Elves, Satyrs, Centaurs, etc.
The existence of non-human and non-angelic
intelligent life-forms is occasionally discussed
in patristic literature. Usually, reports of
such beings are explained as tricks of the
demons, but in some (mainly hagiographic) sources
strange beings are encountered who are specifically
declared not to be demonic or illusory.
The issue of whether mermaids and the like
have souls, and if so whether they are in need of baptism,
may strike moderns as ridiculous, but seems
not unlikely to reappear in modern times
in the context of
artificial life, as may the question of
distinguishing the merely alien from the
It should be noted that many of the folkloric
"fairy races" of the Mediterranean are clearly
taken over from classical mythology. In some cases ---
that of satyrs, for example ---
had an ambiguous status in ancient
times: treated sometimes as demigods to be worshipped,
sometimes as rather comical barbarian humans from the edge
of the map,
and sometimes as irrational
beasts. Others, however, are even in terminology
descended from high gods of classical paganism,
as predicted by the well-known anthropological
law of degeneration. It is unclear to me whether the
different origins of these legends have influenced
the Church's attitudes toward them.
Norman Hugh Redington
Under construction --- far from complete! Read with caution.
The Life of Paulus the First Hermit.
Fremantle translation, 1893.
St. Antony, looking for
St. Paul of Thebes in the
desert, met first a centaur, then a faun.
The nature of the rather primitive and anti-social
centaur is left unresolved,
but both Antony and Jerome take the faun to be a
real physical being. It identifies itself as a
representative of its people, come to
praise Christ, of whom they
have heard, and to ask the
saint's blessing. Antony complies, but there is no discussion
of baptism, and he refers to fauns as animals --
later in the Vita, he also communicates (albeit
non-verbally) with a pair of lions and asks God to
grant them "what Thou knowest best".
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