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Image: Pixabay

The garden gnome is not to be considered either common or an aberration of the foulest kind. Throughout history this often shy creature has been spotted in forest glades and on the fringes of human encampments. A creature of Elemental Earth the gnome has been attributed with protective powers over the treasures buried within the Earth. A symbol of good luck these creatures have formed a symbiotic relationship with humanity, with benefits on both sides. As for their name, what does it signify? The word is thought to variously mean “earth-dwelling spirit” or “earth-dweller” from the Latin (gnomus) and Greek (genomos). Paracelus referred to these creatures as Pygmae and Umbragines. You may wonder why the lecture? Indulge me a little; the background information may help to elicit sympathy for this magnificent creature’s plight in our modern world.

The ancients believed gnomes had power over the rocks, vegetation and the mineral elements in humans and animals. As Guardians of hidden treasures they were supposed to work with stones, gems and metals. By nature they were supposed to be patient and hardworking but could be malicious and difficult. We may recognise aspects of others and ourselves within that description. A little controversial but had to be said. Look closely at the symbolism, what strikes you as being a truism and myth? It is from these archaic beginnings that the present day gnome was gestated. A venerable ancestry indeed and one to be proud of.

This creature’s influence stretches across the globe and is known by many names and remember names have power and meaning.

  • – In France and Switzerland they are known as Barbegazi.
  • – In Ireland they are known as the familiar Leprechauns and Clurichauns.
  • – Finland calls them Saunatonttu and Iceland, Voettir.
  • – In Japan, comparable creatures are known as Bakemono and Yokai.

Interesting how the same being can appear in so many different cultures, is this folk memory an echo of ancient knowledge stored within the Universal Consciousness? Myth and Legend usually has a basis in truth but changes form over a long period of time to finally emerge as fantastical.

The modern gnome has its origins in Thuringia, Germany some time in the 19th century. Created by Phillip Griebel they proved to be a popular manifestation in a region steeped in legends of gnomes. They were made of clay and sold in huge numbers and several manufacturers sprung up to meet demand. This craze soon spread across the globe and they were first brought into Britain in 1847, only one of these survives now. Garden gnomes gained prominence in places like Britain and France due to the population’s love of gardening. From those early beginnings in Germany they are to be found in almost every country in the world. Alas, the quality of many gnomes leaves a lot to be desired, especially of the cheap, plastic variety.

In recent times controversy and debate has surrounded the issue of gnome ownership, often resulting in extreme action taken to liberate these denizens of the natural world. Can this be considered either theft or a humane act? A contentious matter to be sure. The groups who have sprung up to “liberate” the gnomes have modelled themselves on animal liberation organisations. You have to ask yourself whether they are to be seen in the same light as the oppressors of the very creatures they profess to liberate?

Difficult to see how they can justify their actions and belief to be speaking for the “victims”. These groups are to be found in the main in Europe and they release the liberated gnomes into the local forests. It remains to be seen where this direct action will lead in the future. One hopes not to sulking and harsh language. There is light on the horizon though as many groups are legally fighting for the rights of gnomes and engaged in their rehabilitation. Warms the heart to think of such compassion.

Whilst we are grappling with these issues a dark cloud (radioactive possibly) has appeared on the horizon. The threat of a zombie apocalypse has haunted our imaginations for decades and now appears to be spreading to the gnome community. There have been disturbing sightings of horribly disfigured gnomes wandering round gardens and alleyways. Where did they appear from and how on earth did they transform into these terrible monsters? A veil of silence has been drawn over this matter; no one is willing to say anything about this zombie plague. What was a cinematic fancy now appears to be a reality. How did it get to this stage? Where is our equivalent of Alice from Resident Evil when we need her? Perhaps I am creating unnecessary panic but we should not be complacent. Ennui and cynicism only impede progress and freethinking.

We are now at the end of this odyssey; hopefully it has given you food for thought and perhaps changed your perception of these venerable beings. I implore you to think very carefully about the welfare of a gnome when you consider purchasing one. They are deserving of love and respect as much as a human. Provide them with a warm, safe and happy home in the garden or anywhere else they want to live. Make sure they are free from molestation, especially from these gnome liberation people. The trauma suffered by gnomes when they are abducted from their homes cannot be emphasised enough. The ensuing deprogramming when they are rescued can be a long and involved process, upsetting for both owners and abductees. This is something I would not wish upon anyone but it has to be mentioned as a cautionary note. Perhaps we should reflect deeply upon the dilemma faced by all participants in this drama. Notions of ownership carry with them great responsibility. Remember that.