Christianity and folklore


#1

The thread is mostly made for discussing folklore which often has both Christian influences (if it is a Christian country) and remnants in it from pre-Christian religions and the relation to Christianity (or Catholicism) but also just for discussing folklore in general. These days belief in supernatural beings, magic etc. Is not as common as it once was (but it was fairly common recently) in the western world so the discussion might be from a more historical perspective, but there is of course still some beliefs around like astrology, belief in ghosts, tarot cards etc. There is also some people left that actually beliefs in faeries and other things, few perhaps but they do exist. Of course, in the catechism we can read that the Church consider it wrong to believe in superstition, but on the other hand it is only superstition if it isn’t true. To clarify, I don’t believe in fate, trolls, magic, astrology, faeries etc. But I think it is interesting and it is a fact that not long ago more than one person who would without doubt describe themselves as Christians also believed in a bunch of different supernatural and magical things and beings. Some still do.

I know that the word folklore doesn’t only cover beliefs regarding supernatural things but can also be about a local story that an historical figure visited a certain house or something else. Feel free to discuss that too but I suppose you can’t discuss such things and its relation to Christianity since, well, there is not that much to discuss. I hope others are interested in this subject…

-Do you think it is compatible with Christianity to believe in supernatural (or magical) beings other than God, angels and demons? Many Christians did historically believe in them at least. (examples, ghosts, faeries, leprechauns, trolls, goblins, giants)

-Is it possible that some of the things are really working, like divination? You should not practice it as a Christian but that isn’t the same thing as not working.

-If you just are interested in the subject then say something about it, folklore from your country, where you live, from another country etc. :slight_smile:

I am not sure if this should be in the Back Fence subforum instead of the Non-Catholic Religions forum but since it is mostly about non-Christian supernatural things…


#2

Ahh… I’m surprised a discussion like this hasn’t been started for all the time I’ve been here.

Here’s a bit of my background before I answer. I’m not a full-time expert but I did graduate with a degree in English Language and Literature. Thus, a grand deal of the subjects I took involved mythology and folklore. Out of all those I took, those were my most favorite subjects. :smiley:

I would actually say no. It’s not just about being Christian. As much as I like the subject, these are just made up (sorry kiddies, Mom and Dad lied :().

That doesn’t mean they’re without some form of value though.

Again, no. That would actually put the practitioners of such things a little too high up on the power scale. It would also really give our other opponents, the atheists, something to really chew on. Given our day and age, Satan stands a lot more to succeed with them than with cultists.

As a fantasy nerd, there is indeed so much juice to drink up from the wealth of the world’s folklore. >w< Man, I would actually give God a lot if I could live in a world that was full of magic, monsters, and where I’d just be living an adventure instead of well… sighs

Anyways, getting down to specifics, I’ve personally drawn out so many ideas from the folklore of other countries as well as my own. My favorite sources would have to be Norse, Japanese, and then Filipino. If you want an idea of the kind of stuff I come up with, I like to imagine myself as a Pinoy mestizo who left his Church-dominated homeland, went to study in a European magical academy, and now wanders the world, fighting monsters every now then (from the trolls and giants of Europe, the oni of Japan, to the aswang of his own province). It sounds a bit cliche but I’ve actually worded out characters like that before with more details. :stuck_out_tongue:


#3

Interesting topic. I remember as a young boy being deeply religious but wantinting to believe in leprechans.


#4

Even with what is known about science today, there is still a tremendous amount we don't know. For instance, when I went to high school we learned that there were only two domains of life in biology: eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Now it is accepted that there are three, the third being archaea (halophilic salt-eating bacteria and such). And, what is more, turns out these archaea are popping up all over the place. New species are discovered all the time. I don't believe fairies, etc. exist, but I can't fault people in the past for feeling that they might, and I am quite certain that strange (and I would add wonderful) creatures will be found in the future. In my view, not to have an open mind to new, wonderful, forms of life is to place limits on God's creativity. To think we have seen it all and can put everything in it's place is arrogance.

One of the reasons I think Christian cultures have nurtured and maintained folkloric traditions and stories is that we are used to thinking in symbolic terms. The central story of our religion is rich in symbolism and yet very real at the same time (e.g., Christ is the Lamb of God). Our tradition allows us to recognize the truth wherever we find it, and folk tales (many of which carry some moral implication or didactic component) often convey basic human truths (e.g., Evil cannot be let to go un-challenged, Grendel must go!).


#5

[quote="Andromedus, post:1, topic:286591"]

Many Christians did historically believe in them at least. (examples, ghosts, faeries, leprechauns, trolls, goblins, giants)

[/quote]

This may sound like a strange comment coming from me - but i believe it would be most appropriate to be charitable to those in the past who believed in such phenomenon.

As far as I can tell (and i will take correction about this) - your particular Church on an official level has always been somewhat vague about defining the "world that could not be seen" if i may use a euphemism.

I suppose it would be the equivalent of asking in the modern age "Did God create life on other planets?"

That being said - the introduction of Christianity to lands which already had their own myth cycles and religious practices did not necessarily end the beliefs in such things. One could be a god-fearing Christian and still believe the mound 2 miles from town where old Norse chiefs were buried was haunted by the Fair Folk or the restless spirits of the dead.

The more academic philosophers and theologians of your Church may have refuted such things (although i dimly recall someone telling me that Thomism held an opinion on Ghosts that was not an outright rejection) - but such ideas did not filter down to the masses, the nobility, or even the lower ranking members of the clergy.


#6

I agree with what you are saying but if you are trying to not look at this with a modern and more skeptical perspective, do you think it is compatible with being a Christian and believing in it? People once believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe, we don’t believe that now but I think we could say that sort of world view is compatible with Christianity.

As a fantasy nerd, there is indeed so much juice to drink up from the wealth of the world’s folklore. >w< Man, I would actually give God a lot if I could live in a world that was full of magic, monsters, and where I’d just be living an adventure instead of well… sighs

Anyways, getting down to specifics, I’ve personally drawn out so many ideas from the folklore of other countries as well as my own. My favorite sources would have to be Norse, Japanese, and then Filipino. If you want an idea of the kind of stuff I come up with, I like to imagine myself as a Pinoy mestizo who left his Church-dominated homeland, went to study in a European magical academy, and now wanders the world, fighting monsters every now then (from the trolls and giants of Europe, the oni of Japan, to the aswang of his own province). It sounds a bit cliche but I’ve actually worded out characters like that before with more details. :stuck_out_tongue:

Sounds fun. :slight_smile:

Yes, but the stories people told each other was believed to be true, or some of them was. There is often two kinds of stories, the stories made up for pure entertainment and then also the ones people believed to be real, they could still be entertaining of course. It wasn’t only for moral lesions they told them, according to them you could actually meet a vampire, werewolf, fairy or something else.

Yes, I don’t believe they were stupid or anything like that so I agree with you.

I suppose it would be the equivalent of asking in the modern age “Did God create life on other planets?”

A certain folklorist in my country actually said, paraphrasing him, ‘‘if you scratch some at one of those aliens you will actually see that there is troll standing there’’. :slight_smile: Sadly I also agree with him that the new stories about aliens coming to earth, looking around a bit and then leaving is quite boring compared to the ones about trolls. Aliens is of course a part of modern folklore.


#7

[quote="Andromedus, post:1, topic:286591"]
.
-Do you think it is compatible with Christianity to believe in supernatural (or magical) beings other than God, angels and demons? Many Christians did historically believe in them at least. (examples, ghosts, faeries, leprechauns, trolls, goblins, giants)

.

[/quote]

I am not sure what your definition of supernatural is. Your example of ghost I quibble with. I once asked a priest about ghost. His answer was that we do not know what purgatory is. Ghost by definiton is a person who has died. I don't have the book handy but in an autobiography of a priest he recounts the enounter with what we would call a ghost. There was a light that appeared to a women. They concluded it was her dead husband after many masses the light appeared again and rose to heaven as a sign. My mother witnessed something along the same lines. Is ist compatible with Christian beliefs. If you believe in the soul, yes.

Your list includes giants. Giants are those that are very tall. They are not mythical or supernatural. My mother told me of leprechauns in the same vien she told me about Santa Clause. It surprises me that it was a true belief?


#8

[quote="Andromedus, post:6, topic:286591"]
...Yes, but the stories people told each other was believed to be true, or some of them was. There is often two kinds of stories, the stories made up for pure entertainment and then also the ones people believed to be real, they could still be entertaining of course. It wasn't only for moral lesions they told them, according to them you could actually meet a vampire, werewolf, fairy or something else....A certain folklorist in my country actually said, paraphrasing him, ''if you scratch some at one of those aliens you will actually see that there is troll standing there''. :) Sadly I also agree with him that the new stories about aliens coming to earth, looking around a bit and then leaving is quite boring compared to the ones about trolls. Aliens is of course a part of modern folklore.

[/quote]

To your point about aliens, I would add things like Bigfoot or Chupacabra, which are clearly folkloric (notice how Bigfoot only lives in the English-speaking parts of the Americas, while Chupacabra only lives in the Spanish-speaking parts).

I don't see a how believer in either would be any less a Christian at the same time. That is different from saying that I think they are correct in their belief of the existence of Bigfoot. If every mistaken thing we believed created a crisis of faith, I would never have gotten through Calculus class without losing my faith.

To your point about believing in vampires, I would ask you this: which person holds the more correct view of life, the person in times past who believed that evil was real, and that vampires exist (though he certainly never met one), or the modern person who rejects both vampires and the very concept evil?


#9

We certainly seem to have a propensity, even a need, to believe in things outside the visible world. I just finished re-reading CS Lewis "Surprised by Joy" and the whole first half of his life was a battle between strict materialism and a belief in something, he knew not what, beyond the material world. It's quite interesting to read how first one view and then the other would dominate his life.

Conversions of peoples to Christianity obviously doesn't happen overnight, nor does it instantly erase their pre-pagan notions. The Church has, wisely IMO, not pushed overly hard to completely eradicate these notions. They seem to continue to exist, not as things truly believed, but as a cultural atmosphere, a backdrop.


#10

[quote="adrift, post:7, topic:286591"]
I am not sure what your definition of supernatural is. Your example of ghost I quibble with. I once asked a priest about ghost. His answer was that we do not know what purgatory is. Ghost by definiton is a person who has died. I don't have the book handy but in an autobiography of a priest he recounts the enounter with what we would call a ghost. There was a light that appeared to a women. They concluded it was her dead husband after many masses the light appeared again and rose to heaven as a sign. My mother witnessed something along the same lines. Is ist compatible with Christian beliefs. If you believe in the soul, yes.

[/quote]

Yes, I have also heard that ghosts could be souls in purgatory. That is however not the normal view in folklore and mythology, as far as I know.

Your list includes giants. Giants are those that are very tall. They are not mythical or supernatural. My mother told me of leprechauns in the same vien she told me about Santa Clause. It surprises me that it was a true belief?

That giants are mythical I assure you :) However, giants might be most famous for being big but at some occasions they can also be magical. Magic or not, they are common in folklore and mythology and as such I include them in the list. But the list I made should perhaps be seen more as examples of folkloric beings instead of supernatural ones, even though several of them are supernatural. I don't know much about leprechauns but I understood it as beings people actually believed in once, perhaps some still do.

[quote="JHow, post:8, topic:286591"]
To your point about aliens, I would add things like Bigfoot or Chupacabra, which are clearly folkloric (notice how Bigfoot only lives in the English-speaking parts of the Americas, while Chupacabra only lives in the Spanish-speaking parts).

I don't see a how believer in either would be any less a Christian at the same time. That is different from saying that I think they are correct in their belief of the existence of Bigfoot. If every mistaken thing we believed created a crisis of faith, I would never have gotten through Calculus class without losing my faith.

[/quote]

I also think you can believe in big foot and at the same time believe in Christianity, not that I encourage belief in big foot in any way but you could certainly still be a Christian.

To your point about believing in vampires, I would ask you this: which person holds the more correct view of life, the person in times past who believed that evil was real, and that vampires exist (though he certainly never met one), or the modern person who rejects both vampires and the very concept evil?

I believe that the concept of good and evil is very important so at least regarding that I think the vampire-believer is more correct. As long as the vampire doesn't sparkle in sunlight, that is unforgivable! :D


#11

I thought that Bigfoot was around before anyone in the area spock English. :)


#12

[quote="Andromedus, post:6, topic:286591"]
I agree with what you are saying but if you are trying to not look at this with a modern and more skeptical perspective, do you think it is compatible with being a Christian and believing in it? People once believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe, we don't believe that now but I think we could say that sort of world view is compatible with Christianity.

[/quote]

Well our Church should always uphold truth. We may have a greater obligation to religious truth but we also know that to carelessly reject scientific truth would do us only a great disservice. The Church is also strict in condemning superstitions that break the 1st commandment. Therefore, we still have to be careful about actually practicing certain superstitions.

[quote="Andromedus, post:6, topic:286591"]
Yes, but the stories people told each other was believed to be true, or some of them was. There is often two kinds of stories, the stories made up for pure entertainment and then also the ones people believed to be real, they could still be entertaining of course. It wasn't only for moral lesions they told them, according to them you could actually meet a vampire, werewolf, fairy or something else.

[/quote]

I think this is where it can be found that we exhibit slightly better discernment than out ancestors. We recognize the value of moral lessons regardless of what tale we find them in.

[quote="Andromedus, post:6, topic:286591"]
Sadly I also agree with him that the new stories about aliens coming to earth, looking around a bit and then leaving is quite boring compared to the ones about trolls. Aliens is of course a part of modern folklore.

[/quote]

Haha! I don't find aliens all that fascinating either. (At least, the very sci-fi kind.)


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