Mimir’s Well is a column written for The Orcadian by members of the team at the Centre for Nordic Studies. Mimir is a giant from Old Norse mythology, renowned for his wisdom. The source of Mimir’s wisdom was the water of a well by the root of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, known as Mimir’s Well. The god Odin wanted a share in Mimir’s wisdom too, which he got, but he had to leave one of his eyes to Mimir as a pledge. This is how Odin became the wisest of the gods.
The column Mimir’s Well will appear now and again, depending on what inspires us to write. Since we are a multidisciplinary team, the topics of the column will span widely, from history and archaeology via folklore and ethnology to literature and language. Hopefully it will inspire you, too
This Mimir’s Well is written by Fleur Ward, who recently gained an MLitt degree in Orkney and Shetland Studies with the Centre for Nordic Studies, UHI. For her dissertation project, Fleur wrote about the presentation of Skara Brae in its guide books, from 1933 to today.
For the Science Festival One o’clock Toast this year, I was kindly invited to give a toast to the writer Eric Linklater. I was of course delighted to do so, as an Eric Linklater fan who has worked closely with some of his work over the past couple of years.
Our latest family outings have been in search of the elusive “Molucca Bean”, a drift seed which falls from vines in the West Indies and is carried by the Gulf Stream to our shores. The journey takes them at least 15 months. The sea bean is more sought after and more elusive even than the Groatie Buckie.
We are so lucky to have so many energetic and enthusiastic people here in Orkney, such as for example Tom Muir and the others in The Orcadian Story Trust who have given us yet another successful and very enjoyable Storytelling Festival. Listening to those stories, it made me think about how stories always change and how one person’s version is always different from another’s. Stories are alive! I amused myself by thinking of how motifs from stories transform through the ages, as they are used over and over again.
Over the summer months, my colleagues and I have been working on a project called the Orkney and Shetland Community Digital Heritage project. The idea of the project was to get people in Orkney and Shetland involved in collecting memories and stories using digital technology. We are really happy that so many people got involved over these short months. It would have been great if the project were longer, but we are always open to receiving more material even now that the project has officially come to an end.
Orkney has many exciting runic inscriptions. So exciting, in fact, that 29 delegates came all the way from Sweden, Gotland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Britain, USA and Australia to study and discuss them. This was all part of the “Orkney Rune Rede: The 9th Full-Day Runic Colloquium” – a conference series usually run by Uppsala university in Sweden, but now on a special outing to Orkney. I will give you the gist of what happened at the conference.
The solar eclipse on the equinox day 20th March was most fearfully exciting, wasn’t it! My eyes pinged open early in the morning, my tummy feeling all bubbly like 7-up. Having braced myself for solid cloud – or even fog, as on the 31st May 2003 when there was an eclipse at sunrise and Orkney was so weighed down in soup-thick fog that not even my step-father-in-law’s promise of a trip in the flying club plane could save the day – I was thrilled to see that this time, the sun was shining and light cloud was blowing happily across the sky.
I’ve been working backstage for Les Miserables in the Orkney Theatre, which means that each night I got to hear the beautiful songs, including Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream”, so powerfully rendered by Kim Hamilton. This led me to remember another theatre production I was involved in, some fifteen years ago, over in Norway. It was based on a Norwegian medieval ballad known as “Draumkvedet” – the Dream Ballad. As it is a momentous dream vision, it was deemed suitable for a production to celebrate the Millennium. A large number of singers, musicians and actors, me among them, performed a dramatic version of the ballad in the majestic Nidaros Cathedral. It also led me to think about what it means to dream.
When does Christmas begin and end? Opinions are divided.
I shot the sheriff, but didn’t kill the deputy… Exploring the intricacies of violence in the Viking world.
The result was 99% yes, but that was in another time, another place, and another independence referendum. This referendum took place a hundred and nine years ago, in Norway, in 1905, where 368 208 voters chose “yes” and only 184 chose “no”.
By Kim Burns, MLitt. Around the Orkney Peat Fires, by William MacKintosh was first published in 1890 and contains over 80 short pressgang stories from all over Orkney. The tales reveal day-to-day life, location, chores, familiar surnames. Orkney is unusual in the quantity of preserved press gang tales, demonstrating their lasting value to the local population.
'Popular, but controversial' art from Norway's Håkon Gullvåg bound for St Magnus.
If you arrive in Orkney for the first time by plane, one of the first things you will see is runes. Both within the Kirkwall airport and above the main entrance, there are runic letters to be seen. Travelling through Orkney, using the Kirkwall bus station, looking in shop windows, buying souveniers and local products, visiting historic and prehistoric sites and attractions – all of these activities bring visitors in contact with runes.
Friday the 4th of October was a very exciting day for me: Radio Orkney revealed on their Facebook page that a new runic inscription had been found in Orphir!
The Orkney International Science Festival is always an exciting time of year and since I know next to nothing about physics I take great delight in having everyday phenomena explained to me, such as why the tea always seems to dribble down the spout!
First, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone who has been involved in the celebrations of John Rae, be it the theatre production Long Strides or any of the other numerous events on the John Rae anniversary celebration programme!
It is seven hundred and fifty years since King Hakon IV died in Kirkwall.