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Wayfarer
Wednesday, September 7th, 2005, 03:41 AM
The Folklore of the Orkney Islands

Given the mystical, almost dreamlike landscape of the Orkney Islands, with standing stones, ancient ruins, burial mounds and spectacular scenery, all hemmed in by the invisible walls of a raging sea, it is not surprising that the islands have such a rich and varied folklore. A folklore that was able to develop and spread around the winter flames.
But this lore is in danger of disappearing - the children of Orkney are no longer told the tales, so cannot in turn pass them on to future generations. The age old cycle of telling and retelling has been broken, so we must look to other ways to preserve and disseminate the information.
Orkney's most esteemed writer, the late George Mackay Brown, summed the situation up perfectly when he wrote:
"We cannot live fully without the treasury our ancestors have left to us"


The Orcadian Dialect

"The men spoke for the most part in a slow deliberate voice, but some of the women could rattle on at a great rate in the soft sing-song lilt of the islands, which has remained unchanged for a thousand years...It is a soft and musical inflection, slightly melancholy, but companionable, the voice of people who are accustomed to hours of talking in the long winter evenings and do not feel they have to hurry; a splendid voice for telling stories in."
Edwin Muir

Examples
Me fithir biggit yin whin way wir cheust peedie tings.
My father built that when we were children.
Beuy, Ah'm fair blide tae see thee
Boy, I'm very pleased to see you
Hid's geen waar the day
It's gotten worse today.
Yin peedie beuy's been beerin' in me fis ahll morneen.
That little boy has been moaning and complaining all morning.
Shay niver oppend her mooth bit cheust sat there way her snirly peedie fis!
She never spoke and just sat there with a grimaced look on her face
Fire yin wid oan the fire afore hid's oot!
Throw that wood on the fire before it goes out

Kirsty, kirsty kringlick
Gae me nave a tinglick
Whit shall ye for supper hae
Deer, sheer, brett and smeer
Minchmeat sma or nane ava
Kirsty kringlick run awa.
Childrens rhyme said when holding a spider (Kirsty)


Norn

"I am fifty years of age. When I was young, about five or six old men spoke mostly Norse but they were never taught to read or write any of it for a long time before so that their words and what does remain can be imperfect."
George Moar - Birsay - 1795

For almost 1,000 years the language of the Orcadian people was a variant of Old Norse known as "Norrœna" or "Norn".
Originally carried to the islands by Norwegian settlers in the eighth and ninth centuries AD, the language they spoke, Old Norse, gradually developed into the distinctive language we now refer to as Norn.

http://www.orkneyjar.com/

Wayfarer
Wednesday, September 7th, 2005, 03:53 AM
http://www.barthorpe.me.uk/html/ispy.htm

Live webcam of Stromness Harbour

Wayfarer
Wednesday, September 7th, 2005, 04:09 AM
Orkney maps

Gefjon
Tuesday, December 18th, 2007, 10:36 PM
The Orkney Islands lie off the northern tip of Scotland where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet.

Orkney is made up of 70 or so islands, exact agreement as to the total number is difficult as many are little more than skerries - small uninhabited islets. Of these islands, only 16 are inhabited.

Lying on latitude 59 degrees north - which is only 50 miles south of Greenland - Orkney is, at its widest, 30 miles from east to west and 53 miles north to south.

With a total coastline of approximately 570 miles, the islands cover an area of 974 square kilometres (376 square miles), more than half of which is taken up by the Mainland, the group's largest island.

Orkney can be divided into three distinct regions - the North Isles, the South Isles and the Mainland.

Click for more information (http://www.orkneyjar.com/orkney/index.html)

Dagna
Sunday, June 29th, 2008, 05:35 PM
Magic has fled the world... but not completely. It has taken refuge in the few places remaining where it can still thrive.

Orkney is one such place. A place where, in winter, a black cloak of darkness almost constantly covers the islands and the Orcadian people gathered around their fires to pass the long nights with song and story.
Their folklore is a vital part of the vanishing magic.

Given the mystical, almost dreamlike landscape of the Orkney Islands, with standing stones (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Fhistory%2Fmonoliths%2Findex. html), ancient ruins, burial mounds (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Fhistory%2Ftombs%2Findex.html ) and spectacular scenery, all hemmed in by the invisible walls of a raging sea, it is not surprising that the islands have such a rich and varied folklore. A folklore that was able to develop and spread around the winter flames.

But this lore is in danger of disappearing - the children of Orkney are no longer told the tales, so cannot in turn pass them on to future generations. Years of persecution and ridicule, by ministers, schoolteachers and other "worthies" who saw it as their duty to relieve the islanders of their "ridiculous beliefs" took their toll. In The Orcadian newspaper of March 15, 1856, for example, the Birsay correspondent wrote:
"Mr W. lectured on popular superstitions, showing the absurdity of a belief in witchcraft, fairies, ghosts, hobgoblins, and the whole of the superstitious ideas derived from the idolatrous religion of our ancestors.
“We were sorry to see that so few of the class for whose benefit the lectures were delivered were in attendance; and we are afraid that the old wives of the neighbourhood are as superstitious as they were before...''
The folklore and traditions clung on, but gradually the age-old cycle of telling and retelling was broken. So now we must look to other ways to preserve and disseminate the information.
Which neatly explains the purpose of these web pages.
Orkney's most esteemed writer, the late George Mackay Brown, summed the situation up perfectly when he wrote:

"We cannot live fully without the treasury our ancestors have left to us"
...so let us begin....

"The first law of story-telling - every man is bound to leave a story better than he found it."

Orkney's folklore is a tangled web of interconnecting threads, combining elements of Norse, Scottish and Celtic myth.
Although on first glance it seems that the Norse lore is by far the most prevalent influence, this is not necessarily the case...
There is absolutely no doubt that the impact of our Norse predecessors' arrival on the islands was considerable.
Each longship that pulled into Orkney waters brought not only the settlers but also their distinct language, customs, traditions and beliefs.
These people carried with them epic tales of giants, dwarfs, trolls and numerous other magical creatures from their homelands. As the generations passed, with each retelling these creatures were transplanted from the dramatic glaciars, mountains and fjords of Scandinavia into the low, rolling hills of the Orcadian landscape.
But it would be incorrect to say that new Scandinavian lore completely obliterated whatever native Orcadian lore existed.
More likely it merged with the indigenous folklore of the time creating the Orcadian tales and traditions we know today - folklore with a distinct Celtic/Pictish base onto which numerous strong Norse elements became grafted.
As such Orkney's folklore can be easily split into two distinct groups - the tales surrounding the sea and its magical inhabitants (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Fsea.htm) and the tales of the creatures who wandered the land (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Flandlore.htm).

"It was in winter that the islanders gathered round the hearth fire to listen to stories. Harvest was gathered in. The ears that had listened only to necessary farming and fishing words all the year of toil and ripening were ready for more ancient images and rhythms.
A tongue here and there was touched to enchantment by starlight and peat flame."


George Mackay Brown
Foreword to "Winter Tales"

The sea, always a major part of life for Orcadians, was home to numerous supernatural denizens, from the black-clad, dour-faced Finmen (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Ffinfolk%2Findex.h tml), to the handsome, gentle, but generally deceptive selkie folk. (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Fselkiefolk%2Finde x.html)
The land also had its share of magical dwellers.
The hollow hills dotting the Orkney countryside housed the mischievous trows (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Ftrows%2Findex.htm l) and fairies (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Ffairicks%2Findex. html) who rampaged through the still nights creating havoc, stealing away their mortal neighbours and sickening livestock.
Ghosts (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Fghosts%2Findex.ht ml) stalked silent churchyards and ancient ruins, witches (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Fwitchcraft%2Finde x.html) practised their 'black arts' on deserted sea-shores, while in the ancient mounds by the farms, offerings were made to the benevolent dwellers-within (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Fhogboon%2Findex.h tml) to ensure their protection continued unabated.
In spite of its frequent excursion into a twilight world, where nothing is known for certain, our folklore supplies answers as readily as it creates questions.
When the myths and legends of Orkney are gathered together with surviving customs and superstitions, they provide a unique insight into the long story of the Orcadian people - to a memory bank revealing the hopes, fears and experiences of the numberless generations of my ancestors.

http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/index.html (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Findex.html)
http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/folklore2.htm (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkn eyjar.com%2Ffolklore%2Ffolklore2.htm)