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  The Fairy Folk in Orkney Lore

The fabled elf belt

When it comes to Orkney fairy-lore, one particularly interesting historical case is that of the 17th century Elfbelt.

Unfortunately, the function of this magical girdle has been long since forgotten, but it seems likely that it was thought to protect the wearer from the fairy-folk, having once belonged to them.

The only recorded reference to the object is found in the minutes of the North Isles Presbytery, who decided on April 3, 1664, that it must be destroyed:

"in respect it had been a monument of superstition . . . and the silver of it being melted, payment to be given out of the boxe unto the owner for the saymen."

The fact that the owner was compensated for the loss of his Elfbelt does not necessarily mean that the churchmen were tolerant of the old traditions. It is more likely that the owner was simply an influential person of some standing in the local community.

The combination of the belt and precious metal brings to mind the magical craftsman of Norse legend - the dwarf, a kind of elf who forfeited his power if he lost his belt. In Orkney, dwarfs are remembered in a few place names, most notably in the famous Dwarfie Stane, although the creatures have not survived, recognisably, in the folklore of the islands.

This may be in part due to the fact that in Norse lore "dwarf" was simply another term for a "troll". Both these creatures originated from the legendary "svart-alfar" - the Dark (or Black) Elves.

Deadly Fairy Rings

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