Having talked about angels and demons, I want to see if those beings exhaust all the non-corporeal beings that exist. Typically, the Abrahamic religions tend to categorize all immaterial, incorporeal beings–what we’d tend to call “spirits”–as ultimately either angelic or demonic. With the partial exception of Islamic jinn, there are no other categories envisioned.
Pagan religions, both ancient and modern, by contrast, have a bewildering variety of spirit-beings that cover the entire spectrum of morality from good to evil and everywhere in between. As Jeffrey Burton Russel points out in The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity, in most ancient religions, God (in this context, Russell uses the term “the god” in referring to the monotheistic deity) and the gods are morally ambivalent. Gods and spirits might be helpful or harmful, good or bad. Any given god might in fact be harmful or helpful, depending on the context. The fickle behavior of the Greek pantheon is a perfect example of this, with even beloved and noble deities such as Athena being capable of spiteful and vindictive actions, as in the myth of Arachne.
Science seeks to explain everything—but maybe we don’t want everything explained. We don’t want all the magic to go out of life. We want to remain connected to the secret parts of our inner beings, to the ancient mysteries, and to the most distant outposts of the universe. We want to believe. And as long as we do, the fairies will remain.
–Skye Alexander, Fairies: The Myths, Legends & Lore (2014); courtesy of Wikiquote.