Needle-felted Tomten Family

The Relationship Between Elves & Ancestors

We celebrate Ancestors at Samhain because at this threshold time, the veil between the worlds is thinner, and it’s easier to pass between this world and the Otherworld. It’s also why in some traditions, people also honor the Elves now. 

In many European pre-christian cultures, the Elves were closely related to Ancestors. For example, in Scandinavian cosmology, Nisse or Tomtens were believed to be the spirit of the person who first built the homestead, who had become a guardian of the land. The Celts have the Sidhe, who live in dirt & burial mounds. It makes sense because the Earth, the actual soil, houses the remains of our Ancestors.

In Sardinia, we have the Janas, or “fairies,” who play the same role. They live in the land, and certain rock formations with natural holes are said to be their homes, and people still leave them offerings today.

Learn more about ancient Sardinian Day of the Dead celebrations that are still practiced today here.

Introducing Children to the Ancestors

I find this place where the worlds meet, in the embodiment of an elf-like creature, is a great place to begin introducing children to the concepts of Ancestor veneration and honoring the Wights (land spirits), and just how closely connected everything is.

An excellent project and ritual to do with kids is craft your own house elf. You could sculpt one using clay or needle felting. Then teach them about leaving offerings.

Learn more about Ancestral Veneration for Children & Listen to the Old Ways for Modern Days Podcast episode with the same name here.