Spirits Folklore & Mythology

Maybe folklore can exist without spirits, albeit in truncated form,

but mythology definitely can’t. Worldwide mythology is accurately

defined as stories about and involving spirits. An entire literary

genre—fairy tales—is named for a branch of the spirit world.

Literary classics are populated by spirits (The Aeneid, The Iliad,

The Odyssey, Faust, Macbeth, or The Tempest). So are comic books: Morpheus, the Erinyes, Uma, Circe, and Lilith are but a few of the spirits who prowl through their pages, as do Brunnhilde the

Valkyrie, hammer-deity Thor, and virtually the entire Nordic


Poems are full of spirits: again sometimes the allusions are

intended literally, sometimes allegorically. Consider Edmund

Spenser’s The Faerie Queene or Christina Rossetti’s The Goblin Market or various poems by William Butler Yeats. I’m pulling these out of the air, somewhat randomly, in no particular order: thousands of others, maybe millions, could just as easily substitute.

If you have a taste for classical culture, then you may know that

the very first official ballet was inspired by the witch-goddess Circe. It was but the first of many. Other dancing spirits include La

Sylphide’s winged Scottish Fairies, Swan Lake’s secret swan

goddesses, and Giselle’s willies, an alternative name for vila,

seductive, sometimes deadly, forest Fairies. (Vila guest star in the

Harry Potter novels, too.)

Spirits permeate opera: for starters, Undina, Maria Padilla, Ariadne

auf Naxos, and Richard Wagner’s entire Ring Cycle. (Speaking of

rings, spirits are intrinsic to the plots of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Ring series of novels, movies, and manga.)