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The Great Sacred Monuments of Stenness


The quietly amusing Mr Thomas gives his insight on the stones' folklore:
In vol. iii. of Arch. Scot. there is a rude woodcut from a drawing, and extracts from a description of the stones of Stenness, communicated by the Rev. Dr. Henry, in 1784. In the drawing we have an amatory couple exchanging vows at the shrine of Odin, but unfortunately the Odin stone is drawn standing upon the east instead of the west side of the Stenness Ring.

There are eight standing and two fallen stones in the Stenness Ring, which forms an exact semi-circle, and the cromlech is removed from the north side to what is intended to be the centre. Upon the cromlech is a kneeling damsel supplicating for the power to do all that is wanted from her by her future lord, while he is standing by, and seems to be rather intoxicated, but whether from love or wine is not to be determined from the drawing.

I quote the following account, which I believe to be extremely exaggerated.
"There was a custom among the lower class of people in this country, which has entirely subsided within these twenty or thirty years, when a party had agreed to marry, it was usual to repair to the Temple of the Moon, where the woman, in presence of the man, fell down on her knees and prayed the god Woden (for such was the name of the god whom they addressed on this occasion) that he would enable her to perform all the promises and obligations she had made and was to make to the young man present; after which they both went to the Temple of the Sun, where the man prayed in like manner before the woman. Then they repaired from this to the stone north-east of the semi-circular range; and, the man being on the one side and the woman on the other, they took hold of each other's right hand through the hole in it, and there swore to be constant and faithful to each other. This ceremony was held so very sacred in those times, that the person who dared to break the engagement made here was counted infamous, and excluded from society." - p. 119.

In the description of the before-mentioned drawing, the Ring of Stenness is called "the semi-circular hof or temple of standing stones, dedicated to the moon, where the rights of Odin were also celebrated:" but my witty friend, Mr. Clouston, is of opinion that it was only the lunatics who worshipped here.

The Ring of Brogar is called "the Temple of the Sun:" unfortunately, the ring of Bukan, which was of course the Temple of the Stars, seems to have escaped notice, or we might have learned of some more ante-nuptial ceremonies performed therein.
Cheeky but no doubt true.

From 'Account of some of the Celtic Antiquities of Orkney, including the Stones of Stenness, Tumuli, Picts-houses, &c., with Plans' by F W L Thomas.

Chapter 13 in: Archaeologia, Or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity By the Society of Antiquaries of London (1851).

This can be read online courtesy of Google Books.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th January 2007ce
Edited 27th January 2007ce

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