Elf Arrows

Elf arrows are arrowhead-shaped flints from the Stone Age found in many parts of the British Isles, Europe and northern Africa, which witches supposedly used as weapons against animals and people. Elf-arrow superstitions predominate in Ireland, Scotland and parts of England, where fairy lore is strong (see fairies). According to lore, many witches learn their craft from fairies and elves.

Elf arrows are said to be fatal to cattle, a common target of witches. Stricken cattle can be saved by touching them with the arrow, then dipping the arrow into water and giving the water to the cattle to drink. The term elf- shot is still applied to sick animals.

A person shot with an elf arrow supposedly comes down with mysterious and fatal supernatural illnesses. The use of elf arrows was among the accusations of witchcraft brought in 1560 against a Scottish woman, Catherine Ross, Lady Fowllis, and her son-in-law, Hector Munro. The two were part of a group of witches who conspired to kill Ross’ husband and Marjory Campbell, Lady Balnagowan, so that Ross and Lord Balnagowan could marry. The witches were charged with “the making of two clay pictures, one for the destruction of the young Lady Balnagowan, and getting them enchanted, and shooting of elf- arrowheads at the said persons.” Apparently the witches’ plot was uncovered before the victims were killed.

See Isobel Gowdie


Maple, Eric. The Dark World of Witches. New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1962.


The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.