earth, or very many prayers for the earth to be good. Yes there is a desire for the fertility of the fields but there are similar prayers asking for animals to be fertile. Further fertility doesn’t always have to mean earth. More often people pray for rain, people search for water; earth is everywhere but fresh springs are special and rain is necessary for the earth to have any value.  So from Nymphs of Greece and Rome to the Nixes of Germany, from the Rusalka of Russia to the Sacred wells of the Celts who are the deities of healing and life, the ones revered by pastoralists and farmers were most often deities of the water, not earth mothers. 

It’s important to understand that many of the ideas deities, that gods and goddesses of Pre-Christian Europe are nothing like the gods and goddesses we think of today. Rather they tended to resemble fairies, heroes or at their most powerful - giants. In the “Golden Bough” Frazer writes that:

“by primitive peoples the supernatural agents are not regarded as greatly, if at all, superior to man; for they may be frightened and coerced by him into doing his will….. Nor does he draw any very sharp distinction between a god and a powerful sorcerer. His gods are often merely invisible magicians who behind the veil of nature work the same sort of charms and incantations which the human magician works…”

The book “The Religion of Ancient Rome” points out that the Romans had no formed deity when they first entered Europe, rather they worshipped spirits which later evolved into the deities of Rome. We see this theme repeated over and over again, MacCaulloch believed that the deities took the form that the peoples needed most such that fairies evolved into more overarching gods and goddesses of fertility and that fertility gods and goddesses evolved into deities of the arts and war as these became more important.
I would continue these arguments to say that while many deities may have been conceived fairly early, much of what was conceived was a general sense of spirits, beings to be worshiped in the larger sense.

Nymphs were some of the most important deities of the Greek lower classes and countryside, but also of their cities in general. As previously mentioned these lower classes are the most likely to continue their original culture, and to have had a separate religion from the upper classes who were most likely representative of the conquerors. This argument is supported by that fact that in many cases nymphs were identified with indigenous populations and that they had merged with Greek religion through the process of syncretism. True nymph like creatures were said to live in everything, mountains, trees, fields and more but they were nearly always associated with water, with the most important ones very strongly associated with water. One of the most important functions of the nymphs was to provide fresh water. As part of this they also presided over human fertility, child birth and care. They were healing deities who helped farmers and pastoralists to increase their crops and herds. But nymph worship isn’t confined to the Greeks. MacCullach in “Mythology of the World” states that the Greek historian Procupius testified that the ancient Slavs worshiped beings similar to the nymphs offering sacrifices to them. And while the Rusalky and Vilas of Eastern Europe came to be feared in modern times people often still preyed to them for fertility and a good harvest. Further Macallach states that people tended to acknowledge the importance of Vila’s to their history;

“The Vily are believed to have lived originally in close con-
tact and friendship with human beings. In the happy days of
yore, when the fields produced wheat and other sorts of cereals
without the help of man, when people lived In peace and contentedness and mutual goodwill, the fairies helped them to
garner their harvests, to mow their grass, to feed their cattle,
and to build their houses; they taught them how to plough,
to sow, to drain meadows, and even how to bury the dead.
But so soon as men had departed from their old virtues, when
the shepherds had thrown away their flutes and drums and
songs, and had taken whips into their hands and commenced
to crack them in their pastures, cursing and swearing, and
when, finally, the first reports of guns were heard, and nations
began to make war against each other, the Vila left the country
and went to foreign lands. That is why only very few chance
to see them dancing in the fields, or sitting upon a bare rock
or a deserted cliff^, weeping and singing melancholy songs.”

“At Whitsuntide they sit on trees, asking women for
a frock and girls for a shirt, whence women hang on the branches
strips of linen or little shreds torn from their dresses, this being
meant as a sacrifice to propitiate these water-nymphs.”

“In like manner the Slovenians believe that the fairies were
kind and well disposed toward human beings, telling them what
times were particularly suitable for ploughing, sowing, and har-
vesting. They themselves also took good care of the crops,
tearing out weeds and cockles; and In return for all this they
asked for some food, which they ate during the night. So long
as their anger was not aroused, they would appear every sum-
mer; but when mankind commenced to lead a sinful life, and
when whistling and shouting and cracking of whips began to
Increase In the fields, the Vily disappeared, never to return
until a better day has dawned. The belief that a Vila may
become a man's sister also points to the existence of close rela-
tions between them and human beings; and it is a popular con-
viction that not only every young lad and, indeed, every honest
man has a fairy for his sister who helps him in case of need, but
even some animals, such as stags, roes, and chamois, for whom
the Vily have a special liking, may possess such supernatural
kindred. The fairies will aid their brothers in danger, will bless
their property, and will bestow all sorts of presents upon them.
In numerous folk-tales Vily are married to young men. They
are dutiful wives and excellent housekeepers, but their hus-
bands must not remind them of their descent, or they will
disappear forever, though they still continue to keep secret
watch over the welfare of their children.”

Some have argued that the “moist earth” was the most important deities to the ancient Slavs and that she was the most important goddesses. Pointing out that people would even take a peace of moist earth in their mouths when swearing an oath. But it’s important to keep in mind that while the moist earth was important, any earth wasn’t. People didn’t speak of the earth in general, they didn’t accept dry earth for oaths and it was the Vila and the Rusalky who made the earth moist. It was their actions that lead to the earth being suitable for taking oaths and growing crops.

Julius Caesar when making plans to control and invade the Celts put in his reports that they worshipped nymphs and as previously mentioned Brigg’s stated that water fairies were the most common of all fairies. Further their mother goddesses were of the water. Danu the mother of the Tuatha De Dannan which became the Daoine Sidhe or fairies of Ireland (Briggs) was associated with Rivers in the Indo-European languages and mythologies. Among the the Gaulic people Dea Matrona was their mother goddess and she was associated with the river Marne. In later years sacred wells would retain so much importance for the Celts that the Catholic Church would be forced to rededicate them to Saints because they could not stop people from worshipping them. In “The Religion of the Ancient Celts” MacCalloch states that the church was not the first ones to rededicate the rivers and wells but that the Celts had rededicated them after they came to dominate the preexisting inhabitants of Western Europe.

The most wide spread female deities within Europe then are not deities of the land but of the water. As importantly they are often fairy like beings, and while it would be easy to argue that they were lessoned by those who conquered to the role of fairies I would argue that the relationship with fairies whose homes can be seen, who are believed to live in features of the land nearby like neighbors members of the village are much more intimate deities. The types of fertility and healing deities that people tend to need to believe in, which is why their cults lasted longer than those of any other deities in Europe. Because of this it makes sense that rather than the nymph like beings being made less by the Indo-European peoples the upper pantheon was made more. After all one expects epic stories to be told of a few characters who do more interesting things. So just as we now tell stories of secret agents and football players even though doctors and grocers might be more important and common we should expect that ancient peoples would tell tales of war and seasonal gods even if they prayed more often to gods and goddesses of the hearth, farm, and water.
Despite being only occasionally defined by name these water fairies have a complex nature, one which symbolizes both the natural world and the civilization of humanity. In this sense they can be said to be the bridge between the humans who pray to them and the natural world on whose lives these people depended.

Civilizing beings
To a certain extent the nymphs are civilizing beings they help herdsmen increase their herds, helping people to build wealth and increase their livelihoods. Further certain ones have been known to help grapes ripen, farms to be fertile and more. This in turn helps to solidify them as agricultural spirits. One could say that nymphs were the more rustic the more original form of the domesticated Muses of Greek Mythology.
Much of the depiction of nymphs could in essence be said to be a form of idealization of rural life through poems and plays by those who live in the city. We see something similar occur to the fairies during the Victorian era, when to a large extent fairies became a form of idolized life, of youthfulness and a desire for immortality as well as a stereo typical image of the country life. This relationship between the nymphs and the rural poor is to be expected because as previously mentioned these are the people who were likely the most influenced by the indigenous populations of Europe. They are also often the slowest to change religiously. Among the Slavic peoples it was held that;

The fairies are fond of singing and dancing; and enticing
young lads and shepherds or singers to dance with them, they
distribute happiness or misfortune among them…

The Rusalky live in woods, meadows, fields, and waters.
Generally appearing when the corn begins to ripen in the
fields, and concealed amidst it, ready to punish him who
wantonly plucks the ears, they dance and make merry,
adorned with the many-coloured blossoms of the poppy and
with their hair flying loose. (MacCulloch)

The Rusalkas have much to do with the harvest, sometimes making it plenteous, and at other times ruining it by rain and wind. The peasants in White-Russia say that the Rusalkas dwell amid the standing corn; and in Little-Russia it is believed that on Whit-Sunday Eve they go out to the corn-fields, and there, with joyous singing and clapping of hands, they scamper through the rye or hang on to its stalks, and swing to and fro, so that the corn undulates as if beneath a strong wind. (Ralston 1872)

It’s interesting to note that the cults to these nymph like beings rarely worshiped them as individuals, rather nymph like beings were worshiped in the plurality. After all a grove a trees can be extensive so it would seem rare indeed to give each tree a name and a personality. Much like ancestor worship many of the nymphs then remained nameless; there was just the realization that they were the mothers of life and fertility. Going beyond this general statement however was the realization that humanity was born from the nymphs of the ash trees in Greek mythology and from the ash trees themselves in Germanic mythology (but from the god of the earth in Celtic).
Because of their status as the mothers of humanity the civilizing powers of nymphs were also more important to the cities of Greece then nearly any other beings as attested to by the fact that they were placed on the coins the cities stamped. What we see then is that groups of people and cities were intertwined with nymphs, nymphs who were the mothers of the city as the deities would mate with the nymphs in order to produce the founding heroes of each city making them in essence truly the mother goddess of that city, with the people directly descended from her. We see to a certain extent a similar idea in Celtic lands where the River spirits were the mothers of a people. Because of this the relationship which different peoples had with each other was often describe in terms of the relationship and movements of nymphs. People were said to learn many of the arts from nymphs or nymph like beings such as the Muses. They were in essence a sort of Tutelary spirit, which could encourage prosperity in cooperation with local heroes. Further as the water the spirit of the water source which the city uses they are the ones who keep the people alive and every day the people must go out to gather water from them. In a way this makes reverence to them much more routine then it would be for any other deity.
In Slavic lands the vila went beyond the role of mother to also take the role of sister;

The belief that a Vila may
become a man's sister also points to the existence of close rela-
tions between them and human beings; and it is a popular conviction that not only every young lad and, indeed, every honest
man has a fairy for his sister who helps him in case of need, but
even some animals, such as stags, roes, and chamois, for whom
the Vily have a special liking, may possess such supernatural

Perhaps one of the nymphs most important roles was in presiding over and protecting marriage. In later Greece much of this definition appears to have become more and more patriarchal, however even as this occurred the nymphs themselves retained a certain amount of wildness, of freedom as did the rusalka and the nixes of the rest of Europe. Showing that although they were important symbols in marriage they still retained some of their original spirit.
Given the archeology which helped formulate the idea of goddess based worship in Europe the early nymph cults are of special interest not just because of their apparent survivability but because of the way statues were used in relation to their cults. Several Attic grave reliefs show young girls playing with doll like objects. It has been argued that these naked figures are not to be considered toys but as votives dedicated by girls to insure fertility and sexual maturation. The dedication of anatomically exaggerate votives in this sense could have had a socializing function, teaching girls that the most important parts of their bodies were their wombs and their breasts, that they were bound to become mothers and that their identity was based in large part on reproduction.
Boys in these reliefs on the other hand are shown playing with balls and toys. Certainly Greece by this time was under the influence of patriarchal society, but the only evidence we truly have for the matriarchal society theory are the small figurines of women with exaggerated reproductive parts or which appear as charms that were found throughout Europe and the best record we have of cults which were influenced by the Neolithic European beliefs are the nymph, rusalka and the Celtic sacred wells to which such figures were often offerings.
Other statues of nymphs were nuptial dedications, given to the nymphs on the occasion of the ritual bath before the marriage to insure fertility. So while it seems likely that Greece and many other societies within Europe became more patriarchal over time and so the symbolism of the need women’s fertility became less an idea of power so it also seems quite possible that the statues found throughout Europe had multiple meanings, including as offerings for fertility rather than as an indication of a general worship of fertility goddesses.
What’s important to understand is that its seems likely that many of the figures found throughout Europe resemble those later dedicated to nymphs and so may themselves have been dedicated allowing us to glimpse into the past religion of some of the Neolithic Europeans.
Some of the nymphs of mythology were considered to have come into being before the deities with some of them even raising Zeus. And so we come upon another important role which they played in helping to build civilization, they raised heroes, deities and those who brought culture to humanity. Similarly the various Slavic water fairies were said to take and raise children;

feeding them with honey and instructing them in all kinds of knowledge.
This is significant not just because of the desirability of honey to children but because the bee was the sacred animal and the messenger of the nymphs and it was they who taught humans how to gather honey.

So to a certain extent nymphs were greater and more important than the deities but although the race of nymphs were older then the gods however they were not immortal. The trees whose spirits they are die, wells dry up, the world changes and these changes represent the birth and death of nymphs. This is an obvious part of being a true nature deity, for nature isn’t stable and must always change and we cannot forget that for all their civilizing qualities nymphs, rusalka, and the others always remained nature spirits.

Wild and Untamed
Despite what can be seen as a civilizing nature the fairies of the nymph types were ultimately wildness fairies, wild and untamed. (Ralston, 1872) describes the rusalki by stating that;

They are generally represented under the form of beauteous maidens with full and snow-white bosoms, and with long and slender limbs. Their feet are small, their eyes are wild, their faces are fair to see, but their complexion is pale, their expression anxious. Their hair is long and thick and wavy, and green as is the grass (sometimes it is black, or blond). Their dress is either a covering of green leaves, or a long white shift, worn without a girdle. At times they emerge from the waters of the lake or river in which they dwell, and sit upon its banks, combing and plaiting their flowing locks, or they cling to a mill-wheel; and turn round with it amid the splash of the stream. If any one happens to approach, they fling themselves into the waters, and there divert themselves, and try to allure him to join them. Whomsoever they get hold of they tickle to death Witches alone can bathe with them unhurt.

Phillppa Rapport, a more recent scholar describes them as:

In contrast to the bride, there is a female folk figure in East Slavic lore whose hair is permanently loose and uncontrolled; she is the rusalka.
She is pale, lithe, often beautiful female spirit who lives in the water, forest and fields. She is known to swing on tree branches waiting to entice unsuspecting male passersby whom she often attacks and at times tickles to death.
Hair is light brown, blond, or green, loose hair, blazing eyes and magnificent breasts…. Noted for her beautiful voice and melodious laugh…. If her hair ever dries out she will perish.

She goes on to state that they ride wildly through pastors on horses, dance freely in meadows. In essence they are symbolic of the freedom and happiness so often denied to women in later Europe. Their wild hair is extremely which is significant to their character and this is symbolic in the Slavic lands as hair is symbolic of sexual status.

In the wedding ritual the bride is “sold” to her new husband and his family, and must leave her home and village. As part of the ritual, she “sell her braid to her new husband, and is valued for the thickness of her braid. I will argue that this act is symbolic of the women’s giving over her sexual potency and autonomy to her husband…

Because the various Slavic fairies have no braids they can be said to be free from any obligation and they cannot be sold or given over to anyone. Without the knots of a braid they are not tied down to anything as the fairies of the nymph type tend to be.
Of course the tying down associated to marriage was not always so strict;

Philippa Rapport maintains that the wedding rituals of the tenth through the fifteenth century show diminishing domestic and social status of women with the increasing influence of the church.

Vila and rusalka in the Slavic lands are to a certain extent a folk memory of freer times. However, they go beyond this by being able to shirk nearly all reasonability, when a fairy of a nymph type bares their children they give it over to humans to be raised as they have no family ties. Yet despite the fact that they don’t raise their own children they do in fact raise the children of other people. They raise those who will become leaders and heroes, the fairies of the nymph type have every advantage then for they still raise children as many people want too but they do not have to raise children who are disobedient or difficult, only those who will grow up to do great things. Their children are Zeus and Dyonisis thus their civilizing power comes from their wild freedom and their freedom comes from their civilizing power. This contrasting nature is important to the fairies of the nymph types. In Greece the religious places associated with nymphs were natural places, often in caves. So the heroes and the civilizers of society lived and were raised in caves while at the same time caves were the birth place of monsters and the dangerous nature. In Slavic lands it was said that;

they run about the meadows, or they frolic among the high-standing corn and,
rocking upon it, make it wave to and fro. Whole bevies of
them live on lonely spots along the streams, or in deep places
and under rapids. Sitting in the depths of brooks and rivers,
they entangle the fishermen's nets; by breaking the dikes they
flood the adjoining fields and wreck the bridges; and they may
also cause fatal storms, dangerous rains, and heavy hail.
Rising to the surface of the stream on clear summer nights,
they bathe, sprinkling the water around them and frolicking in
the waves; they like to sit on the mill-wheel, splashing each
other, and then they dive deep, crying, "Kuku." In late spring
especially they come out of the water, and run about the
neighbouring woods and thickets, clapping their hands and
turning somersaults upon the grass, while their laughter re-
sounds far and wide in the forests. In the evening they like
to rock upon slender branches, enticing unwary wanderers;
and if they succeed in leading any one astray, they tickle him
to death, or draw him down into the depths of the stream.

The Rusalky are extremely fond of music and singing; and
their fine voices lure swimmers to deep places, where they
drown. The water-nymphs also divert themselves by dancing
in the pale moonlight, and they inveigle shepherds to play with
them, the places where they dance being marked by circles
in which the grass is particularly luxuriant and green. Fond of
spinning, they hang their yam on trees; and after washing
the linen which they weave, they spread it on the banks to
dry. If a man treads on such linen, he becomes weak and lame.

Larson states that;
The word numph, paradoxically can refer to the Greek Maiden as a virgin bride and her divine counterpart in the chorus of Artemis, or it can refer to a local fertility deity, often manifestly unchaste, who presides over the spring and woodland..... Nymphs combine the forbidden allure of virgin Artimus with the lust of the sexually aware Aphrodite; yet a social deities believed to inhabit not Olympus but caves, trees, and springs they are much more accessible.... The nymph is also idolized myth poetic version of the village girl at the peak of her sexual desirability.... She has  supernatural power and assumed superiority over the male so that her desires are central to the narratives of their stories..... Unlike the chorus of Artemis, which attempts to preserve sexual purity, the nymphs in general are likely to engage in sexual sport with Hermes, the silens, or even a bemused shepherd.

Fairies of the nymph type then represent both the a certain amount of wishfulness for women and the sexual fantasies of men. For nymphs unlike the girls of ancient Europe are free, boys who dare to harm their linins, or insult them are punished. She is superior to males and yet is desirable to them. She is never rejected, never has to truly worry what others will think of her. She is also never going to be tied down. For boys she represents both the fantasy of the shy girl and the aggressive willing girl. The fairies of the nymph type allow them to imagine having a dominant mate while continuing to think of their future or current brides as submissive.
This internal dualism as previously mentioned is important to naturalistic worship, because nature itself is clearly internally dualistic, as mentioned in Grimm’s Fairies

So while later religions and societies would place the duel nature of creative and destructive of fertility and desolation in separate beings it was common for people who worshiped nature to think of them as being in the same being. So when people later thought of the fairies as evil or dangerous it may not be a complete change in their nature but rather a shift in focus.
As part of this dualism we also see that they were both feared for their deisire to snatch away both males and females and that they would give comfort to those who’s loved ones had been snatched away. This is because death by natural forces was thought to be a selection by the gods, a means by which they took people to live among them. In both accounts of Hylos (Herkuleses assistant who was taken by the nymphs) they are said to have taken him, not drowned him. In one he becomes their husband in the other they hold him in their laps like a weeping child while they comfort him. In either case however he is now free from mortal concerns. In essence one can imagine that he will find a form a bliss in their free heaven.
In the Rome an epitaph states that a five year old girl was carried of by the naides to be a their playmate.
In many later mythologies its stated that fairies will try to get girls to join them or that fairies of the nymph type are the souls of girls who drowned before marraige or unbaptized. What’s likely is that these myths are a remnant of a form of heaven in which some girls could get to live out their fantasy of being free, of dancing wildly, punishing those who wronged them, while at the same time bringing life to their village and people. For men this too represents a form of heaven where they are allowed to be blissfully passive.

Humans Fairies and Deities
What are Fairies?
Originally the root word of fairy meant to bring fate… to decide death. It was once believed throughout Europe that fairies were the ones who determined the fate of everyone including the deities themselves. Fate at this time wasn’t the abstract concept it has become related to some distant force, fate was the what the fairies created. People’s lives were and to some extent still are completely under the control of natural forces. . Thus it is these natural forces including the wind, the trees, rocks, shadows, and even emotions which lives and souls of their own that controlled everyone’s fate. The belief that all things have souls was once shared by nearly all people. This view also gave rise to the mystery of what the souls that inhabited everything were. In Europe these souls were later personified as the fairies.
We are perhaps best served in our understanding of fairies by looking to the Japanese for their understanding of the nature of Kami, which are things that inspire reverence and awe. In the same manner, fairies are the wondrous trees in nature, the tall mountains, and the calm majestic rivers. This view is apparent in people’s original belief that the gods needed no temple - they lived directly within that which inspired awe.
The word “temple” itself means wood, implying that the deities lived within groves of trees, on mountain tops and within sacred wells. (Jacob Grimm, 1835) Early Romans also worshipped deities associated with specific localities and even household objects which they needed to survive, such as cupboards and hearths. (Bailey, 1907)
Fairies are not simply those creatures that inspire awe and reverence, just as the Kami was worshipped in Japan, so too were the fairies worshipped by the peoples of ancient Europe. Just as the Kami and Yokai of Japan were often feared so too in Europe did the fairies plant the seeds of fear and cause sorrow. So in myth, fairies are both the monster and the object of reverence, the illness in the cattle, the things in the dark that cause our flesh to constrict into Goosebumps and make our hearts race.
The ancient Romans would drive diseases away by performing rituals that would show the power of civilization over nature in order to make the nature fairies afraid to come near them as they believed that nature fairies were the cause of illness. Among the Celts it was considered dangerous to harm certain plants because they were inhabited by fairies. In one myth, a man named Caffney cut some of the plants that housed fairies in order to cook his dinner. But the wood would not burn, and soon he pined away until he died. (Wentz, 1911)
Briggs speaks of another fairy, the Lamia, which hid herself in despair and became a monster, jealous of the good fortune of human mothers. This jealousy, coupled with a desire to hold children, moved her to steal children away (Perkiss, 2007). In a Greek fairy tale a young man is enamored by some beautiful fairies causing his mother to warn, “Beware, my son! The maidens may be fairies. Evil may come. Beware!" (Gianakoulis, 1930) Such warnings show how horrified people were of fairies because of the things which they might do.
Fairies, then, are our hopes and our fears; our dreams and our nightmares. On the one hand, they give the world life, while on the other hand they bring destruction. There is nothing felt and nothing that happens that is not caused by a fairy. In myth, certain fairies were known as fates, a word that came to mean “unavoidable”. However, events caused by fates are unavoidable only because fairies deliberately make it so.
Again Purkiss points out that fairies represent the women’s domain in that they are both distant from the action of most stories and yet ultimately they are the ones driving it. It is not a coincidence that fairies weave and spin. In Europe, it was believed that there was magic in spinning and weaving. That “fate” could be altered through the act of spinning and weaving. Having an understanding of this provides us with some useful information for telling the fairies’ story. To effectively tell the fairies’ story, we need to understand why they would do such things, why they make the world the way they do, and why they get so heavily involved in the lives of humans.
What are Humans?

To answer the question of what fairies are, it is perhaps best to begin by coming to an understanding of what humans are. Our knowledge of fairies springs from our encounters with them as well as the stories we tell about them, therefore, to properly understand fairies, we must become familiar with our relationship with them.
Humans are unique among the European mortal realm because there are clear creation stories that explain where our race came from. These creation stories tend to agree with each other, at least in part. In Greek mythology, humans are the children of the nymphs of the ash trees who, in turn were born from the blood of the grandfather of the deities and so are older than the gods themselves. Indeed one of these ash trees raised the deity Zeus so it could be argued that perhaps the first humans and Zeus were adopted brothers. In Germanic and Scandinavian mythology, humans were created from the ash trees directly by the deity Odin. The Celts have a slightly different take on the origin of humans;
“In Celtic belief men were not so much created by gods as descended from them. (For) All the Gauls assert that they are descended from Dispater, and this, they say, has been handed down to them by the Druids. Dispater was a Celtic underworld god of fertility, and the statement probably
presupposes a myth, like that found among many primitive peoples, telling how men once lived underground and thence came to the surface of the earth. But it also points to their descent from the god of the underworld. Thither the dead returned to him who was ancestor of the living as well as lord of the dead” (MacCulloch, 2005)
Ultimately then, we have to conclude that humans are not a separate species from nature, but that like the fairies and deities we are a direct descendant of these things. In one of the most famous stories of humans encountering fairies, two fairy children - a girl and a boy who were green in color - were taken in by Sir Richard de Caine at Wikes. Scared and saddened at finding himself in the human world, the boy eventually died. However over time, the girl became human; though she remained “rather loose and wanton in her conduct.” (Keightley, 1870) What this shows us is that fairies can become human simply by living among us. One could say than that we are actually a stage of the fairies’ life cycle. In over half of Europe’s myths, humans came from trees whose souls are those of the fairies and deities while the rest of European myths claim that humans are descendants of a deity of the underworld. This is significant because Celtic belief holds that many fairies live within and come from the underworld as well.
Despite this relationship however, it is also clear that humans are distinctly different from fairies. As Jacob Grimm points out, humans physically lie somewhere between the realms of fairies and giants. So while fairies hold power and sway over us, they stand in awe before us. (Grimm, 1835) It is relatively common in mythology for humans to capture leprechauns in order to steal their treasure, or to threaten the lives of tree fairies to force them to provide us with fertile fields. Furthermore, some reports also say that fairies abduct humans to strengthen their sickly line (Briggs, 1967). This shows that not only are humans physically stronger than fairies, but also we are close enough to bear children with them. Fairies themselves are not afraid of losing their powers by bringing human blood into their line. This close relationship between humans and fairies will come clearer in the Chapter “Humans Become Fairies” of this book.
Some interesting questions arise from these stories regarding fairies and humans. Firstly, if we are so close to fairies why is the world of fairies such a mystery to us? Why are humans mortal while fairies are immortal? Why do we lack the fundamental knowledge of nature that fairies have?
The truth of the matter is that only most humans lack magic and immortality; there have however been many humans throughout myth and folklore who have found immortality and magic through druidism, witchcraft, wizardry, and the arts of the cunning folk. Even by simply visiting the realm of fairies humans have actually found their place among them. Despite this, however, most humans lack such powers, leaving us to wonder why this is so?
There are a few possible answers to these questions. First, we must recall that the deities were not the first beings. They joined together to kill the first being; and just as the deities killed the first being, so too perhaps could humans displace the deities. So allowing us to understand all the secrets of nature the way other fairies do could be dangerous.
Indeed, Zeus forbade teaching humans the secrets of fire and many other arts out of fear of what humans would do with this knowledge. Fairies, too, desire to keep secrets from humans. For in the same manner that they will capture us to be their spouses, so too will we capture them out of greed for their treasure or to fulfill our own lustful desires. Indeed there was a dwarf
who told humans directly that they were mortal and weak due in part to their “faithlessness” (Grimm, 1935). What we see then is that humans are believed by fairies to be their treacherous descendants, so it is possible that the secrets of magic have been concealed from us simply to keep us from being even more dangerous.

Secondly Germanic and Scandinavian myths also tell us that Odin will eventually need the souls of dead humans to help him in his final battle to prevent all things from being destroyed. So it is perhaps necessary for humans to be mortal so that we can join his army. This could also be his reason for creating us.
Briggs points out that one aspect of fairies is that they can never mature or be the hero, while humans on the other hand can mature and grow physically strong. (Briggs, 1967) Saving the world from Armageddon requires something other than capricious or playful beings. Instead, it requires creatures that are not afraid to die, beings who seek out the warrior’s life and are always striving for more – these are qualities of humans that immortal and magic-bearing beings would have difficulty obtaining.
Odin is not the only one in mythology who needed humans. In the Welsh story of Prince Powell the fairy king seeks out Powell in order to get his aid in slaying a monster that the fairies cannot kill. (Griffis, 1921) Water dragons would seek out humans as far away as Japan in order to help them battle with unclean beings that they could not fight themselves. Humans, then, are perhaps made to be a mortal form of fairy which is ignorant of magic due to the fairies and deities need for a human hero’s to help protect them.
Another possible reason why fairies keep humans ignorant is because deities and fairies enjoy sacrifices such as bread, clothes, gold, or even the living beings that are offered to them. Such sacrifices denote humans’ respect for the deities and fairies. In the myths and stories, fairies respond to these acts despite the fact that they seem to serve little purpose for them. This is obviously the case in stories such as “The Three Little Men in the Wood” where the fairies give a girl great gifts such as an unlimited supply of gold in return for providing them with a small crust of bread. (Grimm and Grimm, 1812) It seems odd that such respect should be the only reason that such rituals are observed, or that the fairies and deities seek these rituals while getting nothing from them. To understand this better, we need to examine the nature of historical beliefs about magic.
At its most basic level, magic is a sympathetic human action, a ritual combined with a thought which causes a desired outcome (Fraizer, 1890). This gives credence to odd rituals such as burning an effigy of someone in order to cause them to suffer, weaving a knot to bind someone, or painting an animal so that we are later in a better position to kill that animal. When we offer something to a fairy, it could then be taken as a sympathetic action directed positively for the fairy. In other words, sacrifices essentially provide the fairy with blessings.
Moreover, through these myths, we find that our sacrifices lend the fairies strength. If we understood everything that they did, then we would not have needed them anymore so they would not have received strength in the form of sacrifices from us. As we’ll see further in the “What are Deities” and “Fairies are ancient Gods” sections of this book, fairies can become deities or lose their divinity based on human worship.

Finally its possible that immortality is limited. Most all myths and fairy tales state that the deities and fairies are immortal because of magical foods which they eat. In Greek mythology the fruit which made the deities immortal was guarded by giants, in Indian and Celtic mythology it was guarded by fairies. In Germanic mythology the deities were unable to get this food for some time and so began to grow old until Loki managed to get some of this food.  Because immortality comes from a fruit it may be that it’s a limited resource which means not everyone can be immortal.

Regardless of the reasons, however, what is ultimately clear is that in most Indo-European, Ularic and Tengeri myths, humans are simply another stage of life. Not just in the evolution of fairies but also within the life cycle of fairies themselves. This is also seen in India where reincarnation is a major theme, implying that mortals can become immortal beings and immortal beings can die to become mortals. It is also clear in Central Asia where humans share souls with fairies; human souls can become the spirits of the mountains or the trees and then later be reborn within a human again. Even in Europe, where things have grown murky it is still obvious from some folk tales that fairies are essentially souls and humans are houses for these souls.

What is the Soul?

To begin understanding the ancient European conception of the soul, you must forget everything you think you know about it. Our modern conception does not help in our goal of becoming aware of the mythological nature of fairies and our relationship to them. Moreover, the modern European beliefs about the soul do not explain some of the important traditions that have been carried over from ancient belief systems.
People in ancient Europe, as they often times do now, believed that the soul was separate from the body. Indeed at one time people thought that souls inhabited objects as well as living things.
“The ancient Egyptians…conceived the Ka or personality as a thing separable from the person or body, and hence ‘the statue of a human being represented and embodied a human Ka’. Likewise a statue of a god was the dwelling-place of a divine Ka, attracted to it by certain mystical formulae at the time of dedication.” (Wentz, 1911)
When someone dies we erect a marker to them, a marker which is then placed in a beautiful location and on which we place flowers and other offerings. That this marker is a remnant of a shrine to the dead person is clear, for we speak to them at it which is in essence a form of prayer to their soul. What’s more, we feel reverence around it as we would in a religious setting. So again it is clear that this is a shrine for the dead. What isn’t clear, given most peoples current beliefs regarding the soul, is why this shrine must be at the person’s body. The answer to this question is surprising as it is plainly obvious – people once believed that the soul remained with the body after death. In Russia, they have funeral songs in:
“which the grave itself is spoken of as the home of the departed spirit. “Dark and joyless is our prison-house," is the reply constantly made by ghosts when questioned about their habitation. "Stone and earth lie heavy on our hearts, our eyes are fast closed, our hands and feet are frozen by the cold." Especially during the winters do the dead suffer; when the spring returns the peasants say, "Our fathers enjoy repose," and in Little-Russia they add, "God grant that the earth may lie light on you.” (Ralston, 1872)
From this song, we can see that the Russians believed that the soul remained within the body. Similarly, as we will see further in the “Humans Are the Dead” section of this book that in Celtic, Germanic, Mongolian, Japanese, and nearly every other Indo-European, Tengeri and Asian Mythology humans souls were also thought to grow into flowers, trees, and rivers - things that we previously and will further explain to be fairies. Yet at the same time, side by side with these beliefs, are Celtic and Russian myths that tell of souls taking the form of a winged animal.
In Brittany, souls are frequently thought to be in butterfly form, “but that upon leaving the body it is often believed to take the form of a fly and sometimes that of a raven…" (Ralston 1872). The butterfly also seems to have been universally accepted by the Slavonians as an emblem of the soul. Similarly, one of the names in the Government of Yaroslaw is dushichka, a caressing diminutive of dusha, the soul. In Kherson culture, it is believed that if the usual alms are not distributed at a funeral, the dead man's soul will reveal itself to his relatives in the form of a moth flying about the flame of a candle. Then, the day after receiving such a warning visit, the family would call together the poor and distribute food to them. Meanwhile, Bohemian culture holds that if the first butterfly a man sees in the spring is a white one, he is destined to die within the year. The Servians, on the other hand, believe that the soul of a witch often leaves her body while she is asleep and flies abroad in the shape of a butterfly.
“The belief in the bird-soul was well known in the Highlands. To illustrate: A farmer was coming home from Inverness to Buntait when at a weird part of the way his mare got uncontrollable and ran up with him to where there was a waterfall (eas). Whereupon he swooned and fell off. On recovering he found his way home and was amazed at finding his mare tied in the stable, not knowing how it happened, for nobody confessed to having tied her. Soon after he hurt himself in moving a heavy box of oats at the farm of Shewglie; a plough or two broke thereafter at the spring-work, always a bad omen. Getting more unwell, he said to his wife the night before his death: "What a beautiful bird I heard singing by my bedside to-night." "I well believe it," she replied. To which he answered: "It was my ghost; I cannot live long.” (Ralston, 1872)
There were also a number of other animal forms which human souls could take.
“it was generally believed among the Northern nations that the soul escaped from the body in the shape of a mouse, which crept out of a corpse’s mouth and ran away, and it was also said to trance. While the soul was absent, no effort or remedy could recall the patient to life; but as soon as it had come back animation returned.” (Guerber, 1909)
It is also clear that along with these ideas, it was believed that humans changed into some other form after death. What we see from examining European mythology surrounding death is that the same people believed that two or even three things happened to a human soul when we died.
Why did the ancient Europeans hold so many beliefs? Is it simply because they were confused by what happens after death? Is it because people were not certain which one of a myriad of choices to believe in so they picked all possible outcomes? Of course, any of these options is possible. Certainly the modern tradition of laying flowers on the grave has persisted even though almost no one truly believes that this does any real good for the dead. So it is also quite possible that the beliefs in Europe changed slowly over time, thus making it appear that they believed that two or at times three very different things could happen to a person's soul.
There is, however, an alternative option, that people believed many things happened to a person when they died. That they at one time believed that people had more than one soul just like the people of the Steppes in Central Asia, the Ainu, the Japanese, the Finns as well as the forbearers of the Hungarians and North East Europeans did. These peoples do have some disagreement as to the number of souls a human can have, but they nearly all believed that when people die some of their souls reside in nature and become trees or mountains, while others are reincarnated or travel to the afterlife for a time in the form of a winged creature such as a butterfly or a bird. (Ried, 2002)
Jacob Grimm points out that Germanic people spoke of the soul as a feminine object, while they spoke of life -integrally related to breath - as masculine. (Grimm, 1835) Clearly, then, there was a distinction of some form between the two, which in turn, supports the idea that at one time the people in Europe to one extent or another believed in more than one soul. The fundamental belief in multiple souls is significant because it shows us not only how some fairies that reside in nature can be connected with ancient humans, but it also explains how an individual fairy can seemingly have many personalities and forms at one time.
We see the same belief repeated in Japan where people thought that the Kami had multiple souls, and therefore multiple natures or personalities. According to them, any given Kami has four souls and three natures. Namely; Aramitama, Nigimitama, and Sakimitama - any one of these natures can become dominant thus completely changing the way the Kami acts, what they desire, and what goals they will have.
The Aramitama is violent and generally destructive. However, it is important to keep in mind that destructiveness is not always harmful.  After all, it was violence and destructiveness that saved Japan from the genocide of the Mongols and protected people from other dangers.
The second type, Nigimitama, is the gentle nature which Kami uses to make the crops grow and the water pure. However, Kami in this state do not go out of their way to do good. They simply keep the natural order of things so that there is enough for humans and animals to survive.
The final nature, Sakimitama, is one in which Kami brings extra luck, creates wealth for humans, and performs other similar helpful actions.
While it is dangerous to compare one distant faith to another I use the Japanese as an example only because I believe that just as in the concepts behind the Kami we see separate natures in fairies of European mythology. For the same fairy that causes people's crops to
grow is the one that children are told to avoid. (Frazer, 1922) In the sacred groves, the fairies that people prayed to for wealth and luck would not hesitate to kill those who disturbed them. (Tactis)
Hermes in Greek mythology was both the god who protected merchants from thieves and the one who helped thieves rob the merchants. He gave humans secrets to keep them safe, yet snatched children away, dragging them into a dark world from which there was no return. It is clear from these stories that the fairies and deities in European myths had multiple natures, and that their motivations and thoughts changed with their mood. Indeed, fairies and deities can be said to feel things with more intensity than most humans can and so they need to struggle for control much more fiercely.
Unlike much of the modern perception of the world, in which the duality between destruction and creation exists in separate beings, fairies exhibit this duality inside themselves. An internalized duality makes sense given that fairies were natural phenomena which are, in themselves, dualistic in a way that is neither good nor evil. After all, if fairies helped humans hunt for food, they must also help wolves source their food, which can include humans as there is no moral difference in the wolf's mind between a deer and a human. In addition, we as humans have every right to kill the wolf to defend ourselves, our own food, and those we love. Why is this comparison significant? Because this is the way of fairies – in fact, the way of all feral creatures - and this is a critical insight into what they think and do.
Indeed, when examining fairies, it becomes obvious that humans are not always their closest companions. Fairies often love trees and animals more because these are their friends. When a human chops down a tree they are in fact killing a fairy, which can be the child, mother, or lover of another fairy. To fairies, humans can be the wolves that destroy what they love or the rats that bring disease. In this sense, fairies have every right to return pestilence onto humanity to protect themselves just as we have the right to defend ourselves from predators and illnesses.
What are Deities?

Just as humans exist somewhere between fairies and giants, so do fairies lie between mortals and deities in their ability to perform magic. Deities appear to exist physically alongside the giants as massive, awe-inspiring beings. For example, Loki is so large that he caused earthquakes when he was struggling beneath the ground. At the same time, it’s obvious that deities are able to change their size whenever it suits their interests - often choosing to enter human houses in disguise and Odin is believed to have become the leader of the fairies' wild hunt through the forest in a human form.
The differences between the ancient gods and fairies may be less than many suspect, just as it is with humans and fairies. On one hand, many of the fairies are descendants from deities or created by them. On the other, some fairies seem to come from the same place that deities are from and are even older than the deities themselves. For instance Zeus, the leader of the deities in Greek mythology, was raised by a nymph who kept him hidden from his father. Further Odin would often turn to spirits of the earth for advice and knowledge.
Examining the evolution of European beliefs about deities makes the definitive line between the worlds of fairies and deities even harder to see. Initially, Europeans had no real pantheon or concept of deity as it is now understood. Rome’s first deities were the spirits of rocks, trees, and animals in other words before they worshiped gods Romans worshiped fairies (Bailey, 1907).
Among the Celts, most gods were local gods rather than all-powerful deities. They were the gods of the rivers, mountains, trees, war, and more, making it hard to make a clear distinction between them and other spirits which might exist.
J. A. MacCulloch (1911) believed that the divinities were the most important spirits which only later came to be deified as deities. Oftentimes, these deities included among their ranks the spirits of the great humans who had died. This shows a connection not only between fairies and deities, but humans and deities as well.
These examples suggest that the only separation between deities and the other spirits (fairies) is simply that humans hold more respect for the deities.
Looking back to the roots of European beliefs, we see that within Near and Central Asia there also appears to be little conception of deities. ( Even among the Greeks deities often act as fairies. At one time, for example, Hermes took the bogyman's place in coming down the chimney to scare naughty children thus cementing himself as a fairy. (Purkiss, 2007)
Perhaps then, fairies are deities who have not been conceived as such by humans. In other words, deities are hierarchically higher then fairies because of how humans regard them. Moreover, as we will see in the chapter “Fairies are Forgotten Gods”, deities can lose their godhood and turn back into fairies. This deification process can go beyond the fairy stage and down to the realm of humans such that humans can become the deities that people worship. Nothing makes this clearer than the evolution of the wild hunt which was, at one time, led by Odin who had become a fairy.  However;
“in the middle ages, when the belief in the old heathen deities was partly forgotten, the leader of the Wild Hunt was no longer Odin, but Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa, King Arthur, or some Sabbath-breaker, like the Squire of Rodenstein or Hans von Hackelberg, who, in punishment for his sins, was condemned to hunt for ever through the realms of air.” (Guerber, 1909)
What we see then is that while there are clear mythological lines between humans, fairies, and deities, it holds more in common with the line between children and adults then between one species and another.

Fairy Tales and Religion

Folktales are the ultimate expression of a culture, remaining relevant for each new generation which hears them. A mother tells their child a story in the evening, a person tells their friend one as they sit in a bar, or a traveler tells a village a story. The people hearing the story then decide if the story is relevant enough and good enough to get passed on. If there are parts that they don’t like these can be easily removed, if they feel something would make the story better it can easily be added. The person they then tell the story to has the same option and on and on it goes. However, even as the story changes to remain culturally relevant it also retains elements from the past, elements which can be dissected and puzzled together with other sources to discover beliefs which have been in part forgotten.
Fairy tales are important to understanding religion because people once believed the tales to be true to some extent. We see this not only in Russia where story tellers believed that even elements such as taking animals were the way things once were simply “the way things were back then” (Haney, 1999) but also in places such as Japan and the Celtic lands where belief in Kami and fairies have persisted into the modern era. Even where such belief persists however it does change, it is subject to evolving cultural ideas.
Of course at first glance it would appear that fairies, spirits, deities aren’t present within fairy tales at all. Indeed it has been argued that what defines fairy tales is a lack of religious elements when compared to mythology. I would argue however that there are two important things to understand about fairy tales. Firstly, fairy tales are about the day to day life of people’s interaction with the world and the supernatural figures which inhabit it. Myths of the world’s creation, of deities fighting dragons, of the great heroic powers clashing with each other are entertaining and important to warriors and priests but not really to the daily life of the majority of the population. Thus mythology offers only a limited look at the religion of a people. The rest of a peoples belief system was rarely recorded as it was considered base and silly by the upper castes which did the writing. This means that the only record of the beliefs of the majority of a people are contained in fairy tales and a few folk rituals as the upper castes had different needs and beliefs then the lower casts. This is true not only in Europe where kings and nobles became Christian while pagan rites and beliefs remained common among the lower castes but also in Asia where Buddhism, modern Shintoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, etc were used as tools by the upper castes to force compliance of the peoples they had conquered. Yet these religions did not get rid of the religious beliefs of the lower castes and or indigenous peoples completely, for their beliefs are still hidden within fairy tales and folk knowledge. There are then two basic eras within the history of nearly all folktales, the time before a people were conquered or the upper caste converted to a new religion and the time after these events occurred.

Pre-Upper Caste Religious Change.
Pre-Christian, Muslim, Confucianism, Buddhism, etc.

It’s certainly true that even before the coming of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Shintoism, most Eurasian societies still had clear caste systems. However before the coming of forced religious laws the lower castes tended to be left to their own devises more then they would be in these later eras of forced belief. Of course for many people this change occurred multiple times which makes it ever more difficult to sort through the many ideas contained in fairy tales.
In general however fairies during this period of time were magical beings which existed in a somewhat vulnerable state of being but which at the same time could and did manipulate and control the fate of humanity. Because of their close connection with human’s fairy like beings were in many ways more important to people then the deities they might believe in. Observers of the Mari-El for example were surprised that they tended to focus their religious activities on pleasing the keremet, a form of nature spirit which could also be considered an ancestor spirit or the pieces of the soul of a deceased deity which was broken apart, rather then spending their time trying to please the deities which they believed tended to be distant beings. The Greeks often times made their first offering to the nymphs, the Romans first deities appear to have been more like fairies then deities. Fairies were so important to the Celts and Nordic people that while they allowed the Christians to burn down their temples would not let them hurt the sacred trees.

There are a few key things to understand during this stage;
1-Fairies tend to be dualistic in nature being both creative and destructive. In some cases people even begin to worship fairy type beings simply to pacify their destructive nature. We certainly see this in Japan where a hero began battling serpent like kami which were killing people in his village. He then negotiated a truce with the kami in which people would make offerings to them in return for peace.
2-People’s worship of fairies is both out of respect and fear. Further to a large extent such worship can often be equated to bargaining in which they offer food, gold, etc in return for favors. In many rituals people offer the fairy/kami like spirit a percentage of their harvest if it is good. In other tales people threaten fairy like beings telling them that they’ll do them harm in return for treasures.
3-Fairies are not necessarily more powerful then humans. There are tales where people threatened to cut down the tree a fairy lived in, where a boy in Japan saves the daughter of a kami from some bullies, where a man catches a fairy and forces him to be his wife.
4-Fairy beliefs tend to be related to people and societies needs. On a number of pacific islands it was said that spirits would curse those who went into the groves at night which helped people avoid malaria. Dangerous places such as rivers all over the world are said to be haunted which keeps children away and more. The belief in fairies can also be comforting, allowing the parents of a drowned child to believe that their child’s spirit went to play with the nymphs forever or providing people a way to try to make things better no matter how hard life gets.

Post-Upper Caste Belief System
At some point in most societies histories the upper caste develops or converts to a new religion which is what happened with the Shintoism of Japan, the Christianity of Europe, Buddhism, Confuciusism, Islam, etc. Even after peoples ‘conversion’ to such religions, much of their traditional beliefs remain in tact and many fairy tales remain to tell of the old ways. There are some changes however, one of which is a focus on the negative aspects of fairy like beings. So although some stories often do remain about fairy like beings helping humans these tend to be rare. Further the happiness which fairies offer, their kingdoms, food, gold, etc are often believed to be an illusion. Fairies are believed to be miserable in many ways in order to prevent people from wanting to be a fairy when they die like they might have in the before this period. Of course in the case of Buddhism this picture is a little different as many of the fairy like creatures are said to have converted to or to be in some way related to Buddhism, and thus are trying to achieve the same afterlife that humans are.
In this post-period, fairies become a story element rather then as a religious being, or where the religious elements remain they either become an opposition to the new religion and exist to reinforce the new religions superiority over the previous belief system, or they are adopted into the new belief system as Saints, Buddhist figures, etc.
This is the environment in which most of the fairy tales we hear today were told. Thus we must examine fairy tales with the realization that while there were always demonic creatures some of the beings within fairies were made to be more evil then the original belief system meant for them to be. Secondly, the roll of fairies was often subverted and reduced. A good example of this comes from the fact that Wild Huntsmen from fairy tales likely has his roots in the Germanic myths about Odin.

The Fairies and Magical Rituals of Fairy Tales
At one time in parts of Russia and Eastern Europe people would take deformed children, those which were not considered whole and could not walk, and wrap them in dough and then placed in a slightly warm oven. This didn’t hurt them as the oven wasn’t hot, it was believed that the hearth spirit would then help heal them, that just as dough rises the child would rise up as well. The parallel between this ritual and the tale of the Gingerbread Man should be obvious. Knowing the origins of the Gingerbread Man story is interesting, yet it doesn’t necessarily help us understand anything we didn’t know on learning about the ritual. At the same time it does give us a better grasp of how stories were altered so that we can begin to review other stories, so that we can begin to understand deeper meanings. Further it gives us insight into the fear of the people involved in the ancient religion. The parents of the Gingerbread Man released him into the world by giving him new life and new speed, but the sudden freedom and his likely relationship with the fairy world caused him to run away from all work while seeking out and trusting the dangerous fox.
We see another ritual performance in the story of the “Fool and the Birch Tree” the younger foolish brother in this fairy tale is leading his cow through the woods when he hears the wind blowing through a birch trees leaves and he thinks that the Birch is making an offer to him for the cow. Although it’s not mentioned in the fairy tale two things are worth mentioning at this point. First is that the Slavic people at one time sacrificed cattle and other animals to trees in return for wealth and second is that the sound wind through the trees was commonly believed to be the trees speaking, although only certain people could only understand what the tree was saying. What we have in this tale then is that a person who in the post-Christian era is considered foolish hears a tree speak to him in order to make an offer for the cow.
So the fool ties the cow to the tree and leaves later after the wolves and animals of the forest, the creatures which the forest spirits watched over and cared for in Russian mythology, came and ate the cow. Some time after this a thief hides some gold in the tree for safe keeping. The fool of course finds this gold and becomes rich. One could argue of course that he simply got lucky, its important to keep in mind however that fairies were believed to not only be able to see the future but to be able to manipulate it also. This story then shows us that just as the Christian god is now believed to work by manipulating events in the world, fairies were also believed to do the same. Luck, both good and bad, in ancient belief systems is not random; rather it’s the result of magical intervention. This story further shows us that of the forest eating a sacrifice, such as the cow, may have been considered part of the sacrifices purpose, after all when the wolves ate the cow in the story the boy who ‘sacrificed’ the cow was rewarded. In other words an understanding of ritual allows one to gain a better understanding of fairy tales which in turn allow one to gain a better understanding of the ritual and the being the ritual is being performed for.

This understanding of the fairy beings is of the utmost importance because almost all rituals were made in the distant past and so were created to deal with the concerns of the distant past. In order to deal with modern concerns one must figure out how to approach fairies now.
The tale of “Briar Rose” or “Sleeping Beauty” begins with a magical ritual, but unlike the other two tales we’ve discussed we get to see not only the results but the personality of the fairy like creature which performs the first feat of magic shine through. Its interesting to note that in “Sleeping Beauty” the fairy which starts the story, manipulates the characters and drives the action is the one most ignored by those studying or rewriting the story. In both the French and the German versions of this tale the story begins with a water fairy in the form of a frog or in the form of a well spirit granting the King and Queen a child.
In “Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” the version collected by Perrault, the king and queen take a much more active role in seeking help from the water fairy with the opening lines; “They went to all the waters in the world; vows, pilgrimages, all ways were tried.”
What we see in the king and queen’s search is that despite the fact that the kingdom in which they lived had 13 fairies (or 7 in Perrault’s version) the king and queen chose to seek help in having a child or ultimately received it from the spirit of the water, not from the fairies they would later invite to give the child blessings. Water fairies have a unique ability to see the future so this spirit of the wells would have foreseen much of the epic tale that was about to unfold because of its action of helping the king and queen to have a child. Certainly, the story that resulted has been with us for hundreds of years and is now one of the most popular stories in the world.
The well fairy can be said to be the stories author, after all everyone else in the story was just doing what was natural to them. Being forgetful, being spiteful or any other actions taken by characters in the story just happened. Only the well fairy at the beginning of the tale had a real choice. This tells us about the importance of water spirits among ancient peoples. It also tells us however that fairies may at times do what they do in order to create art by using humans as the medium. Further it also shows that their schemes to lead people to happiness can take a long time. If one is to presume that the Princess lived happily ever after, as we surely must (the fairies made it so after all) then we must also understand that the person she lived happily ever after with was born decades after she was. Thus even the fairy cursing Briar Rose to sleep led in the end to the fulfillment of her happiness.
Such grand manipulation is common place in fairy tales and isn’t limited to water fairies. Similar manipulation occurs in the tale of “Puss and Boots.” Of all the tales of fairies collected by the brothers Grimm, none shows such a close relationship between a human and a fairy-like creature as “Puss in Boots” does. It is clear from the story that Puss is no ordinary cat, although Briggs does assert that cats were a form of fairy in their own right having a fairy court and their own set of magical powers. Still, it is rare for a cat to be so closely involved with human affairs. According to Jacob Grimm, Puss shares many of the features that a household fairy would have. He asks for boots, a symbol of his status as a fairy creature. Grimm asserts that it is often such boots that separate ordinary beings from fairies. What’s interesting in this as it relates to the story, however, is that these are not special boots. They were not given to Puss by some fairy princess or ancient god. Instead, they were given to him by a poor boy. So if it is as Grimm asserts that these boots are, in fact, boots that provide Puss with his status and with power, we must conclude that humans can in fact give gifts to fairies which in turn become powerful because of the act of offering.
In return for the gift of the boots, and because of the love he held for the father of the poor boy in this story, Puss develops a complex plot to make “his master” wealthy. Puss plans and works towards putting his master in good favor with the king over the course of months. This is not just an effort to make his master wealthy, for he could have tricked and killed the ogre at any point in order to provide his master with treasure. Puss is working to have his master marry the princess knowing the two would like each other. Puss then is more than simply a bystander; he is a true weaver of fate.

Such attempts at manipulating human fate can go wrong. Though perhaps this occurs not because of a mistake made by the fairy, but because of their sympathy for a human which distracts them from their mission as occurred in “Rumpelstiltskin.” As with many tales of fairy encounters the story of “Rumpelstiltskin” begins not only with a problem during a time when the main character (a millers daughter in this case) is forced into a time of in-between. In this particular fairy tale this occurs when her father lies and ends up having her taken by a greedy king who imprisons and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t turn straw into gold. Clearly this situation puts her in a space between for she is not yet a fiancé, yet she is no longer free in that regard. She is trapped in a prison but an ‘honored’ guest.’ She is between being a member of her father’s house, the executioner, and the king’s household. It is at this moment when she is trapped; pulled by so many worlds that the fairy appears. Fairies after all a creatures which exist in the betwixt and between worlds, seeking out those who don’t yet have a place in the world.
In many ways Rumpelstiltskin is the most confusing and intriguing part of this story.  For this particular “männlein,” as the German text designates, Rumpelstiltskin, despite outward appearances, is neither clear in his goal nor his motivation. On the cusp of it, it would seem that he wants the girl’s first-born baby. However, most fairies in stories don’t ask for the child they want, instead they simply take it. Rumpelstiltskin, however, despite being clearly able to sneak into a prison, being able to weave magic powerful enough to turn straw into gold doesn’t just take the child as he obviously could. Instead he tries to get the girl to accept giving the baby to him. What’s more, even after he comes to collect the child, he decides to give her another chance to escape her agreement with him.
Such actions put him in line with the wizard characters of European folklore such as Malagigi or Germanic/French mythology or Merlin of British tales. Rumpelstiltskin seems very likely then to be a wizard character, after all he isn’t simply trying to get a baby, he’s trying to take a future king.  By his own words, this baby is more precious to him than all the treasures in the world.
What’s more the child which Rumpelstiltskin wants is going to be the child of a tyrant, the type of King who would lock a young girl in a tower and threaten to execute her if she fails to make him wealthy. Clearly removing this child from his father wouldn’t be a bad thing. Yet Rumpelstiltskin fails to do so because he gives the girl a chance to get out of their bargain, he feels sorry for her. It is one thing after all to take a child from an evil king, but it’s entirely more difficult to take one from its sobbing mother. This likely proves to be an impossible task for a männlein which typically help princesses and girls find children and happiness.

The challenge with most fairy tales is that they begin with the fairy not only as a side character but as one which is fully developed. There is very little back story provided for them. This is what makes the tale “The Spindle, the Shuttle, and the Needle” so special, it begins at the actual beginning. In this tale a young girl uses the aforementioned objects to spin and weave her fate, to find her own husband.
Jacob Grimm’s “Teutonic Mythology” notes, “Women gain their power, their heroic respect at this time from the magic that comes from the spindle.” In “The Golden Bough” it’s stated that “Women become very nearly or perhaps in some ways more than gods from the power over fate that they have, a power which comes from spinning.”
The fates which come to spin the fate of a child, which create and kill heroes which drive the action of everything are often depicted as no more then old women with certain powers. This of course is different from our modern perception of fairies and the spinners of fate and perhaps this is ultimately the reason its so hard to identify the fairies in fairy tales. In modern times most people look for the strange and the magical, for whimsy sprites and distant deities. What fairy tales teach us is that magic is much more accessible, that the wise and the powerful are not only accessible, but that they are often right there in front of us, or more importantly that we can become the spinners of fate on our own.

Origins of Europe’s Fairy Faiths

In the primal wilderness of the Neolithic Eurasian steppes which stretched out for thousands of miles, a wilderness in which humans were still be hunted by wolves and bears, were born the seeds of all but four of Europe’s modern languages. Their descendent languages include Celtic, German, English, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Lithuanian, Serbian, as well as a number of Middle Eastern and Indian languages. It was here buffeted by the cold winds and always on the look out for wild animals which at any moment could take either their lives or the lives of the animals on which they depended for their food – that the Proto-Indo-Europeans began to flourish. The success of the Proto-Indo-Europeans likely comes in large part because of new ways they found to utilize animals; they began to ride horses for the first time and use oxen to pull newly invented wagons in order help them better herd cattle and sheep with the help of domesticated dogs.
When night came and the wind would grow frigid these people would gather around the fires to cook, eat, and protect themselves from the cold as well as the darkness of the unknown that lay beyond their camp as the howls of the wolves and the growls of the bears surrounded them. The fires glow would only help so much for a fire does not banish the darkness form site it only pushes it away creating a wall outside of which creatures might prowl. In their imagination and in reality they must have seen enemies from other clans and wild animals prowling in the darkness. Worse still were the ‘others,’ the predecessors of the giants and trolls, of the fairies which snatched children away from the arms of their loving families, as well as the forbearers of the demons that would haunt the dreams and fears of later Europe. The night then wasn’t just darkness, for darkness is fear, it’s the unknown the place where evil things can lurk. It was here surrounded by darkness huddled together around a fire and hearth eating cheese, butter, and meat that the embers of Europe’s later fairy tales and religions grew as people contemplated the nature of the soul and the spirits around them. 
Eventually the voice of a priest would rise in a poetic song to tell tales of the heroic deeds of their people in hopes of instilling these heroic values in their children, or simply to entertain each other with amusing tales of the strange things their deities and heroes did. The night was the time of these poets and singers the time of the priestly caste. For it was at night that people had to feel secure in the heroics of the deities and the power of the singer to keep evil away with his charms and songs.

Deities of the Proto-Indo-Europeans
The Deities of Indo-European mythology most largely resembled mortals, for although they were powerful and knowledgeable they could still be wounded in battle and grow old. In order to stave off their old age they would eat sacred food which give them their immortality. In one Norse myth the deities weren’t able to obtain this food for some time and so grew old and feeble until Loki was able to get the food for them.
The idea the gods gain their immortality from a sacred food is one of the best attested ideas in later Indo-European myths. This food was known as Ambrosia among the Greeks and Soma in India. The De’ Dannan of Ireland stayed young thanks to sacred barriers on an island in a loch which was guarded by a dragon. In Norse mythology golden apples held by the goddess Idoun were held to give the gods their power. In all cases this food was difficult to collect. In order to obtain it one of the deities often times had to transform into a bird to carry it out of the realm where it was held. The fact that deities could grow old doesn’t mean that the Indo-Europeans thought they weren’t incredibly powerful because they were as attested by the fact that they would grow from baby to adult nearly instantly in order to begin doing amazing feats that no normal human could. Indra was said to be born asking who he could do battle with and within a year after Zeus’s birth he was strong enough to defeat the titans. There are many legends of the gods feats of strength and their prowess to prove they are much more then a mortal human. Still it is a common feature of Indo-European mythology that the deities are understandable in that they have the same concerns and desires which mortals have.
This is perhaps because the job of the deities of Indo-European mythology was to inspire courage, through their own acts to combat evil. The deities of the Indo-Europeans showed the importance of courage by being vulnerable After all someone cannot learn how to live and fight from someone who cannot fear, who cannot die, and who has no mortal concerns.
MacCulloch and Bailey believed that the original deities were closer to the realm of fairy and that they evolved into the deities we would know later. I would argue however that this situation is fluid, that because there are so many beings which could be considered sacred religion as well as its deities and fairies reflect peoples desires and fears so that they can help fill roles in society. So as humans need to take courage in an all knowing god this is what they believed in but when they needed hero’s to lead by example this is what they tell tales of.

The conception of the numen (is) formless and indefinite, it is not surprising that in the genuine Roman religion there should have been no anthropomorphic representations of the divinity at all. 'For 170 years,' Varro tells us, taking his date from the traditional foundation of the city in 754 B.C., 'the Romans worshipped their gods without images,'

By primitive peoples the supernatural agents are not regarded as greatly, if at all, superior to man; for they may be frightened and coerced by him into doing his will. At this stage of thought the world is viewed as a great democracy; all beings in it, whether natural or supernatural, are supposed to stand on a footing of tolerable equality.

The notion of a man-god, or of a human being endowed with divine or supernatural powers, belongs essentially to that earlier period of religious history in which gods and men are still viewed as beings of much the same order, and before they are divided by the impassable gulf which, to later thought, opens out between them. Strange, therefore, as may seem to us the idea of a god incarnate in human form, it has nothing very startling for early man, who sees in a man-god or a god-man only a higher degree of the same supernatural powers which he arrogates in perfect good faith to himself. Nor does he draw any very sharp distinction between a god and a powerful sorcerer. His gods are often merely invisible magicians who behind the veil of nature work the same sort of charms and incantations which the human magician works in a visible and bodily form among his fellows. And as the gods are commonly believed to exhibit themselves in the likeness of men to their worshippers, it is easy for the magician, with his supposed miraculous powers, to acquire the reputation of being an incarnate deity.

Tribes of the the Gods
In both Scandinavian mythology and Vedic mythology there were two tribes of the gods who went to war with each other.  In the Vedic texts these are the Asura and the Devas while among the Norse these tribes are the Æsir and the Vanir. Although the name of the Æsir and the Asura do likely have the same root one should be careful when trying to draw parallels between them. There are two reasons for this; first Thor the god of the Storms is an Æsir in Norse myth while his counter part Indra is the King of the Devas in the Rigveda, further the lord of the Æsir, Odin, has no counter part in India as he is partially inspired by Ugric-Finno mythology. Second the Devas become dominant in Hindu mythology while the Æsir become dominant in Norse mythology.
The challenge to understanding or comparing either tribe is that there appears to be some borrowing of deities from other cultures within each and the roles of the individual tribes names do not appear to be as important as what the story represents..
What’s important to understand is that this meeting of two tribes of gods could have come out of the Proto-Indo-European meeting with another people their early history, before they split and traveled to India and Europe. Certainly this isn’t a given and given the fact that there appears to be so many borrows, changed sides and changed roles it might be impossible to sort out which god belonged to which side or which people originally.
More likely however is that since there are few to no details of this war only of the truce that the war itself is just an artifice used to explain why the warrior and priestly class deities are above the working class deities.

The Storm God
The storms rolls in bringing with it life giving rain but also winds and floods which destroy homes and sweep away loved ones. So it is that storms are the most confusing of natural phenomenon - needed, even desired - yet at the same time, feared. Nearly everyone has experienced fear as a storm rolls in, the sense of dread as the sky turns dark and the winds howl outside like demons along with the flash of lightening followed by a boom. But to the Indo-Europeans this boom, this lighting was the weapon of an ally, brought to defeat the evil, to defeat the monsters which they feared. Of all the deities of the Indo-European peoples the most commonly attested is the lord of thunder and the storm. He is the warrior who banished the darkness and destroys evil with his thunder bolts.
This god of thunder of the storm was the chief deity Zeus in Greek legend, the Chief Deity Indra of the Rigveda in Indian mythology, as well as Perun the most likely chief deity of the Slavic peoples. The thunder god was also one of the most important deities in Celtic, Scandinavian, Hittite and Germanic folklore.
He is the only deity I know so commonly attested to as being of primary importance in all Indo-European faiths which we still have a record of. That he is so commonly attested to can be taken one of two ways, the first is that he was the lead deity of the Proto-Indo-European peoples. Certainly he appears to be a good candidate for this and it seems very likely that he was extremely important. On the other hand we should expect that the deity best attested to would be a defender of the people against strange demons for all nearly Indo-Europeans migrated to strange lands. The people who wrote the Veda in India, the Indo-Europeans who traveled west into Europe were thousand of miles from home, for what ever reason they had traveled across the world into the unknown where only the sky and the storms remained the same. The peaceful sky however could not protect them, it could not defeat the demons they feared, only the storm could do that. Only the axe, arrows, or hammer of the gods could strike down the giants and dragons of the new land in which they found themselves. So while one can presume that the Indo-European’s thunder god is yet a sign that they were war like, (which they likely were to some extent) one can also take it as a sign that they were afraid, that they needed a guardian in the sky. Certainly when one considers what his original role likely was this idea makes some sense. Consider after all why it is that the thunder is considered to be the weapon of good? Most people who sit in the darkness with the storm raging around them would not consider this to be so, but remember that religion has its roots in function. When a weeping fearful child climbs into bed with their parents as the storm rages around them and asks what the thunder is what are the parents to say? What story do they tell their baby to comfort them? It seems unlikely that the story of the Proto-Indo-European parents would have told their child would have been one of demons haunting the world, for there were enough of those in the darkness and the storm. What was needed was a sign of something trying to defeat the fears of the child and so they would tell their child of how the oak tree which they had made offerings to, the spirit of the oak tree which supplies some of the food was out in the storm fighting the demons, fighting the darkness which the child feared. In this way the child would know that the thunder was his friend and so would be comforted.
So while the god of the oak trees and the thunder may be a god of war, making a warrior one of the most important gods to the Indo-European peoples this may only be because a warrior is sometimes what is needed to give comfort not just to those going into battle but also to those who are weak and afraid.

List of Proto-Indo-European Deities
The challenges that exist in understanding the original culture of the peoples would eventually come to dominate European culture are many not only because they have fractured into many cultures but because they were likely formed from multiple tribes with multiple leaders and different shamans or priests long before they began their Journey into Europe and India. However there are a number of similarities between Indo-European cultures and a number of linguistic clues which can help us to better understand the general culture of this group of peoples.
The Proto-Indo-Europeans where a pastoral culture, one of the first if not the first to have started breeding horses and wagons (so heavy that they were likely pulled by oxen as horses were still too small to do this) which gave them a level of mobility not enjoyed by nearly any other culture of the time. Such mobility offers many advantages to a society which needs to hunt and herds animals for much of its food. However it can also offer some level of disadvantage as well as horses make it far easier for one tribe to make quick raids on another in order to loot food and women. This in turn can force these societies to become more war like and it is under this catalyst that the Proto-European society developed. This war like nature can be seen in their development of a clear warrior cast whose role was perhaps to raid for cattle from their enemies and recover cattle taken in raids. To aid them in their raids many of their deities including Dyēus ‘the sky father’ who was perhaps one of their most important deities became warlike and could be asked to aid them in their battles, He would later evolve into Zeus, Jupiter, Tyr and other deities of the European pantheons.

The Sky
The sky is always looming over head, it is always watching, The sun may rise and fall, it may move from one place to the other so that it cannot see you, but the sky, the vast sky covers everything. In this role *Dyēus Ph2ter ‘Sky Father’ watched over oaths, made certain that the earth was functioning as it should so one can see then how then how the ‘Sky Father’ came to be one of the most important deities of some of the Indo-European pantheons, important enough that some have claimed that he was the lead deity. It is difficult to determine who was the lead deity of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, however, certainly Zeus and Jupiter were the lead deities of the Roman and Greek pantheon but they were not only the ‘Sky Father’ they were also the lighting deity. The ‘Sky Father’ does not hold so much importance among the Slavic, Indian, Norse, or Germanic peoples. Nor does he appear to be extremely important to the Celts. The sky father does hold great importance too many of the peoples of the steppes and so is very well attested to but for whatever reason this importance either faded or was never fully present for nearly all the Indo-European peoples. He remained important among the Indo-Iranians as Mitra and Varuna and certain aspects of his nature appear to be present in Odin the head gods of the German, but much of Odin’s nature seems to be borrowed from a preexisting shamanistic people (likely the Finno-Ugric peoples). So with the exception of the Persians the Sky Father never seems to lead without being merged with another deity.

Earth Mother
Just as the sky is always above the earth is always below, but while one views the sky with awe, as a mystery to be unraveled, a something which is always watching the earth isn’t as mysteries. It doesn’t bring the rain, and unlike lighting when the earth rumbles as an earthquake its always viewed as negative. And while I know of no cases of Indo-European myth where Gaia is blamed for earth quakes it still doesn’t change the fact that the earth for the most part remains silent. So the Earth mother is not well attested to in most Indo-European societies.
Indeed there are very few goddesses we can name that came from Proto-Indo-European mythology, the most famous goddesses from Greek Mythologies are borrowed from Near Asia and so are not a part of the original Proto-Indo-European Pantheon, there are very few goddesses attested to in Vedic Mythology or in Europe which don’t have obvious root elsewhere. Those that exist represent natural or abstract elements such as rivers, the dawn, happiness, or are married to a male deity. The most important female deities appear to have been Mother Earth, the Mistress of Horses, and the Dawn.

Dawn and Spring
In the darkness and on cold night’s humans all share one thing in common we are waiting for the dawn. It should be no surprise then that as far as I can tell the dawn is the best attested to of all the goddesses of Proto-Indo-European origin. The dawn after all is a dramatic event and it may be that only such dramatic events survived the test of time, in story after story. Just as the dawn is beautiful so to is the goddess who represents her. In the Rigveda she smiles beautifully and displays her bodily charms. Among the Greeks the dawn Eos was thought to fall in love with many men and to carry them away as many of ther mythological characters did.
Among the Anglo-Saxons the dawn was Eostre from whose name we get the word Easter for she was a goddess of the spring as well as the dawn. The spring adds to her importance for as the goddess of spring she not only ends winter but brings the food back to the world. Thus while Gaia can be thought of as important but passive, the dawn and spring can be said to take an active role in helping humanity. 

Heroic Gods
The Proto-Indo-European rituals to their war gods seemed to be of special importance as they would sacrifice great horses (surely one of their most valuable positions) to them in a festival that involved the drinking of *Medhu (the root word for mead and many other sweet honeyed foods and drinks from India to Ireland). They would punish those who failed at war by the sword or the fire or sacrifice humans using the sword and fire to aid in victory.  
One of the most important tales of nearly all Indo-Europeans from the Hittites and Vedic to the Norse and the Greeks involved a heroic figure who would loose his cattle to a giant and often times three headed serpent and then would seek the aid of the war god to get them back.
Another important tale is that of the heroic last stand, of warriors fighting a battle that they are destined to die in for glory and to insure the survival of even a few humans. This story would eventually evolve into Ragnarok when spirits of the dead hero’s and the gods would battle a great evil in order to avoid the complete destruction of humanity, knowing full well that they would die in this battle. Such stories would have been important to the warrior cast as part of their role as guardians, for there would likely have been many times when a group of them from one clan or another would have had to face unbeatable odds while allowing the other casts to escape.

Food Giving Caste
It’s important to understand however that while the Proto-Indo-Europeans had a warrior cast with a deity, rituals and tales of their own the whole society was not necessarily obsessed with war. The Proto-Indo-Europeans like other Indo-Europeans societies after them was a triple society with two castes other then the warrior; the priestly caste and the caste of herders/farmers. Thus the vast majority of spirits, elements and deities appear to have been related to fertility and the land. Indeed for the Indo-Euorpeans who entered Europe the land and the wilderness were perhaps the most important thing. Oak trees were held to be sacred and the word for temple comes from their word for wood, for sacred grove. The Proto-Indo-European too lived in an area with at least some forestation and would bring their cattle and sheep to the elms to forage, they would use the ash trees to make their spears, the birch to make cloth, and the willow tree to weave baskets. They would plough their fields and use sickles to aid them in harvesting cereals. Their food came from farming and pastoralist activities so the bulk of their people were engaged in these activities. Fertility was of key importance and most of the festivals of Europe and India involve fertility not war. They would sacrifice he-goats and or occasionally people by drowning them to assure the fertility of their animals and the land.

Hearth Mother
The Greeks equated Tabiti the lead deity of the Scythian raiders to their goddess Hestia the goddess of the hearth, home and family. If we are to believe the Greeks this would mean that the Scythians were the only Indo-European people we know of whose head deity was a goddess. However, even among the Greeks Hestia was so important that the first sacrifice families made was offered to her. Vesta was the goddess of the hearth and fire in Roman mythology and offerings were made to her for protection. The hearth goddess may also exist in Cletic mythology in forms such as Belisama the goddess of fire and crafts. In Vedic mythology however the closest thing to hearth deities are male. This does not mean that the Hearth Goddess wasn’t one of the most important figures in the Proto-Indo-European religion. After all the names of deities are passed down in stories, in epics and sagas and sadly mothers while important figures they were not the primary figures of most sagas. The same problem likely exists with regards to our understanding of the fertility goddesses as well, who became goddesses of the field or were personified within trees. It’s interesting to note however that long after the other gods and goddesses had come to be considered demons by Christianized Europe the deities of the field and family were still worshiped.

War Stories
The reason war stories were of such importance may be due in large part to the fact that they are interesting. Just as many of the movies from now are related to heroic fighters even though combat itself doesn’t necessarily define our society so to could their society have been much more peaceful then their tales would seem to indicate.
Ultimately the Proto-Indo-Europeans worshiped the elements and what to them were heroic figures. Their sacrifice to rivers and fire along with the importance of these elements to the Indo-Iranians, the Vedic, and early Europeans indicates that they believed in the importance of the spirits of these elements. Trees too as mentioned previously were likely believed to have important spirits who could aid them in their time of need as did the sun and the moon. In addition to the elements they worshipped what to them were heroic figures. Deities with very clear flaws that involved womanizing, a horrible temper, and a propensity to throw nearly childish temper tantrums. It would seem that like later Europeans they believed fairly early that immortal beings may never completely mature in the way one would expect a human too. But such ‘faults’ were likely considered to be more amusing then actual faults as we see from the dualism of many of their decedent cultures the worst flaws were weakness, guile and trickery much like what would be displayed by Loki in Norse mythology. It was okay then for their deities and the fairies to act lecherous and lusty so long as they weren’t weak or deceitful.
It was clear that they believed that they could please and manipulate the elements of the earth and the deities through their priestly caste which would sacrifice cattle in order to gain the favor of their gods with the word for hundred cattle meaning a special sacrifice. It was in this third priestly caste that we see an expectation of wisdom and knowledge, the final most important trait of a good person in a society that valued productivity, strength and knowledge especially in men.
The Indo-Europeans after all are for the most part all patriarchal societies with the Proto-Indo-European word *Wedh is from the grooms point of view and it means ‘to lead home.’ This means that the males born from their marriages would grow up and remain in their fathers village which in turn meant that they would grow up to compete with their fathers brothers for position and that their courage and strength were important to their father and their uncles survival in the future. This meant that these relatives would take on the role of being stern disciplinarians. While the uncles from the mothers family would live more distantly and so could act as advisors and friends. Because of this the maternal family appears to have been closer emotionally to a child even though they lived some distance away.

Daylight and Fairy Tales
After the storm and or the night when daylight came again at last the Proto-Indo-Europeans would return to their work in the fields to harvest plants and cereals or to the Steppes to herd their animals and hunt for food. Later Indo-European peoples would have clearly defined work for men and women, with the later sometimes staying at home or cultivating cereals as the men went out to hunt and herd. It is impossible to say if the Proto-Indo-Europeans had a similar system but it is likely that they did divide work into various castes as nearly all later Indo-Europeans groups would.
The men and women would continue their stories here under the sky which seemed to go on for ever, the sky which they watched carefully for signs of storms as they both passed the time and built upon their values. These stories were likely different from the tales of the night before, for while poetic sagas and epics of heroes are an important part of Indo-European mythology so too are folk tales, tales of the clumsy and weak, the ordinary surviving and thriving in a harsh world as well as amusing tales of animals doing strange and silly things. They needed these stories too not only for the distraction but also for the courage and humor they could take from them for like all ancient peoples they faced what seemed an infinite number of dangers After all for most people heroic deeds mean little, for most of us are altogether ordinary. We dream of heroism but relate to the weak Jacks of folk tales.
In order to help those of them who were ordinary with their ordinary tasks they had the fairies, the spirits of the land. For like later peoples of the steppes and their decedents they too very likely had a fairy faith of sorts, a belief in spirits and souls of the land and sky that could harm or help them. It is these people of the Steppes, the Proto-Indo-Europeans who would come to define the fairy faiths of Europe as they moved into Europe to bring with them what would become the Slavic, Greek, Roman, Germanic, and Celtic languages while replacing the original languages and many of the original ideas of the Native Europeans. So while the Proto-Indo-Europeans weren’t the first peoples of Europe they became by far its most significant.

A second society - of fairies
Fairy societies are present among every Indo-European people I’ve been able to find folk tales from. From the fairy tales of the Hindu-Kush, India and Persia within Asia and the Celts, Greeks, Romans, Slavic and Germanic peoples of Europe we see the presence of a second society of magical humans who live in a parallel world, humans who we now call fairies. These fairies have a supernatural control over nature - the wild animals are their herd animals and friends so they protect them. People always had to be very careful to respect these fairies for they would haunt buildings or people that were in their paths and at times they would curse and kill those who disrespected their claims on wild animals and plants.
The parallel world in which these fairies lived was all around the Indo-European peoples, hidden by secret doorways into mountains, rocks, cliffs and trees or at the bottom of special lakes and rivers. Tales of deities and fairy like creatures opening windows in cliff faces or doors in the sides of mountains are common, as are stories of people in Europe seeing the fairies living within hills or the craggy rocks.
It seems likely then that the Proto-Indo-Europeans believed that they traveled among fairies which lived within the rocks, mountains, trees and lakes which surrounded them as they herded their animals through the wilderness or went hunting. It’s also likely that the Proto-Indo-Europeans acted to both pacify and keep these fairies at bay while also making offerings to them for luck and healing. Among later Germanic peoples the warriors, priests and poets would worship the gods who could grant them victory and magic, but what do peasants need victory for? For peasants there are the gods, but there are also the fairies which make the plants grow, the fairies which help the animals be fertile and which give or withhold permission to hunt in the wild. These are who the farmers and herders, need to bargain with.  So long after Europe was Christianized the peasants would  still pray to these fairies, they would still make offerings to pear trees and sacred wells, still bargain with the spirits of the hills and rocks.
Nature fairies are fickle. The apsara of India who lived in the forests, lakes, rivers, trees and mountains loved to sing and dance could be dangerous when doing so. Their beauty hid a certain amount of malicious glee and they would often leave humans mentally deranged.
The Nymphs of Greece and the fairies of the Celts too would dance through the forests, playing and laughing with childlike glee as if never able to truly grow up and they too could leave those they encountered insane. But perhaps the most fickle of all are the rusalky of the Slavic peoples who are known to tickle humans to death.
The male counterparts to the nymphs and the apsara were equally as playful, equally as musical. But they weren’t all play however for among the people of India the part horse or part bird gandharva were said to guard Soma, the food that made the gods immortal.
The satyrs of Greek mythology too were originally depicted as having horse tails but through encounters with the Latin peoples whose Faunas was part goat the satyrs also became part goat. By the time fairy tales and myths were collected in Europe nearly every European society had a forest spirit with goat legs. The Leszi of the Slavic peoples were the ultimate bachelors just as the satyrs of Greece were; causing and getting into trouble from too much drink, chasing female humans and fairies around the forests and generally acting rowdy. The outlier in all this are the Glaistig of the Scottish Celts, who are beautiful females with the lower half of a goat. Still despite their gender their role appears to have been similar as nature spirits which herd cattle and love song and dance but which are dangerous for they unlike the others drink human blood.

Water Dragons
Giant serpents lurked in the waters of Indo-European myths, serpents who’s mythological decedents are the dragons of nearly every people in Eurasia. For the Indian Naga is descended from these creatures and the Chinese and Japanese dragons were adapted from these. Further nearly every European people believed in water dragons as well.
The first water dragons do not seem to have had any good qualities, more likely this was a later addition. The ancient serpents of Proto-Indo-European myth very likely were believed to block the flow of water, to poison and pollute wells. They were the monster that the storm god battled. Perhaps the most famous battles in Indo-European myths are between heroes and serpents. Zeus battled the many headed dragon typhoon, while Indra of Vedic mythology battled Vrtra. Herculeas, Beowulf, they all had to battle some form of serpent.

The Fates
The Moirae of Greece, the Norns of the Norse, and the Parcae of Rome were three women who acted to spin the fate of man and at times even the gods, determining how they should live as well as when they should die. These givers of fate are common throughout European Mythology and fairy tales and have promoted some to call them the triple goddesses; there were not three of them in every myth however. The Irish for example appear to have believed in seven daughters of the sea who fashioned the threads of life. The Lithuanians also attested to their being seven dieves valditojes (ruling deities) The Laimas of the Latvians appear either in ones or threes depending upon the myth. Regardless of their number however what’s important is their function for this is what lets us know that they all have the same origin. The fates are always female and they are the ones who determine a child’s fate after they are born through the spinning of thread. Because of how widespread they are through Europe some have speculated that they were present in Europe before the Indo-European invasion. Given that they are so pervasive in Europe and that they are not really present so far as I know in the east such speculation seems reasonable. It is possible of course that the Indo-Europeans lost their belief in them as they traveled east. Still presuming that they are of European origin there are three possibilities as to why they are so prevalent throughout the convenient.
1-They were prevalent throughout most of Europe before the Indo-European invasion. This is certainly possible though if this is the case it seems unlikely that figures like them would have been the focus of every religion given likely number of cultures and religious systems that would have been present in Europe. So while fate may have been the primary deity of a few lands, chances are they were secondary figures as we see in later mythology.
2-They were passed in popular stories from country to country after the Indo-Europeans came. Again this seems possible and certainly the story and basic idea seem to be catchy enough to have passed on.
3-The Indo-Europeans encountered the fate goddesses early on their way into the Europe which means that they may have been a product of the Cutcuteni-Trypillian people. Certainly the idea of using a female as a charm to bring luck, if this is indeed what the Cutcuteni-Trypillian female figurines were would seem to fit the idea of a female that controls the future.
The ‘fates’ were never seen as purely benevolent, after all they deal death, illness and ill luck just as they deal good luck and often times one of them acts petty and jealous. In the Edda the youngest of there number cursed a child to death because she accidently hurt herself, in Sleeping Beauty one of them cursed a baby to die on her sixteenth birthday because she felt over looked. Its certainly possible that this is a result of their being lessoned by the conquering Indo-Europeans but I would point out that fate itself seems fickle and at times cruel. It would be surprising then for people to believe that the one dealing fate was saintly and perfect.
I realize that giving three possible answers to what the origins of the fates does not explain who or what they are, however this is the challenge with trying to track what might be pre-Indo-European mythology, with no records left we are only left with possibilities but no real answers.

The fairy shawl
The Greeks, Japanese, Celts and more all have tales of fairies which use scarves, shawls or some other item of clothing to turn into fairies and animals which allows them to ender the hidden realm. When these fairies are female its common for their to be tales of a man stealing their item of clothing as they bath in order to force them into a marriage arrangement which always ends badly in Europe though can end positively in Asian societies.
It was also common in both places for people to believe that there were secret herbs, chants, or potions which gave the fairies their powers and while it seems likely that such stories could have been developed independently of each other because as people thought about the nature of the separate society and pondered how they gained their powers the idea of magical herbs or items likely could easily have been developed. The question then is how early would this idea have been struck upon? Certainly it seems probably given the importance of the priest class in Indo-European societies that the idea of some magical system was present in the Proto-Indo-European society. This in turn makes it possible that at least some fairies were believed to be fairies thanks to some magical item which they had.

Migration into Europe
At some point in pre-history the Indo-European languages and culture began to expand such that they eventually became the dominant culture of Europe. Yet how this occurred has been the subject of much controversy because while there are some signs of cultural changes at the end of the Neolithic period there are no real signs of a massive military invasion in Northern or Eastern Europe which would indicate a massive invasion. Further the collapse of the societies within Europe and the construction of walls that did occur can be arguably attributed to the environmental changes which occurred at the time.
Around 3200 BC the world began to change as a baby ice age caused temperatures to drop and the climate to become dryer. The growing season for foods would have become shorter and the crops would have grown less in the cooler dryer climate or withered all together from lack of rain which would leave many people starving. The Neolithic populations after all had been built to sustain larger and larger populations on less and less land and so the sudden environmental shift could have destroyed their society. This along with the opportunity to do battle presented by horses and ox-carts could have lead to war or at the very least theft by neighboring or even distant villages desperate for food.
The Indo-Europeans like everyone else would have faced shortages as they had to bring their animals over a wider area to find food. Analysis shows that pollens form cereal crops throughout Europe began to drop which meant that the Indo-Europeans own crops likely started to fail. The need for more room as well as the danger presented by starving predators and other clans who would have likely sought to steal food to provide a buffer against their own failing crops and dying animals would have pushed the Indo-Europeans to begin to migrate, much as the drop in temperature forced the Germans to migrate into Rome over 3000 years later. There is a key difference between the Germanic migration and the Indo-European migration however for the Germanic peoples were facing against the Romans, a well organized military people while the Indo-Europeans were entering post Neolithic Europe which although capable of amazing levels of organization was still not so well organized or structured as Rome.
The question then is where did the Indo-Europeans come from?
The Kurgan hypothesis states that they came from the Pontic steppes and this The problem of course is that there isn’t an overwhelming amount of evidence to support any hypothesis, still the Kurgan Hypothesis does seem to have the most reasonable amount of support so I’ll use this as a jumping point to try to understand the expansion of the Indo-European peoples and how this could have affected the mythology and folklore of Europe.


According to the Kurgan Hypothesis the Yamna culture, known from the way they buried their dead and their other cultural artifacts most likely represents the Proto-Indo-European society. As you can see from the map other then two seas to the south they have few barriers surrounding them so they its likely that they were influenced by and influenced their neighbors greatly. Indeed the Proto-Uralic people which bordered them to the North have a number of loan words in their language from the Proto-Indo-Europeans. To the East lies more people of the steppes possibly the later Altaic peoples but this is uncertain, to the south are the peoples of the Caucuses and to the West lies the Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture. There is evidence not only of extensive trade between the Proto-Indo-Europeans but that for thousands of years they shared some of the same territory.

The Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture had massive cities for their time with some as large as those of the Fertile Crescent. The Yamna and the Cutcuteni-Trypillian cultures began to live side by side around 4500 BC. It’s important to remember that at this time there likely weren’t borders in the sense that we have to day so communities of peoples from different cultures would have traveled side by side. Over time the successors to the Yamna seem to have became more dominate, however while the Cutcuteni-Trypillian built walls there are no real signs of a major conflict and their culture didn’t fade away until 2,750 BC. This means that they and the Proto-Indo-Europeans lived side by side for 1,750 years. Hardly what one would expect if the Yamna were a purely warrior culture bent on conquest and the Cutcuteni-Trypillian were purely peaceful.
The extensive amount of time that the two cultures had in contact with each other is likely to have influenced the later Indo-European cultures greatly. Indeed similar contact such as the ones between the Romans and the Germans for example ended with the Germanic people adopting Roman Christianity. The Romans before this adopted a number of Etruscan religious and cultural ideas and for centuries after they defeated the Etruscans some Roman nobles still proudly proclaimed that they were related to Etruscans. The Greeks adopted many elements from their neighbors to the near east and the chief deity of the Norse and Germanic peoples adopted many elements from the Uralic people. Yet all of these people fought a number of wars with and occasionally eliminated the societies of the peoples they emulated all together. So while it’s impossible to say of how much of the Cutcuteni-Trypillian culture the Proto-Indo-Europeans would have adopted given that they left no written records to indicate what they believed the written history that we can surmise or read of the Indo-Europeans in Europe seems to indicate that they adopted a lot of cultural elements from their neighbors.

It is fairly common to presume that the Cutcuteni-Trypillian were matriarchal and that they worshiped a female goddess.  However its also been argued that the figurines which they left were more in line with magical charms then sacred idols. In addition peoples of Northern Indo-European decent such as the Germanic and possibly the Slavic peoples would believe that it was wrong to try to trap their deities and nature spirits in wood or stone form. In other words the later cultures of Northern Europe were against the construction of idols which means that any art found could simply have been art. It’s impossible then to know what the Cutcuteni-Trypillian believed with certainty just as its impossible to know the exact relationship that these two peoples had. Given their proximity to each other it’s even possible that they spoke a similar language although their isn’t any archeological evidence to support this.
Still regardless of their relationship at some point something changed and the Cutcuteni-Trypillian culture disappeared while the Indo-European peoples expanded to take over Europe, Iran, India, etc.

Its hard to say how much influence the Fertile Crescent hand on the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture. This map shows some genetic influence on the region where they came from but there are still many questions it leaves open. Is the migration north recent or does it actually represent a past movement, were there more people from the Fertile Crescent in Northern Europe before the Indo-Europeans took it over? Also how much influence is necessary to change a culture? We see for example that there is very little genetic replacement by the Indo-Europeans within Ireland and other parts of Europe but these people still speak an Indo-European language and have elements within their mythology that would indicate a lot of influence. Genetic replacement isn’t absolutely necessary then to indicate a linguistic or religious change.

Although some people have imagined the Indo-European migration into as a sudden mass movement of horse riding invaders much like the later Turkic or Mongolian expansions this doesn’t appear to be the case. From the map of their presumed expansion its easy to see that from the time they hypnotically moved through Europe at less then one mile per year. I repeat that this hardly seems like a military invasion against a peaceful people


This is not to say that there wasn’t military invasion, rather its to say that it seems more likely that there were a series of wars conducted at different times by different peoples against the Pre-Indo-European peoples who had knew how to and were able to defend themselves to one extent or another.
There are some clear signs of wars and raids between the Neolithic peoples before the Indo-Europeans showed up in which they appear to have taken women and other wealth from each others villages.
The Native Europeans were farmers and hunter gatherers who were decimated by the mini-ice age which ruined their crops and the wild game that they hunted. Further they did not have horses to help them track their wild game or aid them in raids on other villages or to escape from raiders. Nor did they have wagons to help them move when they needed to search for food. Finally they did not have as much experience with animal husbandry so they were less able to utilize goats and cattle which would have been more likely to survive the shortages then the cereal crops which they grew. Archeological evidence points to a collapse of many of their societies as they began to work desperately to survive the mini-ice age. It was into this collapsing and starving society that the Indo-Europeans first came.

Just as the Indo-European societies were split into three castes so too was the invasion likely to have involved three parts.

1-Fertility, Farming and Economic Invasion
During the first part of the invasion the Indo-Europeans had a clear advantage thanks to their pastoral life style because while the Native Europeans would have faced serious food shortages the Indo-Europeans would have been able to settle between the existing villages while bringing their animals through the ancient forests, meadows and plains to eat tree leaves and grasses which humans couldn’t easily cultivate for food, allowing them to continue to eat the meat, butter and cheese of their animals. Further on horse back they could travel father to search for wild grains, vegetables, acorns and game.
In this sense much of what probably occurred was an economic invasion, in which the Indo-Europeans entering Europe could entice the women of the Neolithic inhabitants to marry them. Further as food grew scarce they also may have begun to hire the Neolithic European men to work for them. In order to survive then many of the people of Europe would have chosen to learn the language of and join the Indo-Europeans, slowly depleting their already dwindling numbers.
Being a male dominated society the women who married into the Indo-European families would go to live with them in their villages and so would learn their language and their culture. And while having better incomes would also mean that Indo-Europeans females would be less likely to marry into the Europeans hypothetical egalitarian society when this did occur it is likely that the European male would choose to live in the Indo-European society because of the greater wealth available to him within it.
Certainly there may have been occasions when an Indo-European man was lured away by European woman however, it is much less likely for a man from a pastoral society with a warrior class to choose to live with a sedentary society. Indeed Europe’s nymph mythology in which a man is lured into living with the fairies in their realm may refer to this. As Perkiss points out in her book “Fairies and Fairy Stories – A History” when a knight or Greek warrior goes to live with a nymph or fairy their heroism is taken from them and this is considered to be a fate worse then death. In other words for an Indo-European male to have chosen to give up their heroism to marry someone would have been so horrible that warning tales were built against this idea.
Further starvation likely drove many Europeans to attempt to steal the cattle and sheep of the far wealthier Indo-Europeans who in turn would have followed the example of one of their most important myths in stopping at nothing to take revenge. What we see then is that as to European societies collapsed they began to live in caves and isolated islands, perhaps stealing from the Indo-Europeans rather then confronting them directly. Perhaps many Europeans who refused or were unable to become a part of the incoming Indo-European societies must have appeared, dehumanized by the Indo-Europeans the stories of them must have been very much like the tales of weak and desperate fairies of later years hiding in the mountains, secretly stealing from the Indo-Europeans, or working for occasional scraps of food.


2-Cultural Invasion
In Indo-European cultures bard and mistral figures can earn huge amounts of wealth, the Celts and Vedic cultures would pay them in herds of horses and cattle. As the Indo-Europeans began to prove ever more successful their epics and sagas as well as their religion may have seemed all the more enticing to some of the peoples with which they had contact. This in turn could have caused them lure some of the most intelligent and capable peoples of Europe’s societies to begin to imitate them.

3-Military Invasion
The early Romans and Etruscans lived next to each other for hundreds of years having various periods of peace and war in which Rome slowly conquered Etruscan land bit by bit. In legend Rome also raided the Sabine in order to obtain more women to help them populate their young city. Such raids for women were probably not uncommon among the Indo-Europeans and over time would certainly have resulted in their ability to greatly enhance their population as well as more serious conflicts between them and other peoples.
Like the Romans the Indo-Europeans likely often moved into a new area or expanded their borders so that they were suddenly in contact with a new group of peoples who they traded and went to war with over the course of generations. As they warred the existence of their warrior class would have allowed them to excel over many of their competitors and their growing numbers would have allowed them eventually overwhelm Europe’s other inhabitants.
If the Indo-Europeans had aggressively invaded Europe all the way to the coast one would expect to see clusters of their population centers where they wiped out the local populations. Instead we see that as we get to the coast of France, Denmark, Sweden, and England the appearance of the genetic marker associated with their males drops to 10% or below.
What likely happened was that one generation only went a little ways into Europe, intermarried with the existing population and then their children who now only accounted for a smaller percentage of their genetic population pushed further into Europe.