So far in the European Fairy Tales Series, and there are six volumes at the time of this writing, we have seen how ancient mythological figures live on in hidden ways in fairy tales. But, they almost always seem somewhat connected to the fate and destiny of the protagonist.
In Vol I, "The Three Heads of the Well," we saw the Teutonic figures known as the Norns, analogous to the Greek Moirai or the Fates, who played a role in directing the fate of the protagonist in that tale.
In Vol III, Thomas the Rhymer, we saw Thomas' fate altered by his experience with the Queen of Elphame. In Vol IV, "The Star Money," we explored the notion of Karma. It was explained that while Europeans did not have a specific word for "Karma" as such, that we certainly did have a cultural notion about fate that lent to a karma-like understanding.
Establishing an Indigenous Spirituality Framework
And, because so many Europeans have awoken to the short-comings and overtly uncomfortable feel that Judeo-Christianity has on the European psyche, many ethnic-Europeans have looked Eastward and embraced these faiths. However, a great deal of material is now available to reconnect ethnic-Europeans with our own ancestral faith.
That said, indigenous ancestral faiths of almost every ethnic group under the sun have been revived in recent years. The Mexican native faith never really died, it was just married with Catholicism in that country, and this is seen in much of South America.
African native faith, and faiths that developed by Africans in the New World which stemmed from African origins, have a growing following. Egyptian religion has a movement, and even the ancient faith of the Canaanites of the Bible has been revived.
Essentially, people of virtually all ethnic backgrounds who wish to break free of Abrahamic mono-thought have a path to reconnect with their own native faith. It's simply a matter of knowing your own roots and then looking up the ancient beliefs of your cultural heritage. Start with mythology, read the old myths, read legends, sagas, folklore.
So, by all means, enjoy myths and legends of all the wide world, there is a rich tapestry of myth and folklore out there and we can enjoy it all.
But if you want to delve deeply into the spiritual worldview of your ancestors, because it is a part of you, and it will help you better understand both the world and your own psyche, then be sure to focus on your own heritage, no matter what your heritage is. And then explore the folk and fairy tales within your own ancestral cultural tradition.
Once you have a grounding and a framework to place the tales in, things will pop out at you that bring so many layers of deep meaning that you've been missing all these years of hearing these age old stories.
You will also find variations of the tales and entirely new tales that carry layers of intuitive understandings that were missed in the Disney versions.
What Fairy Tales Tell Us
About the Native European Spiritual View of Fate
Well I should preface this again by saying I work in the Northern European, that is Teutonic, Celtic, and Slavic, culture groups. You will see similarities with Southern European cultural mythos, to be sure, but you will also see distinctions and differences.
You will certainly see differences between the Celts, Teutons, and Slavs, of course. But these three groups tend to share more similarities to each other while Greco-Latin cultures of Mediterranean Europe share more similarities with each other.
Greco-Roman mythic tradition tends to depict a harsher view of fate. Northern European peoples were more fiercely independant with a strong emphasis on the strength and self-determination of the individual, and this is reflected in the view of fate that appears in their mythos and folk tradition.
A Self-Directed View of Fate
"The Three Heads of the Well" was a princess fairy tale, similar to "Cinderella" and "Snow White" in that the young woman was hated by her step-mother and step-sister who together made her life a misery.
However, rather than waiting to be thrust into the arms of fate, the heroine made the decision herself to leave this toxic situation. This example of self-determination is echoed again and again in European fairy tales, especially as we look at different versions or tales that are closer to the oral tradition than, say, Disney.
"Per Gynt" is a Norwegian tale we explored in Vol II. Although it does not fit 100% with the definition of fairy tale, I chose it specifically for its portrayal of the Northern European ideal of masculinity.
Per Gynt is the quintessential hero of legend. While the countryside is beset with malicious trolls, it is Per Gynt who takes the initiative to confront these otherworldly beasties. It is down to his own determination and confidence that he saves the day and his neighbors can sleep soundly.
In fact, the notion that your own decisions and your ability to take control of your situation and guide your own fate is seen in every tale in the series, apart from "Thomas the Rhymer," as mentioned.
Yes, Europeans Believed in Karma
The Anglo-Saxon concept of Wyrd held that your fate is sort of an interdimensional web where your life is plotted out in the otherworld. The Norns, as discussed in "The Three Heads of the Well," are the three Fates who weave your Wyrd.
However, one big difference between Teutonic and Greek concepts of Fate is that you can affect your Wyrd and re-chart your course. There are various means by which you can do this.
Self-determined agency, by which you have the gumption to take matters into your own hands, is one way. Karma (since we don't have a specific European word for this concept) is another way. And appealing to higher powers is a third way.
The message is always the same: Be a good person, be kind and generous, also, be cheerful and have hope, and good things will come your way.
The Spirit World Watches and Guides You
I think that one of the most important, and yet the most difficult, aspect of indigenous European faith for modern folk to wrap their head around is the cosmology and spiritual realm.
I published an excerpt from Fairy Tales Series Vol V, "Aschenputtel," that discusses how the modern person has to recalibrate their worldview to understand the how our ancestors viewed the world. I do recommend reading that in full, but we shall have a quick discussion here.
Abrahamic monotheism, in any manifestation that it presents in, and the subsequent atheistic rationalist view that has pervaded Western thought since the erosion of Christianity began, both view the world in a linear fashion, in black and white.
Whether we're talking religion or a cold and clinical scientific view, it is a view dominated by dogma and a very restricted lens.
The Fates turn up far more than you would ever imagine in the fairy tale canon. They appeared in Vol I and Vol VI of this series, but you will have seen them as the three fairies in Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" and most likely had no conception of what they represented.
Vol V, "Aschenputtel," showed us a very clear example of ancestor veneration that lingered on in the European cultural consciousness well into the modern era. We discussed in that volume how the archetype of a fairy godmother is tied to ancestral guardian spirits.
But, as we moved into Vol VI, "The Three Golden Hairs," we saw that the fairy godmother archetype was also tied to the figures of the Fates.
Returning to the notion of recalibrating our worldview, these shifting connotations could be very confusing when viewed through a lens that wants to view the world in a linear format. We have to break our training that tells us to see the world, and therefore our religious conception, as black and white. It's not "this or that." Rather, conceptions can shift, blend, and blur.
You Have A Fairy Godmother, Too
In "The Three Golden Hairs," a Czech tale, we explored how cultural history shapes the folklore of a people.
We also looked at the Fates as a pan-European conception. We looked at how ancient goddesses lived on in the fairy godmother archetype.
But, as mentioned above, your female ancestors were also thought to linger on as protective fairy godmother figures.
Native European spirituality is like animistic faiths of other worldwide indigenous people.
It is rooted and grounded in ancestor veneration. It would take another article to go into how this relates to deity.
The Essentials of Native European Worldview of Fate
The fairy tale tradition shows us that there will be those who wish to thwart us on our journey.
We discussed the common princess tale, where "evil step-mothers" are the nemesis. But, Vol VI in the series, "The Three Golden Hairs," demonstrated this in another way.
In this tale, it was a king who could not accept that the lowly peasant boy would marry his daughter, and thus, he worked hard to thwart the young man's destiny.
The hero of that tale, called Plavachek, rose to the challenge. He accepted the call to prove his worth. He embarked on a Hero's Journey. And, he showed he was worthy of his destiny. Thus, he was self-actualized to his fate.
Join Me in Digging Deeper into Indigenous European Faith
My name is Carolyn Emerick, and I write on the history, myth, and folklore of Northwestern Europe.
Explore this website for more on European history, mythology, and folk tradition. Please check out the section for my books!