The Forest Folk Chapter 4.2

The Forest Folk Chapter 4.2

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Genre: Fantasy

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Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

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Summary

the history of the sylvan on earth
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Summary

the history of the sylvan on earth

Chapter1 (v.1) - The 'Elves'

Author Chapter Note

The Sylvan on Earth

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: February 28, 2017

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: February 28, 2017

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THE FOREST FOLK:

 

Chapter 4.2 - The Elves:

 

It is unclear exactly when the Sylvan first arrived on Earth. But some of the earliest manuscripts indicate that they had already established themselves more than two thousand years before Christ. In fact so much so that some of them had already reached their Kuiviess. This means that the first Sylvan settlers must have made this planet their home between eighteen to twenty thousand years before that.

 

The earliest accounts indicate that these folk were called the 'Elver' in Danish, 'Alv' in Norway and Sweden (the feminine of which is 'Alva'). In ancient Norse their name is 'Alfar'. Other texts refer to them as the 'Huldrefolk', or the 'Vetter'. A derivative of the former, meaning 'Hidden Folk', has been adopted by the people of Iceland, and that is the 'Huldufolk'. The name Vetter was later given to a race more closely resembling the dwarves, in that they prefer to live in massive subterranean caverns than above the ground.

 

In Scandinavian legends, the elves were usually described as beautiful women with flowing blonde hair and dressed in white, although in some writings, males are included. However these are rare, except in later accounts such as the Edda and the writings of Snorri Sturluson. Generally their initial relationship with humans was peaceful, and in some cases mutually beneficial, but the elves were known to become spiteful, if not vicious, if they were threatened or wronged in any way. Otherwise they were light-hearted in nature.

 

They could be seen dancing over meadows, particularly at night or on misty mornings. These dances were called 'Alvdanser', and legend would have it that they would leave tiny rings wherever their feet touched the ground. These were known as 'Alvringar', or 'Elf Circles'. Any who dared violate these rings, especially by urinating on them, would be afflicted with terrible diseases, specifically of the venereal variety. In the forest, an Elf-Ring was typically a small ring of mushrooms, but there was another type that occurred where the dance took place on the shores of a lake. In these the ground was compacted as hard as a floor wherever the elf's feet had landed. It was considered dangerous for anyone to tread on top of these rings, and any who dared destroy them could become violently ill, and even die.

 

Another interesting belief was that, if one were to be privileged enough to witness an Elf-Dance, it would seem as though time itself would slow down. This meant that it would appear to the viewer that a few hours had passed, whereas in reality, many years could have gone by.

 

Later, as relations began to sour between the elves and the human race, their reputation began to darken, and soon they were portrayed as spiteful and vindictive. So much so that they were accused of being related to the spirits that brought diseases and curses upon seemingly innocent people.

 

Their maidens were even reported to be capable of dancing an unsuspecting man to death. The most common diseases for which the elves were blamed were various skin irritations. It was believed that the elves blew onto a bare patch of skin, and the rash began. This became known as an 'Alva-blast'. The cure was for the part of the body to receive a counter-blow from a handy pair of billows.

 

Various devices were used to protect people from malevolent elves. These ranged from special mills in which a mixture of grain and butter was ground to give as an offering in order to appease any elves that might seek to do harm. One of the most common was an 'Elf-Cross', a form of pentagram that was either worn around one's neck as a pendant, or carved above the front door of a home.

 

In contrast to this, on the British Isles their legacy is somewhat different. The Anglo-Saxons saw them as youthful males, although there were a few accounts of females being present. They claimed that the 'Aelfey', the plural form of Aelf, would often assist those who were in dire need. Like the tales in Scandinavia, however, they were also known to become nasty if they were either threatened or wronged in any way.

 

This peaceful coexistence seems to have come to an abrupt ending by the 17th Century, by which time such descriptions as 'Elf-Shot', a sharp bodily pain attributed to an arrow fired from an elven bow, or an 'Elf-Stroke', which caused sudden and unexplained paralysis, were common. An example of this is an ode that was penned by one William Collins in 1750, which reads: '… There every herd, by sad experience, knows how, winged with fate, the Elf Arrows fly. When the ewe her summer food foregoes, or, stretched out on the Earth, the heart-smit heifers lie ...”.

 

Soon elves were depicted as sinister characters, frequently bent on rape and murder. An example of this is the tale of Childe Rowland, or the Ballad of Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight. In the latter, the Elf-Knight abducts Lady Isabel, then rapes and murders her. In most of these instances, the elves in question are described as male, the only exception being the Queen of Elphame from the tale written by Thomas the Rhymer. Later this was added to in the account of the Queen of Elfland's Nourice'. In this version, the Queen abducts a woman to act as a wet-nurse for her child. However, she promises that the woman can return home once the child is weaned.

 

Many of the British folktales portray the elves as an allusive race with mischievous personalities. They were not considered to be evil, but at times were known to annoy humans, and even to interfere with their daily affairs. Again this was usually as a result of the elves being harassed or threatened. Sometimes the word 'elf' was used synonymously with faeries. An example of this is the Welsh term, 'Ellyll', the plural of which is 'Ellyllon'.

 

The possible reason for this is that the elves are often portrayed as having translucent gossamer wings, as do the faeries. This illusion is because their auras, the field of energy that is given off by every living soul, are so strong that they are in fact visible to the naked eye. Indeed, as they grow older, their auras become even more obvious, even obscuring the physical form. It is possible that this is a direct result of the Sylvan's progress towards Ascension, and that when they die, the physical body immediately returns to the dust from whence it came, and the spirit is released.

 

Later on, these words evolved to become a more general description of a variety of Nature Spirits, such as Puck, Hobgoblin, Robin Goodfellow, or the Scottish Brownie, amongst others. An example of this is the legend that states, that if one sprinkles 'Buckthorn' - a local herb - in a circle, and dances inside the ring under a full moon, an elf will appear. If the dancer is able to utter the words: “Halt, and grant me a boon” before the elf runs away, he will give him or her one wish.

 

One of the most intriguing legends concerning the elves is that of the 'Sidhe'. Pronounced 'She', these folk were a distinct race set apart from the rest of humanity. They were sometimes called the Faery-folk, a name later shortened to 'Fey'. Here is an account of these people: '… For all the hillside was haunted by the faery folk come again. And down in the heart-light enchanted were opal-coloured men …'.

 

This race of beings, are said to have considerable powers, far greater than those of mortal men. Two of these abilities was that of flight, and the power to change shape at will. They have had more contact with humans than any of the other of their kind. There are many documented cases to prove this. The Sidhe played a pivotal role in the lives of folk living in rural Ireland and Scotland.

 

 

It is unclear when the lore concerning the Sidhe began. Some writers claim that the original people of Ireland, and their Gods were the 'ancestors' of the Sidhe. What is clear is that the belief in the Sidhe pre-dated the dawn of Christianity by thousands of years, and still persists up until the present day, having survived the purges that the early Christian church imposed on all whom they considered to be 'heretics and pagans'.

 

When the Gaels, referred to as the 'Sons of Mil' in early texts, first came to occupy Ireland, they found that it was already populated by the first followers of the 'Tuatha da Danaan', meaning 'the Children of Danu'. The Sons of Mil fought against the people native to Ireland, and drove them underground, where it is said that they dwell even to this day. Their subterranean homes became known as 'Sidhe-Mounds'. While the invaders might have defeated the physical population, they could not war against the Children of Danu themselves. After all, according to one writer: '… it seems likely to them that they, the Tuatha De Danaan, came from heaven, on account of their intelligence and excellence of their knowledge …'. (Taken from 'the Book of Dun Cow'). In the Book of Leinster, this race is referred to as being somewhere between the gods and mortal man.

 

The war with the Milesians, or Sons of Mil, began when the Tuatha de Danaan were accused of causing the death of Ith, one of their most powerful magi. The Milesian army - thought to be either from Iberia, or a break-away tribe of Celtic origin - landed in the South, and fought their way to Tara, the traditional seat of power in Meath. They demanded that their claim of the Emerald Isle be recognised.

 

The priests loyal to the Tuatha de Danaan struck a deal: The Milesians' demands would be met if, after three days sailing, they could repeat their first attempt at landing on Ireland's shores. The Milesians agreed, but the clergy had invoked their deities, and they in turn created a storm that destroyed most of the Milesian fleet. But more of the Sons of Mil arrived, this time under the command of two brothers, whose names were Eber and Erimon. Many famous battles were fought: Tailtiu, Meath, Sleigh Mis, and Antrim soon fell into Milesian hands. The land was divided into two. The North was ruled by Erimon, and the South by Eber.

 

But then civil war broke out because Eber was dissatisfied with his position. He went to war against his own brother in order to gain control of the whole island. The final confrontation was the Battle of Airgetros, near Kilkenny. Eber was defeated and killed, and so Erimon became 'High King'. This took place over a thousand years before the birth of Christ.

 

Long before that, according to legend, another war took place. This time it was against the Tuatha de Danaan themselves. Their opponents were called the Fomorians, and were thought to be a race of god-like beings, Spirits of Chaos, or even Giants. The commander of the armies loyal to the Tuatha de Danaan was named Partholon. His forces and those of the Fomorians first met somewhere near modern-day South Kerry. His direct opponent was called Cithol Gricinthos, the last name meaning 'Footless'. This battle is said to have occurred more than two thousand years before Christ.

 

The final battle was fought at Mag Ithe, a plain somewhere between Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle, and the River Finn. This places the battle either in Donegal or Tyrone. Partholon had ten thousand or more troops behind him, and Cithol little more than eight hundred. Needless to say that he was slain, and his army destroyed to the last warrior.

 

It is possible that the war against the Fomorians is a representation of the conflict between the Sylvan and the Uryk on Elarda, considered to be the birthplace of many of the Ya'Arye. Although some of the history indicates that it continued even after the First Founding, even taking hold on Earth. These legends make it clear that much of the war was fought between the Tuatha de Danaan themselves and the Fomorians, and all indications is that this was a war in the spiritual realm, whereas the original was in the physical. Another interpretation of the origins of the Fomorians, is that they were simple folk who rose up against the more advanced race, with which they shared their world. In a sense, this coincides with the Elardan war.

 

It is likely to have been both. There is a proverb within the Pagan community that says: 'As Above, so Below'. Thus it is possible that the one was a representation of the other, either in the Realm above, or on the one below, depending on which war came first. It is also possible that the common thread between these two wars is that they were both a reflection of the ongoing conflict between the two universal powers: Order and Chaos.

 

The influence that the Tuatha de Danaan have had over the Irish people is so strong, that not even the pressures of the Christian Church could shake it. In fact, the Patron Saint of Ireland, St Patrick himself gives an account of a conversation between himself and the 'Ghost of Caeilte of the Fianna'. The Saint is amazed to see an elven woman coming out of the Cave of Cruachan. She is wearing a green mantle, and a crown of gold on her head. But perhaps the most astounding thing is, that whereas the Elf-Maiden is still young and beautiful, Caeilte is old and withered. When Saint Patrick enquires, he is told: "She is of the Tuatha De Danaan who are unfading, and I am of the sons of Mil, who are perishable and fade away".

 

Another belief regarding the Sidhe is that they were the descendants of the old agricultural 'Gods of the Earth'. The most important of these deities was known as Crom Cruaith, 'the Crooked One of the Hill'. These denizens controlled the ripening of the crops and the milk yield from cattle, and thus it was considered customary to offer them sacrifices on a regular basis.

 

In the Book of Leinster it is recorded, that after the people loyal to the Tuatha de Danaan were defeated, some of their deities took their revenge on the Sons of Mil by destroying their crops and turning the milk - something for which the Sidhe are believed to be notorious for even to this day. The Gaels were thus forced to make a treaty with them. This is why, even to this day, the rural people of Ireland still offer gifts of milk and butter to those they call 'the Good Folk'. In this way they still honour that treaty.

 

It is also said that the Sidhe have distinctive tribes, ruled by Elven Kings and Queens. They are often referred to as 'the Gentry', on account of their noble bearing and fine speech. They even live in their own palaces, in which they dance and have great feasts. They are also involved in the occasional battle with neighbouring tribes. To this day, there are a number of well-known Sidhe nobles, such as 'Geancanath', the Spirit of Ulster, and 'Clurecaun' of Munster.

 

Some of them could be seen walking around after sunset. An example of these is the 'Sluagh Sidhe', the host who travel through the air, and sometimes take a mortal with them on their journey. There are also the Guardian Sidhe of most of the lakes of Ireland and Scotland. These distinctions between the Sidhe coincide with many of the ancient writings in which it is claimed that seers divided them into Spirits of the Wood, Water and Air … each a guardian of the various natural elements.

 

Lough Gur, in the County of Limerick, is considered to be a very magical place. There have been many accounts of meetings with many of the Sidhe Kings and Queens. The Lake itself is surrounded by a ring of low-lying hills. It is said, that once every seven years, it appears as dry land. This is believed to be an entrance to 'the Land of Youth'. Its guardian is called Toice Bahrean, 'the Lazy One, because she neglected to maintain her watch over the well, and so the lake sprang up. Later she was given the name 'Beann Fhoinn', 'the White Lady'. The legend states, that once every seven years, she captures a mortal, and the body is later found lying on the shore, the victim of another drowning.

 

So what really happened, and how does this fit into the bigger picture? The truth is, no-one really knows. But there are a few theories.

 

This is one of them: As has been said, consensus is that the Sylvan arrived on Earth about twenty thousand years before Christ. By that time, they were already more advanced than their human neighbours. It is clear that they settled at least throughout the continent of Europe, and the islands of the modern day United Kingdom including Ireland.

 

In the beginning, they were determined to live at peace with the other humanoid species around them. They were even prepared to help those in dire need. As an illustration of this point: According to Icelandic legend, during the reign of King Eirik II of Norway, in the year 1283, a youth by the name of Bura was sent on an errand 'for King and Country'. The quest was to find a plant that could cure the Queen of a fatal illness. Before long, Bura meets and falls in love with the daughter of King Dofri, Ruler of the Alfur (a later derivative of Alfar). The Princess offers to help the young man to obtain the Athelas plant.

 

Before the quest is complete, Bura finds out that Princess Friôur is expecting his child. An agreement is reached, and Bura returns to Norway to deliver the precious herb to his Queen. Twelve years later, as per the arrangement, his son Jokyll comes to Norway to live with his father.

 

As has been said before, the Sylvan sought to maintain good relations with the humans. However, this became more and more difficult, as the human race began to occupy more of the forests that the Sylvan called home. But these demands were not only for the building of homes and fuel for their fires. Humanity had begun to build massive fleets with which to wage war against their own kind, ships that needed large quantities of wood to build. Soon the demand for more wood put the Sylvan at odds with the humans, who claimed that they had the right to cultivate what their Gods had given them.

 

The Sylvan tried to resolve this by withdrawing ever deeper into the forests. This appeared to work to a large extent until the dawn, of what have been referred to in human history, as the Dark Ages, or Burning Times.

 

In the interim, a great number of Sylvan had reached the point of Ascension. These were revered by many, and even worshipped as Gods, and thus became the Tuatha de Danaan. But it would be misguided to believe that all of the Sylvan that resided on the Earth would have reached that level of consciousness. And thus many of them remained behind. It is commonly known that these too possessed powers and abilities beyond that of the human race, but this is merely because they had advanced in areas that even became taboo during the reign of the Roman Catholic Church.

 

At that time, any form of contact or dealings with the elves was punishable by being burnt at the stake, or worse. For instance, in the Scottish County of Fife, two women were arrested for the same trespass. Their crime was that both of them claimed to have learned their skills at healing from the elves. Their names were Dolores Baines and Betsy McCullum. Both of them were brought before a particularly cruel and sadistic Inquisitor by the name of Lawrence of Lindores.

 

For various reasons, any form of herbalism was considered to be witchcraft and a work of the Devil. These alone would have spelt certain death for the two healers. But instead of charging them with these crimes, Lawrence of Lindores tried to force them to deny that they had any dealings with the elves, and when he could not force such a rescinding out of them, even though he tortured them mercilessly, he eventually ordered that they be burnt at the stake.

 

 

It seems that the Catholic Church were afraid of any form of evidence that the elves even existed, let alone that they were anything else other than servants of darkness. So great was this fear, that the clergy commissioned hunters to go out and either kill or capture the Sylvan, for which they would be paid handsomely. And thus began the attempt at ridding the Earth of these 'unclean creatures'.

 

The main reason for this was because their mere existence called to question one of the core beliefs of the Christian Church. In the book of Genesis, where the story of Creation is spelt out, the Christian God, Yahweh, is said to have created man in his own '… image and likeness …'. This would mean that mankind alone was given this title, and thus there is simply no room for the possibility that Creation could have taken place anywhere else in the Cosmos. One must remember that, in the days of Catholic Rule, the Earth was considered to be the centre of the Universe, and that all the heavenly bodies revolved around it. Mankind was said to be the pinnacle of all created beings, and thus had the right to rule over all that his God had made.

 

Sadly, this already exclusive belief was further distorted until it was believed that Christians alone were worthy of this title, or should that be Catholics alone? It was this misguided sense of sovereign right that was the fuel for so many wars, including the Crusades. Suffice it to say that the concept of other life-forms anywhere else in Creation that might rival humanity's privileged position was anathema, not to mention heresy of the worst kind.

 

The 'Fey-Hunts', together with the threat of having their natural habitat totally destroyed in the fires and pollution of industry, forced the Sylvan to look elsewhere for a safe place to live. Not to mention the damage to the forests brought about by the ever-increasing demand for wood, as well as land upon which to build farms, in order to feed the burgeoning human population.

 

And so, many of them prayed that the Ancients would once again open a door through which they could escape the carnage. Some stayed behind, however. These were divided into two camps. The first, known in Britain, and especially Ireland, as the Seelie Court, believed that mankind too would one day come to their senses, and that reconciliation was possible between the two races. The second group, who were called the Unseelie Court had nothing but anger and disdain for the human race. They longed for the day that their own kind would be strong enough to rise up, and that vengeance would be meted out upon the race they considered to be their mortal enemy.

 

Not all who remained held to these extreme views. There were those who elected to stay for many other reasons. Many of them decided that the only way to assure that their blood-lines would remain intact would be to blend in with human society. So much so, that most of them found human partners. Thus, as was the case with the Myedain, a number of half-elf children were born on Earth. The three communities in which these are most common include: The country of Ireland, where many still hold to the old ways; the Gypsies of Europe; and the area in France known as Breton, otherwise called Brittany.

 

The Gypsies have always been on the fringe of society, with no permanent place of residence. They are not part of any nation, and are considered by many to be a nationality of their own. Thus among them was the perfect place for the elves to mingle and survive, undetected. As the name suggests, Breton has very strong ties with the English, and more especially, the ancient Celts. Apart from possibly the Gaels, the Sons of Mil mentioned earlier, these people also kept a close relationship with the Sidhe. This was only so up until the advent of Christianity on the British Isles. The apparent abandoning of the old ways is believed to be the main reasons why the Britons broke away from the Celts, and many of them escaped to Breton.

 

 

 

Elven heritage does leave its markers, however. These are but a few known traits that might indicate that a person has elven blood running through his or her veins. They deal mainly with the combination of hair and eye colour, such as auburn or red hair with green eyes, and the extremely rare black hair and blue eyes, more specifically the pale or ice blue variety. It must be understood at this point that these are not proof that a person is part elven, they are merely possible indicators. There are other characteristics that may be included, such as facial features, or even a certain physical build. Others are of a less tangible or visible nature.

 

It also appears that those whose forefathers might be of elvish origin carry some of their memories with them. Often these individuals know instinctively that they are different. Another possibility is that others seem to be aware that the person is not the same as they are. Often this gives rise to teasing and the person even being ostracised for no apparent reason.

 

One of the possible reasons why some of the elves mentioned in this book did not wish to leave Earth, was that they had become involved with their own kind, who were resident there perhaps thousands of years before the relative newcomers arrived. An example of these could be the small community that had called the Liang Bua Caves on the island of Flores, in Indonesia, their home. There is evidence that these diminutive folk might have lived there until 12000 years ago.

 

It was the discovery of their remains, having been preserved in the lava of a volcano that erupted, probably destroying the community, that brought to question the very existence of their kind on Earth. Not only that, but it also caused scientists to revise their opinion of the Icelandic claims that they still do exist. As one expert stated after the Liang Bua incident: “Since there was no such catastrophe in Iceland (as the volcanic eruption in Indonesia), it is a reasonable hypothesis that this species of humanoids might have existed even up until the age of the Vikings. Certainly these indigenous people would have had good reason to seek refuge underground to hide from their fierce invaders.”

 

The above statement refers to the persistence, in some of the Scandinavian countries, of the claim that those they call the 'Alfur' still inhabit certain remote places. An example of this is the legendary Alfarkirkjan in the Saedesdalur Valley in Iceland, where sightings of elves are said to still be common.

 

The evolution of Earth's own elves, alas, remains a mystery. The reason for this is, that even in an age of great discovery and enquiring minds, most of humanity would rather console themselves in the belief that these 'close relatives of Homo sapiens' exist only in ancient folklore, and in the imaginations of their children.

 

There is, however, a theory that the indigenous elves evolved as a separate race, distinguishable by their relatively diminutive size, as a natural result of them existing in an environment where resources or habitat would mean that a larger stature would have been a disadvantage. An example of this has already been mentioned, i.e. The Flores site. In such an environment, because of various reasons, a smaller being would more easily survive than a larger. For instance, in a jungle or thick forest, the need to move quickly through the dense under-brush would be better facilitated by a smaller body. This is perhaps why the pygmies exist in rainforests of Central Africa. In certain areas of Iceland, food and other resources are somewhat limited. Therefore, in order to survive the harsh climate, those that perhaps evolved there are more likely to be smaller, so that they require less food in order to survive. Again, a well-known example of this would possibly be the San, who lived in the arid areas of Southern Africa.

 

 

 

Many of the Sylvan, and possibly of the indigenous elven population who elected to leave with them, were granted their wish, and joined the others who brought about the Third Founding. In fact, there is somewhat of an overlap between certain aspects of the historical accounts given in this chapter, and those of the Third Founding. The reason for this, is that it took many centuries for the Sylvan that wanted to leave to actually depart.

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Tristan Biggs. All rights reserved.

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