Rules For Interacting With The Alfar
December 31st is the Icelandic holiday where people celebrate alfar migration. This is the day where the hidden folk abandon their homes and go in search for new residence. Allegedly if you spend the night near any random crossroad you can catch the alfar in the act. One tradition is to leave out lighted candles to help those in search of new homes.
If you decide to go in search of the hidden folk, take heed, as they can be unfriendly if disrespected, upset, or distressed. Here are some simple guidelines when interacting with the Alfar. Please note that the Scandinavian alfar have very different temperaments from their distant cousins of the United Kingdom.
Gundarsson, K. (2007). Elves, Wights, and Trolls. (p. 3-5)…
The basic rules for dealing with the alfs seem to be:
- Do not refuse food or favours in general. Even a gift that seems worthless may prove to be of great value.
- Be very careful about accepting drink given by trolls, which is often too strong for human flesh to bear, and burns where it touches. The wine of Otherworldly wights can also be perilous, as it loosens the human mind and/or soul from its ties to the Middle-Garth and makes it easy to go too deeply into the Other-world. The same is true for joining alf-dancing, possibly because of the ecstatic/trance-inducing effect of the dance.
- If asked to do them a favour, do it wholeheartedly, even if it seems inconvenient.
- Be careful to give warning when you light fires outdoors, toss boiling water on the ground, relieve yourself outdoors, and so forth.
- Do not ever lie directly to or about the alfs.
- Be very careful about actually visiting the alfs in their homes or joining them in their activities, particularly dancing: folk who do that generally do not come back the better for it (if they come back at all), whether from longing for the alf-world or whether offense had to be given to get them away. Depression and various degrees of mental disorder and distraction are common results of spending too long among the alfs.
- Shooting or throwing steel over the head of an alf-enchanted person or thing (alf-cattle, a stolen human, the alf-islands which appear and disappear until they are fixed by bringing steel and/or fire onto them, u.s.w.) is the recommended means of freeing them, but the consequences, in the case of humans, can be unexpected.
- If you have seen the alfs once, especially with any magical aids, and should chance to see them again, do not be the first to speak. Norway, Iceland, and Orkney all have tales of someone who unwisely addressed an alf or like wight when seeing them in an unexpected place after a previous interaction, and was either blinded completely or, at the very least, lost soul-sight.
- Do not boast about favors or gifts you have received from the alfs.
- Do not, ever, mess with their mounds, rocks, or other dwelling places without permission. If you have built over an alf-house or on their pathway, apologize and repair the fault at once.
- Do not expect to receive a favour by repeating what someone else has done, especially out of greed; this only annoys the alfs, and bad things will happen. Do not ask for gifts from them; they are often generous of their own free will, but they really dislike and will punish greedy folk.
- Do not relieve yourself in a place you suspect to be inhabited; this will drive the alfs away, as shown clearly by the phrase “at ganga álfrek” (to go destroy the alfs) as a euphemism for an outdoors evacuation.
- Be careful what questions you ask them; it is easy to offend by being nosy.
Gundarsson, K. (2007). Elves, Wights, and Trolls. Bloomington, IN : iUniverse.