Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives or stories that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are gods, demigods or supernatural humans. Stories of everyday human beings, although of leaders of some type, are contained in legends, as opposed to myths. Myths are endorsed by rulers and priests or priestesses, are linked to religion or spirituality. In fact, many societies group their myths and history together, considering myths and legends to be true accounts of their remote past. In particular, creation myths take place in a primordial age when the world had not achieved its form. Other myths explain how a society's customs and taboos were established and sanctified. There is a complex relationship between recital of myths and enactment of rituals; the study of myth began in ancient history. Rival classes of the Greek myths by Euhemerus and Sallustius were developed by the Neoplatonists and revived by Renaissance mythographers.
Today, the study of myth continues in a wide variety of academic fields, including folklore studies and psychology. The term mythology may either refer to the study of myths in general, or a body of myths regarding a particular subject; the academic comparisons of bodies of myth is known as comparative mythology. Since the term myth is used to imply that a story is not objectively true, the identification of a narrative as a myth can be political: many adherents of religions view their religion's stories as true and therefore object to the stories being characterised as myths. Scholars now speak of Christian mythology, Jewish mythology, Islamic mythology, Hindu mythology, so forth. Traditionally, Western scholarship, with its Judaeo-Christian heritage, has viewed narratives in the Abrahamic religions as being the province of theology rather than mythology. Labelling all religious narratives as myths can be thought of as treating different traditions with parity. Definitions of myth to some extent vary by scholar.
Finnish folklorist Lauri Honko offers a cited definition: Myth, a story of the gods, a religious account of the beginning of the world, the creation, fundamental events, the exemplary deeds of the gods as a result of which the world and culture were created together with all parts thereof and given their order, which still obtains. A myth expresses and confirms society's religious values and norms, it provides a pattern of behavior to be imitated, testifies to the efficacy of ritual with its practical ends and establishes the sanctity of cult. Scholars in other fields use the term myth in varied ways. In a broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story, popular misconception or imaginary entity. However, while myth and other folklore genres may overlap, myth is thought to differ from genres such as legend and folktale in that neither are considered to be sacred narratives; some kinds of folktales, such as fairy stories, are not considered true by anyone, may be seen as distinct from myths for this reason.
Main characters in myths are gods, demigods or supernatural humans, while legends feature humans as their main characters. However, many exceptions or combinations exist, as in the Iliad and Aeneid. Moreover, as stories spread between cultures or as faiths change, myths can come to be considered folktales, their divine characters recast as either as humans or demihumans such as giants and faeries. Conversely and literary material may acquire mythological qualities over time. For example, the Matter of Britain and the Matter of France, seem distantly to originate in historical events of the fifth and eighth-centuries and became mythologised over the following centuries. In colloquial use, the word myth can be used of a collectively held belief that has no basis in fact, or any false story; this usage, pejorative, arose from labeling the religious myths and beliefs of other cultures as incorrect, but it has spread to cover non-religious beliefs as well. However, as used by folklorists and academics in other relevant fields, such as anthropology, the term myth has no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise.
In present use, mythology refers to the collected myths of a group of people, but may mean the study of such myths. For example, Greek mythology, Roman mythology and Hittite mythology all describe the body of myths retold among those cultures. Folklorist Alan Dundes defines myth as a sacred narrative that explains how the world and humanity evolved into their present form. Dundes classified a sacred narrative as "a story that serves to define the fundamental worldview of a culture by explaining aspects of the natural world and delineating the psychological and social practices and ideals of a society". Anthropologist Bruce Lincoln defines myth as "ideology in narrative form." The compilation or description of myths is sometimes known as mythography, a term which can be used of a scholarly anthology of myths. Key mythographers in the Classical tradition include Ovid, whose tellings of myths have been profoundingly influential.
A fairy is a type of mythical being or legendary creature in European folklore, a form of spirit described as metaphysical, supernatural, or preternatural. Myths and stories about fairies do not have a single origin, but are rather a collection of folk beliefs from disparate sources. Various folk theories about the origins of fairies include casting them as either demoted angels or demons in a Christian tradition, as minor deities in pre-Christian Pagan belief systems, as spirits of the dead, as prehistoric precursors to humans, or as elementals; the label of fairy has at times applied only to specific magical creatures with human appearance, small stature, magical powers, a penchant for trickery. At other times it has been used to describe any magical creature, such as gnomes. Fairy has at times been used as an adjective, with a meaning equivalent to "enchanted" or "magical". A recurring motif of legends about fairies is the need to ward off fairies using protective charms. Common examples of such charms include church bells, wearing clothing inside out, four-leaf clover, food.
Fairies were sometimes thought to haunt specific locations, to lead travelers astray using will-o'-the-wisps. Before the advent of modern medicine, fairies were blamed for sickness tuberculosis and birth deformities. In addition to their folkloric origins, fairies were a common feature of Renaissance literature and Romantic art, were popular in the United Kingdom during the Victorian and Edwardian eras; the Celtic Revival saw fairies established as a canonical part of Celtic cultural heritage. The English fairy derives from Old French form faierie, a derivation from faie with the abstract noun suffix -erie. In Old French romance, a faie or fee was a woman skilled in magic, who knew the power and virtue of words, of stones, of herbs."Fairy" was used to represent: an illusion or enchantment. Faie became Modern English fay, while faierie became fairy, but this spelling exclusively refers to one individual. In the sense of "land where fairies dwell", archaic spellings faery and faerie are still in use.
Latinate fay is not related the fey, meaning "fated to die", but some dictionaries do list "fey" as a kind of fairy. Various folklore traditions refer to fairies euphemistically as wee folk, good folk, people of peace, fair folk, etc; the term fairy is sometimes used to describe any magical creature, including goblins and gnomes, while at other times, the term describes only a specific type of ethereal creature or sprite. The concept of "fairy" in the narrower sense is unique to English folklore made diminutive in accordance with prevailing tastes of the Victorian era, as in "fairy tales" for children. Historical origins include various traditions of Celtics, Germanic peoples, of Middle French medieval romances. Fairie was used adjectivally, meaning "enchanted", but became a generic term for various "enchanted" creatures during the Late Middle English period. Literature of the Elizabethan era conflated elves with the fairies of Romance culture, rendering these terms somewhat interchangeable.
The Victorian era and Edwardian era saw a heightened increase of interest in fairies. The Celtic Revival cast fairies as part of Ireland's cultural heritage. Carole Silvers and others suggested this fascination of English antiquarians arose from a reaction to greater industrialization and loss of older folk ways. Fairies are described as human in appearance and having magical powers. Diminutive fairies of various kinds have been reported through centuries, ranging from quite tiny to the size of a human child; these small sizes could be magically assumed, rather than constant. Some smaller fairies could expand their figures to imitate humans. On Orkney, fairies were described as short in stature, dressed in dark grey, sometimes seen in armour. In some folklore, fairies have green eyes; some depictions of fairies show them with others as barefoot. Wings, while common in Victorian and artworks, are rare in folklore. Modern illustrations include dragonfly or butterfly wings. Early modern fairies does not derive from a single origin.
In folklore of Ireland, the mythic aes sídhe, or'little folk', have come to a modern meaning somewhat inclusive of fairies. The Scandinavian elves served as an influence. Folklorists and mythologists have variously depicted fairies as: the unworthy dead, the children of Eve, a kind of demon, a species independent of humans, an older race of humans, fallen angels; the folkloristic or mythological elements combine Celtic and Greco-Roman elements. Folklorists have suggested that'fairies' arose from various earlier beliefs, which lost currency with the advent of Christianity; these disparate explanations are not incompatible, as'fairies' may be traced to multiple sources. King James, in his dissertation Daemonologie, stated the term "faries" referred to illusory spirits that prophesied to, consorted with, transported the individuals they served. A Christian tenet held that fairies were a class of "demot