Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Orkney Sagas

Life on the extremes – Orkney Stories and magical tones, light and colours.
Orkney is supposed to feed the soul and the subtle magical lights and tones here certainly lift hearts and minds. From the softest blues and gentlest greens, there is a pure quality to the light. There are sea bird sanctuaries, many ancient remains, and the islands sing with their Nordic sagas.

Orkney turns upon poles of light and has 70 islands, 20 of them inhabited.
Westray, Eday, Ronaldsay, Sandy, Stronsay, Hoy,...
“A summer midnight, the north is red with the twin lamps of dawn and sunset.” George Mackay Brown (the Holy Places- 1976)

The boat trip over on the Northlink ferry was EPIC!, with 60 mile an hour gusts and the boat lurching. Quite a ride!
We arrived at Stromness, a characterful stone built town, where we visited the museum and read of their history and stories - of the artic explorer John Rae and his statue here; the Earls of Orkney, the Norwegian settlements; Indian moccasins, a necklace made of human teeth collected by traveller John Rankin, Orkney was built on travellers of course.
 “From its central location between England and the Baltic, it became the great port of call for all the ships bound for the western ocean.“ Dairy Isaac Bennes 1789

- The first day we travelled over the north coast, where the strong gusts made powerful waves that crashed on the headlines. We visited the former 15th century home of Robert Stewart, half brother of Mary Queen of Scots, near the Brough of Birsay. We were surprised, Orkney is richly cultivated and cattle are its biggest export. 

On Wednesday we travelled south across the wild Churchill barriers and stopped to photo the high waves. Strangely too the Scapa flow was the base of the British navy during the great wars.
At the very moving Italian chapel we read of the Italians held as prisoners of war at Camp 60 in 1942, who built the barriers. They built the tiny chapel to offer hope while they suffered great hardships, and so ‘there was still a part of them that was free.’ A place of wonder and of spiritual peace built amid great hardships. Thank you.'

The Italian chapel
- At Robertson’s café at St Margaret’s Hope, we spoke to a very blonde young lady – Scandinavians were the ‘gift never given back’ she told us. Margaret was the granddaughter of the Scottish King Alexander III, who was on her way home to be crowned when she fell ill. Sadly this all led to many years of Wars of Succession. (not Wars of independence or Secession. Scotland is an older nation than England and 'Britain' is a recent invention.)

(Scotland as a nation is older than England - 9th century - by several decades. This matters because after the Maid of Norway died in 1290 leaving no successor to the Scottish throne, it was not "The Wars of Independence" that followed, but aggression by Edward I of England to take over by conquest. At that time Scotland's population was 30% of Britain's and is now 8%, which shows the suppression of Scotland culturally and economically by London) .)

- At Kirkwall the Old library has been refurnished and upstairs in the gallery is displayed the art of Sheila Scott and we notice that many had been sold. She also has impressive tapestries displayed at the Kirkwall airport. The shops here sell beautiful delicate jewellery based on Orkney’s natural landscapes. .(Sheila Fleet, Ortak, Aurora, Hume Sweet Hume.)  


Thursday at Scarra Brae the winds were howling hard and the seas were full of bright froths. This ancient Neolithic villages is 7,000 years old and is a miracle to behold. As the winds continued to blow, we took a guided tour of the impressive standing stones of the Brodgar of Ness – incredible to visit and quite mind blowing. The Orkney standing stones came from the different tribes of the islands – who brought them here perhaps by water. Did they bring them as symbols of working together? The stones sit on open land beside water with extensive panoramas. 
Ring of Brodgar
This ancient place is beside the Ness of Brodgar where they are busy excavating in the summer months, was discovered in 2003. It is believed that this settlement was an ancient temple that peoples travelled from far and wide to visit, and is older than Stonehenge.

"What a beautiful, spiritual place, where many ancient paths travel and stories meet."

Orkney is a rich source of artistry.
The composer Peter Maxwell Davies – ‘The sights and sounds of the islands, the brightness of mackerel shails, the calling of birds, the strumming and pounding of the wind and sea came to resonate in his music. It urges that we dance in step together to create peace and harmony among ourselves and with the natural world of which we are a part .‘

Scarra Brae
Stenness Standing stones
II   The Orkney islands are fiercely independent and proud of their Nordic stories and British mythologies and if you are looking for Scottish tartans, Gaelic or clans here, you'll not find them!

Scottish Mythology :  

The “Received opinion” – in studies by ancient history experts on our islands ignore Scotland with an emphasis on Irish and British mythology. This discovery at Brodgar has shown that civilization did not start southern Mediterranean, as has been the 'Received Opinion', and in fact travelled northwards. Ancient Greek mythology spoke of a ‘a circular temple at Hyperbores” – the Brodgar is well before Stonehenge. Did the megalith culture spread out from Orkney, or the Hebrides, and travel by skin boats 5,000 years ago, to Greece and even to Africa? - claims historian Stuart McHardy.

There are more Cuilleachs in Scotland than Ireland, ancient Scottish goddess of restoring life a system of belief based this dual goddess who has mountains named after her - her name meant ‘veiled one’; Ben Nevis, Lochnagar, Ben Wigins and Ben Cruachan. There is the Maes Howes cairn tomb at south of the standing stones, 
A Celtic speaking and belief system warrior tribal society lived in Scotland until the 18th century which was "rooted in the landscape and is truly indigenous.'

Woodie Guthrie “Some will rob you with six guns/ Some will rob you with a fountain pen.”

“Every nation has one central theme at it  score. In Canada it ‘survival’.” Margaret Atwood. In Scotland it is extremes and travel.

“Scotland’s future history”, Stuart McHardy
“If This is your Land, Where are your Stories” J Edward Chamberlin
“Arts and the Nation”, Alan Riach, Alexander Moffat, John Purser

Small personal café
Photos of stormy seas
Ruins of a castle
Magical stones
Indians moccasins
Necklace of teeth
Ancient remains and tombs

Empires collapse the distance separating the west from other places…In the 18th century we may have needed empires (or the Romans) – but today we have fast travel and fast internet communications –
Do we need huge centralized empires anymore? What we do need is independent nation states in larger trading blocks that co-operate on trade and security. We need a new treaty of union between Scotland and England - the old 1701 treaty is not fit for purpose anymore (if it ever was)