Faerie Terminology

Faeries podcast - freeIn this 14-minute podcast, Fiona Broome discusses three main topics:

  1. The words we use to describe faeries.
  2. Poltergeists – faeries or ghosts?
  3. Who has faerie ancestry.


Faeries, pixies, goblins, elementals… what are they?  Are they connected?

Fiona describes the problems in using labels and categories to describe faeries.  She traces the history of the term “elementals” to describe nature spirits — sometimes faeries — and how extreme the connections have become over many centuries.

For example:

  • Elementals of the ground are usually called gnomes, related to the element of Earth, the direction of North, the Moon, and the season of autumn.
  • Sylphs are the elementals of the air, related to the east, the sun, and spring.
  • Salamanders are elementals of fire, the south, Mars, and summer.
  • Undines are elementals of water, the west, Jupiter, and winter.

However, that’s just one way to categorize faeries.  We can also categorize them by size, by whether or not they seem to remain in groups (or troops), whether they’re helpful or mischievous, how they dress, and so on.

As Fiona explains, we’re guessing. Our labels may be very wrong.

We continue to use these labels because they’re popular and — like using the word “ghosts” for everything from apparitions to poltergeists — when we say “faeries” or “pixies” or “gnomes,” people generally know what we’re talking about.

However, we are aware of the historical and cultural influences (and interpretations) of those words.  They can change slightly with popular use.


While some people call poltergeists elementals, most ghost researchers consider poltergeists part of ghost-related phenomena.  Usually, a poltergeist seems to be an entity that is using the energy of a human, and creating mischief around that human.

To learn more about poltergeists, see these notes from one of Fiona’s 2010 podcasts: Poltergeists – What they are, and famous poltergeists.

Faerie ancestry

Many  people have heard about Fiona’s article, Faeries in your family tree.  In this podcast, Fiona explains that most (and perhaps all) nationalities have an historic tradition related to the roots of their people.  Those roots usually have some connections with gods and/or faeries.

Though Fiona draws upon her Irish heritage to explain that many people are descended from faeries, the Irish aren’t the only ones with fae family trees.


Though most of Fiona’s information is drawn from a variety of sources, she confirmed the Pagan-Elementals information at Elements and Elementals.

For additional information about faeries, you may enjoy the encyclopedia,  Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins, by Carol Rose.  It provides information about many faeries and faerie-related creatures, as well as a helpful section with cross-references that link one culture’s faerie names with another’s.

Click here to listen to this podcast online (MP3)

Music: The Moods of Man, written & orchestrated by James Underberg


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