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Elfshot or elf-shot is a medical condition described in Anglo-Saxon medical texts, notably Wið færstice, and believed to be caused by invisible elves shooting invisible arrows at a person or animal, causing sudden shooting pains localised to a particular area of the body.[1] Modern diagnoses might include rheumatism, arthritis, muscle stitches or cramps. Similar concepts existed in other northern European cultures.

Belief in, or at least references to, elfshot persisted into the 20th century,[2] also in Scotland, though more modern elves seem to have concentrated their attentions on animals.[3] In rural areas country folk would sometimes find small arrowheads (the remains of Neolithic or Mesolithic flints, or naturally occurring spear-shaped stones). The prevention or curing of elfshot comes from using a charm against the sudden stitch; the three plants used in the cure are feverfew, red nettles and waybread. All have vaguely spear-shaped leaves, which may have suggested their use as a remedy for pains attributed to elf-arrows.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jolly, Karen Louise (1998). "Elves in the Psalms?". The Devil, Heresy and Witchcraft in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of Jefferey B. Russell. BRILL. p. 19. ISBN 9004106103 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b "Charm Against a Sudden Stitch". Hereot. Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  3. ^ The Fairy Folk attack!, Orkneyjar