Mythology connected to worked flints

Object Type:


Davidson, T. (1956) Elf-shot Cattle, Antiquity, 30(119), pp. 149–55.

‘This paper outlines the beliefs associated with Elf-shot and the influence these had on the treatment of cattle disease and the pattern of field ploughing. The subject may conveniently be introduced and partially defined by way of two examples. In the late Autumn of 1884 a Buchan farmer was heard to complain ‘I’ve gotten an ill job this mornin’ in the deth o’ a fine stirk by elfshot, an’ the pity is he wasna fasent to a hair tether (a halter made of hair) fan the wapin wad a fa’en short o’m’. When asked whether it might not have been due to quarter-ill, he replied ‘that could na be, my neebor an’ me opent up the beast, an’ there was a hole through his hert’. Some few years before in 1867 a Mr Hew Morrison saw a cow which was said to have been killed by the fairies. When he pointed out to the farmer that her death had been caused by rolling over, and her long horns penetrating the ground had kept her in a position from which she could not rise, he was told that was the common way in which cows fall when struck by the saighead sithe or fairy arrow.

Donald while ploughing a strip of land on the farm of Bailepheutrais, on the Isle of Tiree, was swept up in a fairy convoy and at their bidding dropped an arrow that killed a speckled cow. The arrow was shot with such magical dexterity that the wounds inflicted were very difficult to find. Kirk goes so far as to say that the blows delivered by these weapons inflicted no wound, but the spot struck by them might be discovered with great difficulty for no external blemish was visible.’

Island :

Township :

Current Location :

Museum Number :



Year Collected:

Collector :

Related Objects