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Preternatural – Not your normal every day

In General, vox populi on 6 March, 2010 at 4:11 pm

It might be useful, as we embark upon on explorations, to understand just what the preternatural is.

According to the dictionary (in this case Dictionary.com) preternatural is an adjective meaning:

  • Out of the ordinary course of nature; exceptional or abnormal
  • Outside of nature; differing from the natural; supernatural
  • Surpassing the normal or usual; extraordinary

These are pretty broad definitions encompassing many people, places and things. For our purposes, we’re going to define preternatural as those beings, creatures and powers that make life worth living – vampires, shape-shifters, ghosts, psychics and the Fae, as well as the humans who help bring them into existence.

The good news is that these creatures have been around for a while. So has the word preternatural, although like all words, its use falls in and out of favor as times, and our vocabulary change. As a word, it was probably coined back in the late 1500’s. The origins of preternatural include the Latin words praeter meaning beyond and naturam meaning nature.The Latin phrase praeter naturam literally means “beyond nature”, which is as good, and as concise a definition as any.

Modern definitions notwithstanding, preternatural has often been used to separate the divine from the supernatural. Preternatural often carries with it a stigma of danger or undesirability. Sometimes associated with evil.

The modern world laughs at such ideas and doesn’t take them seriously. Five hundred years ago, danger and evil were very real and influential.
Despite changing attitudes, the preternatural has not lost any of its impact over the centuries. Some might even argue it has become more influential even moving out of the realms of religion and lore into art and science.

None of this, however, makes it any less wondrous. The preternatural attracts us, consumes us, not because we are looking for explanations but because we instinctively understand there is more to the world, or perhaps just more worlds, than we know.

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  1. My dad has been writing a book precisely on point with this blog, I have emailed him the web address so maybe he could pick up a couple pointers. Wonderful Job.

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