Where do Gnomes Actually Come From?

With summer comes everyone going outside and spending time with family and friends.  This also means that a lot of the flowers planted in spring are starting to bloom and everyone has more time to tend to their gardens since school is out.  Most people have some form of ornamentation in their gardens and there is a reason for that besides just to make it look pretty.  The most common of these lawn ornaments are garden gnomes.  I love garden gnomes.  I have a vast collection of gnomes.  I even have a huge gnome that holds a sign saying “go away”.  Not very welcoming.  It seems to have become a tradition that I get a new gnome at Christmas.  What is a gnome exactly?  Well, let us find out!

The word gnome actually comes from the Latin word gnomus  which means “dweller of the earth”.  The word first shows up in the Renaissance era, but depictions of gnomes are seen far earlier than that.  They were called other things, but the were effectively the same creatures.  The first thing that comes to mind are dwarves from the Germanic mythologies and the Haltija from Finnish myths.  They are effectively household spirits.  Gnomes, and their predecessors, were seen as being beneficial to the home and protectors.   What better way to protect your house than to put emblems of the home’s protector around it?  That is where the tradition of putting gnomes out in the garden came from.  Sort of like gargoyles on the sides of old buildings.  Gnomes are said to dwell in gardens and in wooded areas.  They are particularly fond of old trees with gnarled roots.  Those are the best to make their homes in.  

So, there you go.  Gnomes are not really new, but the tradition of household spirits dates way back to some of the earliest myths.  Some people think gnomes are weird, but just remember, they are helpful spirits.  It was considered to be wonderful luck to have a gnome living in your garden.