Wisdom from the Dark Elves and the Light Elves

ROSEMARY TAYLOR is a shamanic practitioner who specialises in the Northern Tradition of the Eddas and Runes. Here she writes about her experiences with the spirits who were known as the Elves in the Old Norse myths.

In the Old Norse Eddas, we are told about “Other Places in Heaven”: “There are many magnificent places there. One is called Alfheim (Elf World). The people called the Light Elves live there, but the Dark Elves live down below the Earth. They are different from the Light Elves in appearance, and far more so in nature. The Light Elves are more beautiful than the sun, while the Dark Elves are blacker than pitch.”

This 13th century translator of the Eddas, Snorri Sturluson, also called the Dark Elves Dwarfs.

The Dark Elves or Dwarfs

Snorri says the Dark Elves or Dwarfs arose first as maggots living in the remains of the giant Ymir’s body, which was used by the Gods to make the physical realm of Midgard (the Middle World realm on the World Tree of which Earth is a part).

So the Dark Elves or Dwarfs have their origins in the very matter that makes our physical world.

The Gods decided to give the Dwarfs understanding and a likeness to men. So they become more like us; or as humans were created chronologically after the Dwarf, we were actually made like them, or somehow through them.

Once the more human-like Dwarfs have been fashioned then “many man-like figures the dwarfs made, out of earth”. They are unstoppable. Numerous dwarf names are listed. It’s as though a power has been unleashed desiring to create itself over and over again, new versions on the theme of “Dwarf”.

This is the special quality of the Dwarfs: down in their dark, subterranean forges they make so much stuff! They are materialists; gifted smiths hammering out one form after another. Numerous are the magical items they’ve fashioned out of gold for the Gods, which identify the Gods’ own attributes and heighten their power.

So the Dwarfs (Dark Elves) preceded humans. A theory proposed by historian of religions Maria Kvilhaug, which she derived from the etymology of Dwarf names, suggests that the Dwarfs represent the genetic markers that determine typical characteristics that are powerfully pulled into evolutionary existence.

At a fundamental level within us, the Dwarfs are the internal, bio-chemical technologists of form and function. Do we think the heathen seers knew about DNA? Why not? They fathomed the dynamics and effects in visionary symbolism, without waiting for modern science to develop; in fact the Latin word scienta simply means “knowledge”.

I recently dug out some notes from a shamanic journey that I undertook two years before reading Maria Kvilhaug’s article. I wrote then:

“The Dwarfs are part of the bedrock, the matrix. When they sleep they become rock again, they merge with the rock and dream dreams of mineral wisdom.”

 “When we wake, we make,” I am told.

“They materialise their dream, the dreams of their being. They have the power to transform matter, into different forms of matter. This is how they express themselves as themselves. They embody craft skill… matter tells you what it can do, how it can change, what function it can perform… it informs you.”

Kvilhaug also discussed the important Dwarf, Durin, whose name means “Sleeper”. Kvilhaug said Durin symbolises the dormant forces of life that are waiting to be wakened by a word-spell, catalytic language – “many man-like figures the Dwarves made, out of the earth, as Durin recounted”. “Recounted” means more than “attested”. Her translation favours “as the Sleeper spoke it”, meaning the sleeper “spoke it into being”.

I note the sleeping/waking references in my own guidance and that “Matter…informs you” or “in-forms” you. DNA is the catalytic language of matter that in-forms us through its coding.

My notes continued:

“Dwarves reflect our wanting and desire, need and greed. Love of beauty, more especially physical, sensual beauty. They hold to matter as we hold to life in the body. They might remind us how we seek refuge from impermanence in material objects. They seem acquisitive and amoral, but only to us. These impulses reside just beneath the surface of Midgard within the body; and just above the energies of Hel, where matter (we humans) are unavoidably processed into spirit. The Dwarfs occupy a half-way house between life and death, and appear a little sinister because of it.”

“The Dwarfs are sometimes solid and sometimes fluid, like the gold they work with, and like our emotions. Sometimes our emotions are pure and sometimes they are base, sometimes flowing, sometimes stuck; and all deeply felt within the body.”

The Dwarfs embody the emotional level, a vital aspect of our being. In fact Maria Kvilhaug points out that one of the many Dwarf names – “Elf” – should be translated as “soul” which again suggests a close association with the humans of Midgard.

If the “genetic marker” theory holds true, then Dwarfs carry genetic threads from our ancestors into our bodies, facilitating a part of our soul essence and again occupying a strange half-way house between life and death.

The Light Elves

If Dwarfs are the genetic markers that engineer our form, what is “missing” that would complete the human being?

In the Eddas, it is suggested that the Gods carried forward some energy from the Dwarfs in the act of giving life to humans. This is true as divine inspiration has to work through the bio-chemical technology of the Dwarfs.

That leaves the Light Elves with the qualities of “spirit”, intelligence and movement. I also associate them with sight, hearing and speech along with the Dark Elves.

Here is the  guidance I received on the Light Elves in a shamanic journey:

Before entering their realm, I was asked to make a high pitch call. An elfin woman came, fluid and shining. She showed me a flow of energy and at the same time a flash of the Gifu / Gebo rune stave. Perhaps the sound I was making was a “gift”, an offering.”

Gifu or Gebo rune – also sometimes Gyva – means ‘gift’

The Elf entered a large tree. She lit up the sap up and flowed around the tree and lit the tree up. Everything around was lit.

Älvalek, “Elf Play” by August Malmström (1866)

This Light Elf spoke directly to me:

“We work with all organic life…We’re a little like spirit or energy levels. We are light. We can add our light to yours to make you well, or to your crops to make them well. If you displease us or ignore us we might withdraw our light.

Our light can be in plants when you eat them, but do not think of us as plant beings exactly. Where there is animation, we run and course with it. We are not the birthers of spirit, or the removers of souls. We can enhance or detract but we do not destroy and we do not create.”

“We bring light to your minds. We help you make little discoveries in your everyday life, little formulas or ideas that make a difference. We bring our light close to you and give your minds positive infusions. This is what helps to make you well, a change in attitude. Your mind changes, your mind allows life force to flow….The Dwarfs can’t keep things fluid forever. We work along the lines of natural flow: water, sap, blood, energy, we are the glow of life, we keep moving.”

“We expect thanks, we are not idiots – mutual respect or nothing at all. Gratitude will make us all well. Think about what you can do. We don’t have strong feelings, but behaviors that suit us, engagements that work or not, we are not attached. Your thankfulness is your light and it will attract us.” (More Gebo associations: mutuality, giving and receiving, dual flow).

I recently asked for more guidance on the Light Elves and was simply told “photons”. This prompted a lot of googling! My happiest find was a photo of a photon which contains the impression of Gebo’s “x-shape”.

The Gebo/Gifu/Gyva shape in light photons

Photons are light particles or bundles of electromagnetic energy at the quantum level; in fact understanding photons opened up the quantum realm of science.

Einstein concluded that photons possess both the properties of particles, because they collide with other things, like atoms; and the properties of waves (meaning they move).  In fact, photons never stop moving. They don’t naturally decay, but they can be destroyed and they are created.

Photons are key to abundant plant growth (photosynthesis); and therefore food for animals; light regulates the endocrine system and when light is scarce this can lead to depression; light also catalyses other processes in the body, like the production of vitamin D which supports immunity and healthy bones.

So the Light Elves’ link to organic wellbeing is clear.

In conclusion, despite being quite different bedfellows, it seems that the Dwarfs and Elves combine to marvellous effect in humans.


© Quim Abella, Harlequin Circus Mime Poster, available here on Fine Art America

Rosemary Taylor is a shamanic practitioner who offers guidance, healing and workshops based on the Runes, Norse Mythology and Core Shamanism. You can find her on her website: www.sacredhill.co.uk, or email her at rosemary@sacredhill.co.uk.