This poem looks at the usefulness of Early Saxon elves (ie before the conversion to Christianity) and touches on how various kinds of elves might have performed as 'good spirits'.
Elves are powerful beings who would exercise their power in ordered ways for the long-term benefit of the community.
The Anglo-Saxons considered elves as beautiful white shining spirits, there were different kinds of elves; Water elf: wateralfeng, field elf: feldalfeng, land elf: landalfe, wood elf: wudualfeng and mountain elf: beorgalfeng.
In early Saxon England there appears to have been a strong belief in elves. They have left their impressions in various ways, in names of towns and villages eg Ilfracombe in Devon who's name means 'elf wisdom valley' and Alfington meaning either 'elf family settlement' or 'elf friendly settlement', there are several variations on this theme with other surviving village names.
Many Saxon names were derived from the word 'elf'; for example; Aelfred (elf wisdom), Aelfflad, (elf-beautiful), Avery (rules the Elves), Ellette (little elf), Elva/Elvia (elf), Elwine/Elwina/Elwyna (friend of the elves), Erlina/Erlene/Erline (elfin), Aelfgifu (elf gift), Aelfheah (elf high), Aelfric = (elf power).
The word aelfscyne means 'as beautiful as an elf'.
Aelfthone is a herb which was known for its mind-altering qualities.
In modern day Iceland there is still a strong connection between people and elves, there are several examples of people defending stones, rocky outcrops or valleys against road building in order to protect the elves homes.
From Wilipedia: Álfhóll (Elf Hill) is the most famous home of elves in Kópavogur, and Álfhólsvegur (Elf Hill Road) is named after it. Late in the 1930s, road construction began on Álfhólsvegur, which was supposed to go through Álfhóll, which meant that Álfhóll would have to be demolished. Nothing seemed to go well, and construction was stopped due to money problems. A decade later road construction through Álfhóll was to be continued, but when work resumed machines started breaking and tools got damaged and lost. The road remained routed around the hill, not through it as originally planned. In the late 1980s, the road was to be raised and paved. Construction went as planned until it came time to demolish part of Álfhóll. A rock drill was used, but it broke. Another drill was fetched, but that one broke, as well. After both drills broke to pieces, the workers refused to go near the hill with any tools. Álfhóll is now protected by the city as a cultural heritage.
See also: http://all-that-is-interesting.com/iceland-elves
The Elf Service
On mid summers eve, light elves doth abound,
Rare radiant ones, perhaps to be found.
Tending fields and meads, and on flowery mound,
Weaving their magic, not making a sound.
Greybeard went to fetch, water from small stream,
Placing fresh baked bread, beneath the low beam.
For those hidden folk, that keep water clean,
Wise wateralfeng, seen in a day dream.
In full flower spring, the meadow mumbling,
Colourful carpet, wasps and bees bumbling.
Poppies corn cockles, red and blue tumbling,
In corner of eye, feldalfen gambling.
Heave up healing herbs, the galdor to read,
Kneeling in meadow, libation of mead.
For field fertility, performing the deed,
The hidden people, give life to corn seed.
Landalfe live in rock, at centre of field,
The bright elves therein, increase the corn yield.
If thee move this stone, then thine fate is sealed,
Gather lichen here, and thee wilt be healed.
In small silent wood, dusting distant leaves,
Wudualfeng out, on mid summer's eves.
Tending their aelfthorne, as diligent reeves,
Gathering mushrooms, like dark forest thieves.
Those beautiful elves, form a link between,
Mankind and landscape, whilst staying unseen.
White shining spirits, working our land green,
Bringing abundance, where light elves have been.
Copyright Andrew Rea, April 2017