A kobold is in German folklore, a mischievous spirit, occasionally malicious. There are two types of kobolds: a household kobold that is comparable to the BROWNIE and Boggart of British folklore, and a mine kobold that is comparable to the Cornish Knocker and the American tommyknocker.
The household kobold, when in a good mood, helps with chores, looks after horses, finds lost objects and sings to children to keep them occupied. Food must be left for him, otherwise he becomes angry and turns to pranks, such as pushing someone over just as they stoop to pick something up, or hiding household objects. Kobolds are given names, such as Heinze, Chimmeken and Walther.
In Saxon lore, a biersal is a type of household kobold who lives in the cellar. In exchange for a daily jug of beer, he will clean bottles and jugs.
The mine kobolds are almost always evil and malicious, and try to hinder the miners by causing accidents and rockfalls.
- Haining, Peter. A Dictionary of Ghost Lore. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984.
- Leach, Maria, and Jerome Fried, eds. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.
Kobolds are mysterious spirits with an affinity for people. Mobile, master shape-shifters, they can make themselves invisible at will. In their earliest manifestations, they seem to have been subterranean and tree spirits. When people entered their subterranean homes, the kobolds followed the people home, too. Kobolds traditionally live in mines but also in human habitations and onships. These must be inhabited homes and ships: kobolds like the company of people.
Kobolds attach themselves to specific people. Alternatively, people use magic spells to capture them. People seek kobolds because in some ways they are ideal magical servants. Kobolds are potentially very helpful. If they feel affection for the person or family to whom they are bound, they will work tirelessly on their behalf. Kobolds perform housework like house spirits; they locate wealth and missing objects. They have magical skills and serve as household guardians.
However, kobolds seem to have an extremely difficult time severing links with people. If they feel slighted or dislike the people, they won’t just leave or sulk; instead they’ll put all their copious energy into playing tricks, raising havoc and being a general nuisance. They don’t really cause aggressive harm but they won’t allow you peace either. Kobolds rarely attack directly or violently but their constant pranks and annoyances quickly become very tedious.
It is difficult to make them leave; there are tales of exorcists being consulted with mixed results. Therefore if one has a Kobold one should seek peaceful, harmonious relations. Alternatively, one should not seek a Kobold unless truly committed to making the relationship work: the Kobold must be treated with respect, consideration and good manners. Commanding and compelling techniques backfire: the result is not obedience but practical jokes and a spirit who will spend all its time harassing you.
The term kobold has become something of a catch-all for any sort of potentially helpful spirit that manifests in the form of a small human. Thus kobolds, knockers and dwarves, all of whom dwell in mines, are often lumped together.
• Knockers rarely leave mines. They are attached to the mine itself; not people.
• Kobolds are gregarious shape-shifters who seem to make themselves at home anywhere
• Dwarves possess associations with metal-working and magical craftsmanship not shared by either kobolds or knockers.
The tendency to use the term kobold to describe various types of spirits leads to confusion and vagueness about the true identities of these spirits. This was originally done deliberately: during the European witch-hunt era, any traces of Pagan ritual and worship attracted incredibly severe punishment. Although there is evidence that Kobolds were worshipped, the term itself was considered reasonably innocuous and so may have been applied to other spirits, too, for safety’s sake.
Kobolds can make themselves invisible (a problem when they’re feeling prankish). Kobolds are shape-shifters and can take many forms. Favorites include bats, cats, roosters, snakes and worms. They can manifest in human form, too although they are always small, rarely bigger than a four year old. Kobolds travel in the form of light.
There is evidence of carved images of Kobolds being kept in German homes in the 13th century and later. These images were one way of obtaining the services of a kobold. Once a kobold is in residence, it doesn’t like to leave however they are highly mobile and will flit from home to home. Some kobolds live in trees. The essence and power of these kobolds is retained in carved pieces of wood taken from these trees.
A tree housing a kobold must be located.
The wood must be obtained without annoying the kobold. It will come with you one way or the other but do you want a friend or a foe?
The ideal method is to bring gifts to the tree (water; honey); explain your purpose and ask the kobold to willingly accompany you.
Branches that fall at your feet are the affirmative reply. (Repeat visits and offerings may be in order.)
Offerings must be made regularly to the carving, too, in order to activate it.
Date: Midsummer’s Eve is the night for rituals intended to locate and capture kobolds
A small portion of whatever you eat and drink; unlike other household helper spirits, kobolds do not shun gifts. They like clothing especially hats and uniforms.
A sinister kobold plays a pivotal role in Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.