Álfar (ON)/Ylfe (AS) The Ylfe are the elves of Northern European mythology. Generally divided into different races, the term elf usually refers to the Ljosalfar (ON), the "Light Elves", beings of great beauty that often associate with the gods. They are said to be quite powerful and have been known to give aid to men and gods alike. They live in Alfheimr which was given to the god Fr&acuutea (Freyr) as a gift for his first tooth and it could be the god is seen as their ruler. They had close associations with the gods and seem to be creatures of light and good.
The other variety of elves are the Dokkalfar (ON) and the Svartálfar (ON). The Dokkalfar or the "Dark Elves" are dark beings and many link them to the Niflungar of the Sigurd lays and many hold they dwell in Niflheimr, although this is also said of the Svartalfar by many today. Others feel the Dokkalfar may be the souls of dead men dwelling in mounds. It is difficult to say as even the ancient lore seems confused on the point. There may be no confusion at all however, as it could be that the dark elves dwelling in Niflheimr are nothing more than dead souls. The Svartalfar on the other hand may not be elves at all, but dwarves. They are said to dwell in Svartalfarheimr and to be ruled by Dvalin, who gave them the runes. One should be wary of calling on any of these creatures' aid as they may be tempermental or seeking their own aims. They are also thought to cause illness as many old terms for disease like elf-shot show. Elf shot was essentially dart shot into a person by the elves to cause illness, presumablly for some affront the human had made to the elves.
Cofgodas (AS) A group of spirits friendly to humans that help around one's house. Generally they are seen by those with second sight as small humans. Sometimes they are mischievous, but rarely dangerous. They generally dislike lazy humans as they themselves are hard workers. Some cofgods do become nuisances hiding things, making noise, and knocking things over, but generally a simple spell will rid the house of such pesky types.
Disir (ON)/Idesa (AS) The idesa or as they are called in Old Norse the disir are ancestral women of great power that often help the families they belong to. Many are of nearly goddess level although even a few living mortal women were counted amongst their number in ancient times. They were afforded worship in ancient times and in the Ynglinga Saga a feast held in their honor is described. The disir often appear to members of their families to help or often punish and are said to appear in dreams. They should not be confused with the wælcyrgen (valkyrkur) who are handmaidens of Wóden (Odin). The idesa of one's family may be called upon in some spell workings esp. those dealing with family matters. They are esp. helpful with childbirth and also attend deaths.
Dvergr (ON)/Dweorgh (AS) The dwarves may be one and the same as the black elves of Norse myth. They appear throughout Northern European folklore as small stocky humans with thick beards and an ugly appearance. Everywhere they are associated with subterranean realms, often with mining and the working of precious metals. The dwarves of Norse myth were not at all kind creatures, two of them being responsible for the death of Kvasir. Other places they appeared more benevolent and were always considered the greatest of smiths, crafting some of the gods jewelry and weapons. It is said Fréo (Freya) slept with four dwarves for her necklace, the Brósingmene and that they made such things as Thunor (Thor)'s hammer. Apparently, like the elves the dwarves were also seen as causing illnesses as two Anglo-Saxon charms appear in the Lacnunga to rid one of dwarves.
Huldrufolk (Norwegian) A group of woodland spirits that have the fronts of men, but the hollowed out backs of trees. They are basically one and the same as the wood wives of Germany. In Germany they are often linked to the goddess Holda. A special variety the Elle of Denmark are said to guard the Elder Tree. Generally all these beings seem to be the same type. They appear as beautiful children from the front but have a tree trunk for the back. They generally shy away from Mankind.
Jöttin (ON)/Eoten (AS) The ettins are a type of powerful being on par with the gods and elves. Usually they are thought of as giants, though not all of them are so large; they can be human sized. Many ettins are friendly to the gods such as the sea ettin Ægir who regularly had the gods as his guest and on a par with them. Others seem to oppose the gods at times. Generally they are wise and quite powerful. Mimer, counted as the wisest being of all, numbers among them as does the Norse god Njörd's wife Skaði. Still it is unwise to use them in spell working.
Landsvættir(ON)/ * Landwihta (AS) The Landsvættir are land spirits, the guardian spirits of the woods, forests, and streams. Usually friendly they prefer not to be disturbed by modern man. They do befriend humans though and have been known to give aid to growing crops and in other such agricultural pursuits. The Land Wights dislike blood and violence in general. They do appear in a variety of forms and this may be due to shape shifting abilities. They seem strongest in the untamed wilds and this may be because they shy away from civilized areas.
Mare (AS) The "nightmare," A mare is a type of wight responsible for causing men to have nightmares. Mares are the most powerful of demons and are to be avoided at all costs. Said to ride humans to death and cause night terrors, the mare has no redeeming qualities. They are generally viewed as hideous creatures with rough features.
Nykr (ON)/Nicor ( AS) A Nixie is a water spirit usually associated with rivers and believed responsible for drownings and floods. The nixies are generally thought of evil creatures preying on human flesh. Like the mare they should be avoided. Many areas of Europe once felt these powerful water demons demanded a sacrifice each year, least they flood the fields or drown someone.
Púki(ON)/Púca (AS) A small demon similar to a goblin with the habits of a poltergeist. This concept, though somewhat diluted, survived into the Middle Ages to become the "Puck" familiar to us from Shakespeare and other English writers. In parts of England, they sometimes left out bowls of curds and cream for the puck. In most ancient times however they were on par with the mare and thought quite evil. It could be that Loki was in truth a púca. The earlier views of the puck as an evil being are most likely the most accurate and fall in accord with Loki's character perfectly. In Christain Anglo-Saxon texts the Devil is often refered to as the Puck, and this could be a memory of a being in Heathen beliefs on par with or perhaps even Loki himself. The other obvious choice would be Surtr, but then this great fire demon has little in common with the Puck's abilities.
Rísi (ON)/hrisi (AS) A word for a type of giant for described as fair to look upon and not to be much greater than human stature. They are said to be of low intelligence though and to like throwing boulders at each other. Generally, however they seem helpful to Mankind, but due to this low intelligence that usefulness isn't much good.
Þurs (ON)/Þyrs(AS) The thurses are a type of giant not to be confused with the ettins. They often aren't very intelligent (though there are exceptions like Surtr), tend to be ugly, and are usually associated with some elemental or natural force (fire, ice, frost, etc.). Generally they seem to be in opposition to the gods and to Þunor (Thor) in particular.
Unholda (AS) A group of evil wights whose names are paralleled by one in High German. The Unholden seem to be a group of evil wights in opposition to the goddess Holda. They may be evil dead or a variety of other wights, the folklore is unclear. At any rate the beings are quite evil and should be avoided.
Valkyrja (ON)/Wælcyrgie (AS) The "Choosers of the slain." The Valkries are Wóden (Odin)'s hand maidens said to protect his heroes through life and to choose amongst the dead who goes to Valhalla. They serve as purveyors of wisdom, protection, and at death to help the fallen hero make the difficult journey to Valhalla. The Valkyries are often associated with the Norns and this may be due to their role at death. In myth they have been seen as both very fierce ugly hags relishing in blood shed and as beautiful young women living to serve the hero to which they are assigned. Both aspects are most likely true. The former view seems to go back to an earlier time when they were seen, like their god, as beings of rage and wind, the fury of battle. However, this does not stop them from taking on other aspects of Wóden which are much gentler. Wóden was also seen as a agricultural god in Germany, known for the giving of gifts and even a great degree of kindness. His advice in the Há;vamál reveal the god to be much more concerned with common sense than necessarily uncontrolled rage. It could be that the Valkyries who also imbued wisdom carried these kinder qualiites as well, and that the separate views of their personalities are only a reflection of a more complex figure.
The Wild Hunt Legends of the Wild Hunt are found throughout Europe and in Germanic countries the leader of the Hunt is usually held to be Wóden. The Hunt is seen as being souls of the dead riding the winds of winter storms often on horse back with their hunting dogs in pursuit of whatever gets in their path. Legend holds that if one sees the Hunt they must join it or else go mad. The only defense against this being to ask the Hunt master for a sprig of parsley. In Germany there is a second version of the Hunt lead by the goddess Holda which consists of the souls of dead infants.