Prehistoric Orkney

 Orkney Chambered Cairns Orkney Henges Orkney Neolithic Farmsteads Odin Stone Orkney Stone Circles

Prehistoric Orkney is in Prehistoric Scotland.

Books, Prehistory, Prehistoric British Isles, Prehistoric Scotland, Prehistoric Orkney, Orkney Standing Stones

Europe, British Isles, Scotland, Orkney Islands, Orkney, Ness of Brodgar, Odin Stone [Map]

Odin Stone is also in Orkney Standing Stones.

In Dec 1814 Captain W. Mackay destroyed the Odin Stone [Map]. He used the stone fragments to construct a byre.

Archaeologia Volume 34 1851 XIII Orkney Chapter II. 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 1/84. In the drawing we have an amatory couple exchanging vows at the shrine of Odin, but unfortunately the Odin stone [Map] 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.

Archaeologia Volume 34 1851 XIII Orkney Chapter II. The site of the Odin Stone [Map]b was pointed out to me by a man who had looked through it in his youth; it stood about one hundred and fifty yards to the northward of the Ring of Stenness, but it does not ppear to have had any relation to that structure, though it is probable that it was erected at the same era. All that can now be known of it must be learnt from Barry's or the Marchioness of Stafford's drawings, for the unfortunate tenant of Barnhouse cleared it away. The stone, which was of much the same shape as those still left, was remarkable from being pierced through by a hole at about five feet from the ground; the hole was not central but nearer to one side. Many traditions were connected with this stone, though with its name I believe them to have been imposed at a late period; for instance, it was said that a child passed through the hole when young would never shake with palsy in old age. Up to the time of its destruction, it was customary to leave some offering on visiting the stone, such as a piece of bread, or cheese, or a rag, or even a stone; but a still more romantic character was associated with this pillar, for it was considered that a promise made while the plighting parties grasped their hands through the hole was peculiarly sacred, and this rude column has no doubt often been a mute witness to "the soft music of a lover's vow."

Note b. "At a little distance from the temple is a solitary stone about eight feet high, with a perforation through which contracting parties joined hands when they entered into any solemn engagement, which Odin was invoked to testify." (Arch. Scot. vol. iii. p. 107.) This agrees with the description of Mr Leisk; but Barry's plate would lead us to imagine that the height was at least double that given above.

Archaeologia Volume 34 1851 XIII Orkney Chapter II. The ruthless plough has been driven by barbarous men over this enduring record of the thoughts and labours of an exterminated people, and even within this century some of the pillars have been destroyed to clear the ground. The unlucky tenant of the adjoining farm has exercised his "little brief authority," and a most unenviable immortality has attached to him in consequence," for, "says Mr. Peterkin, "one (of the standing stones [Map]) has lately been thrown down; three were in the month of December, 1814, torn from the spot on which they had stood for ages, and were shivered to pieces." As Mr. Peterkin speaks rather apologetically for the man, he is not to be suspected of exaggeration; yet this statement does not correspond with the plates in Barry's History, nor the drawings of the late Marchioness of Stafford. At this moment there are two stones erect, and one prostrate, but perfect; and in the drawings referred to there are but four erect stones; hence the tenant of Barnhouse could have broken up but one of these stones (exclusive of the Odin Stone [Map]), and one he prostrated.