There is something about the days surrounding Halloween that brings out the mystical aspects of our own culture, specifically when considering beings from folklore and myths. Often, beings such as witches, warlocks, goblins, and trolls are seen as the realm of entertainment through horror or fantasy stories. But with many instances stretching back thousands of years ago, these are far from being the invention of some relatively modern author.
Most often found in Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Germanic folklore, mentions of goblins or goblin-like creatures can be found as far east as India, China, and Japan, and the word itself can be traced back to beyond the ancient Greeks.
Our word goblin comes from the 1100s Medieval Latin Gobelinus, which was mentioned, in the chronicle of Ordericus Vitalis, as the name of a spirit haunting the region of Evreux, Normandy. Aside from the direct link, possible older ones can be traced to the ancient Greek kobalos, meaning ‘rogue,’ or kobaloi, which refers to ‘wicked spirits invoked by rogues.’ And though any linguistic link before this is unknown, in the areas where goblins are believed to be present, there is a substantial prehistoric understanding of them.
So, what exactly is a goblin and what do they do? In generally, goblins are sinister beings, possessing grotesque attributes, and having some affiliation with the darkness. Though the first mention of goblins in English occurs around 1327 in a work entitled The Political Songs of England, where the goblin is seen as a minion of the Devil (“Satan their sire — said in his saying, — Goblin made his garner — of the grooms’ maw.”), the actual nature of the goblin may not be as negative as the link suggests, as it depends on which type of goblin you are dealing with and. For instance, you won’t find Trows outside of the Orkneys (if you find them at all as they are often invisible), Knockers tend to inhabit the abandoned mines of South East England and can safeguard the humans in nearby mines by making a small knocking sound, and finally, there are hobgoblins, who, though they do like playing tricks and practical jokes, are willing to work around the house in exchange for certain foods or access to a warm fire.
So, depending on where you are and what you are willing to understand about your surroundings, you might experience some of the numerous magical abilities of the goblins and find explanations as to why your car keys keep moving or you are constantly spilling your morning coffee.