Demons and Spirits of the Land

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2015-07-20
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions
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An exploration of the wild spirits that once roamed the lands and inhabited the waters and the pagan rites used to gain their good will

• Explores medieval stories and folk traditions of brownies, fairies, giants, dragons, will-o’-the-wisps, and demons

• Explains the specific rites performed to negotiate with the local spirits and ensure their permission before building on new land

• Shows how these beliefs carried through to modern times, especially in architecture

Our pagan ancestors knew that every forest has brownies and fairies, every spring its lady, and every river malevolent beings in its depths. They told tales of giants in the hills, dragons in the lakes, marshes swarming with will-o’-the-wisps, and demons and wild folk in the mountains who enjoyed causing landslides, avalanches, and floods. They both feared and respected these entities, knowing the importance of appeasing them for safe travel and a prosperous homestead.

Exploring medieval stories, folk traditions, spiritual place names, and pagan rituals of home building and site selection, Claude Lecouteux reveals the multitude of spirits and entities that once inhabited the land before modern civilization repressed them into desert solitude, impenetrable forests, and inaccessible mountains. He explains how, to our ancestors, enclosing a space was a sacred act. Specific rites had to be performed to negotiate with the local spirits and ensure proper placement and protection of a new building. These land spirits often became the household spirit, taking up residence in a new building in exchange for permission to build on their territory. Lecouteux explores Arthurian legends, folk tales, and mythology for evidence of the untamed spirits of the wilderness, such as giants, dragons, and demons, and examines the rites and ceremonies used to gain their good will.

Lecouteux reveals how, despite outright Church suppression, belief in these spirits carried through to modern times and was a primary influence on architecture, an influence still visible in today’s buildings. The author also shows how our ancestors’ concern for respecting nature is increasingly relevant in today’s world.

Author Biography

Claude Lecouteux is a former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous books on medieval and pagan beliefs and magic, including The Book of Grimoires, The Tradition of Household Spirits, A Lapidary of Sacred Stones, and The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses. He lives in Paris.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Régis Boyer

Introduction: We Dwell in a Haunted Place

Part One  

A Haunted Universe

1    Unusual Manifestations

2    The First Inhabitants of the Earth

3    Demons and Fallen Angels

4    Cult Remnants

5    The Local Land Spirits

6    The Underside of Idolatry

7    The Evidence of Place-Names

8    Silvanus and Company

9    The Metamorphoses of Spirits

10    A Provisional Assessment 

Part Two  

Conquering and Defending the Land

11    Encountering the Spirits of the Local Land

12    Taking Possession of a Piece of Land

13    Circumambulation: Appropriation, Expropriation, and Protection Rites

14    Boundaries and Their Markers

15    The Enclosed Space Is Sacred

16    The Contract with the Spirits

17    The Circular and the Rectangular: A Hypothesis

18    The Conquest of the Space

Part Three

Survivals and Transformations

19    Waters, Springs, and Fountains

20    The Forest

21    The Mountain and Its Spirits

22    The Problem of Parédrie

23    A Composite Site: The Dwelling of Grendel and His Mother

24    The Moor

25    The Hybridization of Myths

26    The Return of the Place Spirits





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