Traditionally, the Orkney Finman had the
appearance of a well-made man, but tall, dark, thin and sinewy with a stern, gloomy
face. He had unparalleled rowing skills, able to cross
from Orkney to Norway, or Iceland, in seven "warts", or strokes, of
accounts relate that the Finmen were often seen rowing in a small boat "that
never showed a sail". This, however, was said to be a mere pretence. Instead, the Finmen used their powerful magic to propel
This magic was also thought to allow the Finman to render
his vessel invisible, or even surround it with a fleet of phantom boats. All regarded
as sure signs of the power of the Finman's sorcery.
relationship between human and the Finmen was tense to say the least. Although
both races seem to have tolerated each other, there was certainly no love lost
Beware the Finman!
Finfolk were extremely territorial and took great exception to humans trespassing,
or fishing, in their waters.
Whenever a mortal fisherman
dared enter the Finfolk's domain, the Finmen would seize the man's line and hang
on until the line broke. This left the distraught fisherman without hook and sinker,
and therefore unable to earn a living until new tackle was acquired.
other occasions, the Finmen would wait until the fisherman had returned home and
had put his boat to anchor. Then, they would slip off the anchor stone, leaving
the vessel floating free to the perils of tide and current.
of all, in the dead of night, the marauding Finmen were known to wreak extreme
vengeance on these seemingly fearless, but hapless, fishermen. Their retribution
for the trespass was to either smash the oars of the fisherman's boat or to hole
the vessel - actions that could, at some later date, cost the impertinent fisherman
Needless to say, to avoid the wrath of the Finmen,
Orkney's fishermen relied on numerous precautions. Life was hard, and circumstances
often meant the fishermen had no choice but to enter the areas regarded as Finfolk
They had to fish where they knew they would
land a decent catch.
In these situations, a cross cut
into the line sinker and marked with chalk or tar on the hull of the boat, ensured
that no Finman would come within half a mile.
abhorred the Christian sign of the cross.
for 'white metal'
Another remedy relied on the Finmen's
passion for "white metal" - silver.
It was once
common knowledge that a pursuing Finman could be shaken off by throwing a silver
coin in his general direction. Because of their passion for silver, the pursuer
was sure to give up the chase in order to retrieve the precious coin.
silver obsession meant that the Finmen were often seen to enter the service of
a human, but more often they were the ones who hired the mortals.
read one such story, click here