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Elves & Elfshot (Ylfa gescot)

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Whether elves and faeries exist is a fun debate. It is interesting to consider from the Anglo-Saxon tradition one of the causes of disease was given the explanation of 'Elf Shot'.

Literally being shot at by elves. About 1, 600 years ago this explanation could explain the sudden pain experienced in misunderstood health conditions: arthritis, rheumatism, fibromyalgia. I don't use charms or ward off elves in my apothecary but it is nevertheless interesting to look at these ancient texts like the Lacnunga translation from Leechcraft Pollington (2000) and consider the thought processes behind this information. Were these elves real? and why were they represented as such? England looked very different back then, with its dense oak forests and many kings ruling over different areas. People lived in sunken homes, sustainability was a necessity and many tribes lived close to the earth. Were elves and faeries and dragons real? Were these tiny winged assailants able to shoot down their victims with, darts, sharpened bone and arrows?

Or were these warnings of elves with their sharp ammunition and keen eye just a faerie tale? Without modern technology could the wandering Troubadour capture your understanding of health and illness with such tales held around the fire of the Longhall with mead and merriment a bounty? Could he capture our imaginations with tales of faeries that could carry you away to never never land should you fall asleep under the hawthorn, elder or Yew tree. Modern research has shown two of the three as sensible places to NOT fall asleep.

Was this a way of ensuring that people remained tuned in to their surroundings? Not asleep or complacent and was it through necessity that this very same alertness may save them from their actual peril. Remember bears, wolves and wild boar still roamed freely all of those years ago. If you had to be wary to maintain your short life then maybe these warnings of extra care and attention would be better headed. Is there an Anglo Saxon equivalent of walking along with you face staring at a mobile phone?

“Elves were among those dwellers in the forests, heaths and, particularly, marshlands beyond human habitation where men feared to go.” Pollington (2000).

Make a trip to West Stowe

A small Anglo- Saxon village & country park

"A stunning reconstruction offering you a time to delve into the past".

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