The Legend of the Dunelfen

Long before Thor and Freya’s Vikings came sweeping out of the North in their long boats, long before Rome brought Christianity, these wooded, fertile British islands had Gods and Guardians of their own. Forgotten now, but once great - Woden, Frige, Hretha, Tiw, Eostre and Weyland. But the real power, the everyday power, the accessible magic that could transform a day, a fortune, the weather, lay with the lesser-known mysterious beings and spirits who tucked themselves away in hills and streams, who mingled with animals and who might be glimpsed on moon-dappled lawns or in ancient forest groves. The Elfen, the fairies, the hidden folk, the old ones, the Celtic watchers of the forests and sacred springs. Our landscape still feels populated with these invisible keepers of secrets and wisdom, of magic glorious or mischievous. Sit alone for long enough in a quiet wood, or on a sea shore, and especially where path and water meet, and you’ll feel the stirring of something altogether old and pagan at the back of the breeze. Old England, and her hidden secrets, and among them her Elfen.

“ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves; and ye that on the sands with printless foot do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him when he comes back…”

The Tempest

Dunelfen Legend | Dunelfen in fields
Dunelfen Legend | Dunelfen in trees

Elfscine - elf-bright - was used to describe a beautiful woman. Like the nyads and dryads of ancient Greece, Elfen were perilously attractive to both sexes; they could be dangerous or kind, and their business was enchantment. There were water-elfen of the pools and rivers, wylde-elfen of moorlands, wudu-elfen of the woods, sae-elfen of the seas and, above all the dun-elfen, keepers of the mountains, hills and henges. But new religious affiliations drove the dun-elfen from human consciousness over the years. Brisk and demanding, religion and science turned our eyes away from the earth and landscape, diminished our relationship with the natural and mystical world around us, drove the Elfen and their kin from our memory. But perhaps even though human memory dwindled, the dun-elfen did not leave their old places in the wild crags and silent high places; perhaps they are still there, wrapped in magic cloaks, waiting to be remembered. Waiting for us to rekindle the magic and mystery we once shared so easily with them.