© 2018

Fairies, Demons, and Nature Spirits

'Small Gods' at the Margins of Christendom

  • Michael Ostling
  • Shortlisted for the Folklore Society's 2018 Katharine Briggs Folklore Award

  • Considers the historical relationship between Christianity and 'small gods', including fairies, demons and nature spirits

  • Brings together scholarship from a wide range of of theoretical perspectives and disciplinary approaches

  • Examines case studies spanning two thousand years, from Egypt to the Andes and Indonesia


Part of the Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic book series (PHSWM)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Demonization and its Discontents

  3. Enlightenment and its Ambiguities

  4. Remnants, Relocations, and Re-Enchantments

  5. Back Matter
    Pages 357-366

About this book


This book examines the fairies, demons, and nature spirits haunting the margins of Christendom from late-antique Egypt to early modern Scotland to contemporary Amazonia. Contributions from anthropologists, folklorists, historians and religionists explore Christian strategies of encompassment and marginalization, and the ‘small gods’ undisciplined tendency to evade such efforts at exorcism. Lurking in forest or fairy-mound, chuckling in dark corners of the home or of the demoniac’s body, the small gods both define and disturb the borders of a religion that is endlessly syncretistic and in endless, active denial of its own syncretism. The book will be of interest to students of folklore, indigenous Christianity, the history of science, and comparative religion.


Christianity religion witchcraft demonology folklore

Editors and affiliations

  • Michael Ostling
    • 1
  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

About the editors

Michael Ostling is Honors Faculty Fellow at Arizona State University, USA, and Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland, Australia. Author of Between the Devil and the Host: Imagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland (2011), he writes on witchcraft, popular religion, history of emotions, theory in Religious Studies, and critical pedagogy.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Fairies, Demons, and Nature Spirits
  • Book Subtitle 'Small Gods' at the Margins of Christendom
  • Editors Michael Ostling
  • Series Title Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-58519-6
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-349-84414-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-137-58520-2
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XV, 366
  • Number of Illustrations 4 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Cultural History
    History of Religion
    World History, Global and Transnational History
    Social History
    History of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Their work provides new critical perspectives and an even more welcome corrective to the burgeoning fairy mythology industry on Internet blogs and popular publishing. … this recently published study is a welcome addition to the growing academic interest in fairy lore.” (Juliette Wood, Folklore, Vol. 131 (1), 2020)

“This is a good collection, and it is impressive to see how each contributor applies the survival-in-vanishing framework to their chapter. This makes the edited collection feel connected despite the vast number of topics covered, and this is not always easily achieved. There is excellent work in here, and perhaps its most impressive achievement is that it will enable the reader, even non experts, to see a bit further into the subject … . ” (Ciaran Jones, Journal of Religious History, Literature and Culture, Vol. 5 (1), 2019)

“This strong collection constitutes a very good first step towards a reconstruction of our thinking about fairies, demons and nature spirits. Its placing of these ‘small gods’ within the actual expansion of Christianity rather than as historically precedent allows for a broad and sensitive historical investigation.” (The Judges of the Katharine Briggs Award 2018,, November 26, 2018)

“This fascinating interdisciplinary collection illuminates a range of elusive spiritual creatures who in theory should occupy no place in the Christian cosmos. The scope is impressively broad, and readers are consistently challenged to think in new ways about Christianity’s often surprisingly dependent relationship with older forms of belief.” (Peter Marshall, University of Warwick, UK)

“This substantial volume takes fairies out of the scholarly closet and celebrates them as productions of local culture and spirituality that have somehow weathered the process of Christianization. The editor’s valuable introductory essay sets the stage for contributions ranging from Estonia to the Amazon and from Late Antique Egypt to present-day California. This collection will delight historians, students of religion, anthropology, folklore and anyone fascinated by the revolving door between paganism and Christianity.” (Charles Stewart, University College London, UK)