THE
ELF-SHOT AND THE ELFIN-DART
OF THE NORTH.

BY FREDERICK C. LUKIS, P.S.A.

[Extracted from The Reliquary, vol. 8, 1868, pp. 207-8.]


The Stone Celt, as well as the Flint Arrow-head, are bow so well known, that the superstitious title here given to those objects, as in days of yore, will in a few years more probably be entirely forgotten.

These early instruments of offence or of the chase, have, however, from the period when they were superseded by those of Bronze and Iron, been the wonderment of our forefathers, until a very late period; yet still the shepherd or labourer who now finds them considers them with surprise, and even with awe, if not with some notion of reverence or superstition.*

I forward a drawing of one which was mounted in silver, and which was suspended to the neck of an old lady from Scotland, for half-a-century. It was worn by her with something more than the common pride of ornament—"there was a real attachment to it; as the possessor of a charm or amulet at this day would be unhappy without the favoured object round his neck or arm, so was it with the old lady."

The "Elfin-Dart" of the North, was, like the "Elf-arrow," a flint missile, but of somewhat larger dimensions—it had not the projecting comers or "Tangs," as they are called in Denmark, but was fastened to a split spear-rod, and held by the skin thread of some fish or animal, with the addition of some pitch or gum, as may be seen in some of the weapons in the South Sea Islands.

It (the "Elf-Shot" as it is called), is engraved on Plate XX., as is also one of the "Elfin-Darts." The "Elf-shot," it will be seen, is a barbed flint arrow-head, similar in form to the examples engraved at the head of this article, which are given for the purpose of showing the form, before mounting in silver, of the one engraved on Plate XX.

[p.208]

The respect paid to such objects is still in reality prevalent over more than one-half of the human race. These universal weapons of ancient times, to which superstition attaches some power of preventing evils, are kept in the house or on the person of the mountaineer, and to them, many a medicinal or anti-magical quality is yet ascribed. In the Hautes Alps, and in Savoy, it is not rare to find one of these stone instruments rolled up in the wool of the sheep, or the hair of the goat for good luck, or the prevention of the rot or putrid decay.

In Brittany the stone celt is frequently thrown down into the well for the purifying or the supplying of a continued spring of good water.

The Hindoo, in like manner, carries a stone celt into his temple, and offers it with much reverence to his Buddha or Mahadeo. In the year 1860, no less than five stone celts were removed from an altar reared in a forest near Allahabad, and another was placed in a small niche in a Peepul Tree, where the Hindoo was wont to kneel at the foot of his sacred tree. The possessing of a celt in a house is a sure preventive against the effect of storms, and I am in possession of several which had once been placed in the walls of various buildings, as a sure preservative against lightning and the thunderbolt (which has generally been called thunderstone), and is still fabulously supposed to be emitted by thunder. Shakespeare seems to have had this idea where he makes Guiderius and his brother sing—

"Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor all the dreaded thunderstone."

In the Channel Islands, as well as in many parts of France, the stone celt is known by no other name than "Coin de Foudre," and it follows, of course, if a celt is found in the earth after a storm, to attribute it to that cause. Some years ago, after a fearful storm which was accompanied with lightning, by which the signal staff of the watch-house was split and shivered, a farmer in the same neighbourhood picked up a flint celt measuring six inches. He at once broke off a small splinter of the celt, and by applying the instrument to his nose discovered a peculiar smell, which he wisely conceived to proceed from its fire origin. For some years the poor unfortunate celt became so dis-shaped by these frequent chippings, as to lose its character of the neolithic age, to which it really belonged, and it is now in my possession as a fair example of the drift period.

 

* It may be well to note in connection with the subject of this highly interesting paper, that a somewhat similar superstition regarding flint arrow and spear-heads obtains in Derbyshire. These instruments are with some of the inhabitants looked upon as fairy darts, and are supposed to have been used by the fairies in injuring and wounding cattle. Happily this belief is rapidly wearing out, and the peasant who would formerly have destroyed a flint when found, now takes care of it, and brings it to myself or some other collector.