The Forgotten Fairy Origins of “Eldritch”.

I have been familiar with the word ‘eldritch’ for decades, as a result of seeing it appear in the incomparable works of the horror fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft. Knowing Lovecraft’s fondness for what most people today would consider to be exotic language, or exotic English, I had always assumed that ‘eldritch’ was an archaic form of the word ‘old’ or perhaps ‘elder’, because to my partially-trained eye, the words seemed to be related, and also because this meaning always made sense in the context in which it appeared.

Earlier this evening, however, a conversation with my daughter prompted me to look up the word ‘eldritch’ in my battered copy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary and I was astonished by what I saw. Firstly, I was told that the word was Scottish and that it meant either weird or hideous, not old or elder, so I found it hard to believe that I’d been attributing the wrong meaning to it for so long. What really made me sit up and take notice, however, was the rest of the entry for ‘eldritch’, which reads [16th c,: perhaps f.OE elfrice (unrecorded) ‘fairy realm’ ]

I do not claim to be an expert on the way dictionaries are compiled, so I admit that I do not know how the word elfrice can be shown while at the same time being said to be unrecorded, because such a thing seems to me to be a contradiction in terms. That aside, I have long had far more than a passing interest in the subject of fairies, especially in the Caer Sidhe, so I know from personal experience with my investigations into various words associated with Stonehenge and Silbury Hill that an awareness and study of both eldritch and elfrice will inevitably open some gaping portal for me that I never previously suspected existed.

“I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more.”
H.P.Lovecraft, Dagon.

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2 Responses to The Forgotten Fairy Origins of “Eldritch”.

  1. and maybe Andrew Eldrich of the wonderful Sisters of Mercy…which fits in many ways. I hope you are well Dennis, fond regards, Mick

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    • eternalidol says:

      I was unaware of the fine gentleman you mention, probably because my attention was largely elsewhere during the 1980s, but a friend of mine who’s a fellow Lovecraft devotee recently brought him to my attention. Nonetheless, I’m most grateful to you for mentioning him, Mick, and equally so for your good wishes. You may possibly have seen from a post from last April on this that I was hospitalised for a month and underwent heart surgery last year, which certainly made me sit up and take notice, but I am considerably better now and I look to improve still further, thank you again for asking. In fact tonight, possibly in anticipation of you writing in, I felt in the mood to compose and publish something I used to do in the good old days of Eternal Idol, so if you see it and read it, I hope you enjoy it. Warmest best wishes to you as always from Dennis

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