DMT elves are one of the most curious phenomena in the world of psychedelics. They’re a common hallucination that people experience when they take N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
Part of what makes the elves so interesting is that thousands of unrelated DMT users have described them in similar ways. The hallucinated elves are often mechanical or futuristic and most people say they’re helpful, positive entities.
Here’s a look at what DMT elves are and how people usually experience them, as well as a possible explanation of why so many different users have described them in similar ways.
What are DMT Elves?
DMT is a powerful psychedelic that can cause a range of visual hallucinations. At lower doses, people often describe seeing geometric images, like kaleidoscopic or fractal patterns. 1
At higher doses, however, people begin to have more complex hallucinations. In a 2020 survey, researchers interviewed more than 2500 DMT users who had seen some kind of entity after taking the psychedelic drug. 2 Fourteen percent of respondents (around 350 people) described encountering an elf.
It’s worth noting that people who took DMT used a number of other descriptions for the entities as well, including:
- Being (60%)
- Guide (43%)
- Spirit (39%)
- Alien (39%)
- Helper (34%)
- Angel (16%)
What Are Other Names for DMT Elves?
DMT elves and related entities go by several names, including:
- Machine elves
- Clockwork elves
- DMT beings
- DMT entities
- DMT spirits
What Do DMT Elves Look Like?
“Elf” is one of the more common specific descriptions of the entities people see, and unconnected users often describe the elves in similar terms. 2
People typically describe the elves as machines or as being made of clockwork. They’re often futuristic and appear to possess advanced technology. Terence McKenna, a notable ethnobotanist and proponent of psychedelic drugs, described them as “self-transforming elf machines.” 3
Rick Strassman, a clinical psychologist and one of the pioneers of modern DMT research, noted that many of his study participants described the elves as containing mechanized gears and wheels in their bodies. 4
What Causes You to See DMT Elves?
According to a 2020 study, about 75% of people who encountered DMT entities (elves or otherwise) believed that the beings were real and that they lived in another plane of existence. 2 The encounters were so compelling that about 60% of people who said they were atheists before taking DMT no longer identified as atheists after their trip was over.
As real as the beings seem, a more likely explanation is that DMT causes powerful hallucinations by altering serotonin expression in the perception centers of your brain, and that your hallucinations take the form of a familiar supernatural concept: an elf, alien, angel, etc.
Can you talk to the DMT elves?
Almost all people who have had entity encounters while on DMT report being able to communicate with the elves or other entities they see.
“Talk,” however, may not be the right word. In a 2020 study, about 85% of participants said they communicated with the entities telepathically, not through speaking. 2
The communication was usually helpful, too—about 65% of participants said the entities delivered a useful message, purpose, mission, insight, or task to them.
Why Are DMT Elves so Common?
Some research has found that people’s DMT hallucinations line up with popular archetypes of religious or fantastical figures, like angels, aliens, gods, elves, dwarves, and demons (demons, fortunately, are quite rare). 4 2
It’s possible that the reason so many people hallucinate elves is simply because they’re a familiar concept of something supernatural in most people’s minds.
Another possibility is confirmation bias. If you hear about DMT elves, you could expect to see them during your trip, which increases the odds that you actually will see them. Perhaps it becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
All that said, nobody knows exactly why so many people see clockwork elves while on DMT, or why descriptions of them are so similar.
DMT Elves Stories
“These self-transforming machine elf creatures were speaking in a colored language which condensed into rotating machines that were like Fabergé eggs but crafted out of luminescent superconducting ceramics and liquid crystal gels. All this stuff was just so weird and so alien and so un-English-able that it was a complete shock — I mean, the literal turning inside out of [my] intellectual universe!”
- Terence McKenna, notable ethnobotanist and supporter of psychedelic use
DMT Elves Things to Know
What are DMT elves?
DMT elves (sometimes called “mechanical elves” or “clockwork elves”) are a common hallucination people have while on DMT. People usually describe them as futuristic and mechanical, and in the majority of cases, people interact with them in a positive way.
What do DMT elves look like?
- Most descriptions of DMT elves are similar.
- They often have cogs or clockwork machines inside them, coupled with elven features.
- In most cases, people report that the elves are friendly and helpful.
- Almost everyone who encounters with an elf or other DMT entity says that they can communicate with the entity.
- The DMT elves often offer advice, guidance, a purpose, or a mission to the people who interact with them.
- About 90% of people who encounter DMT entities say the experience improved their life long-term.
What causes you to see DMT elves?
- About 75% of people who encounter DMT entities (elves or otherwise) believe the entities are real and inhabit another plane of existence.
- However, it’s more likely that the elves are the result of very compelling, realistic hallucinations brought on by DMT.
- DMT activates serotonin pathways that control your sensory perception and higher thinking.
- It’s likely that your brain projects a familiar idea of a supernatural entity when you hallucinate.
- The most common hallucinations are familiar archetypes, including angels, elves, spirits, aliens, gods, and spiritual guides.
Why are DMT elves so common?
There are several possible reasons DMT elves are so common. Maybe people have heard about the elves before and expect to see them, so they do. Another explanation is that DMT activates the part of the brain that houses familiar spiritual or supernatural archetypes, like elves and angels.
DMT elves are one of the stranger phenomena in the world of psychedelics. Whatever the reason, there’s a clear trend in the types of hallucinations people have when they take DMT.
Elves, angels, spirits, gods—they’re all fairly common hallucinations, and it seems that in most cases, interacting with them is a positive thing for people’s long-term mental health.
2. Davis AK, Clifton JM, Weaver EG, Hurwitz ES, Johnson MW, Griffiths RR. Survey of entity encounter experiences occasioned by inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, interpretation, and enduring effects. J Psychopharmacol (Oxford). 2020;34(9):1008-1020. doi:10.1177/0269881120916143