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  The Mither o' the Sea

"Bit luck thee niver noo in Vore,Cin man hear tale o' Teran
Rampagan' on da ocean floor, Fur folk ir little carin
Hoo tullyas or brullyas. Fowt wi' de great Sea-mither
'swordship gae lordship, Tae ane or else the tither."
Old Orcadian Verse

Sea-Mither Triumphant: 3D Artwork by Sigurd TowrieA personification of the forces that affect everyday life, the myth of the Mither o' the Sea is possibly one of the oldest surviving strands of Orcadian folklore.

In this case, the Sea Mither represents the benign force of the summer sea - "mither" being the Orcadian pronunciation of "mother".

The Sea Mither was said to grant life to every living thing, bringing warmth to the oceans and calming the storms that were the sorrow of many an Orkney family.

But as in all good tales, the forces of good must have a bitter nemesis. The Sea Mither was no exception.

She had a very powerful, and hostile, rival in Teran, the spirit of winter. Teran's screaming voice was heard in the fury of the winter gales and his anger seen in the mountainous waves that crashed against the coastline.

The spring struggle

Each spring, around the vernal equinox, the Sea Mither was thought to return to Orkney to take up her summer residence in the sea.

Her return always prompted the beginning of the "Vore Tullye" - the Spring Struggle - a fierce battle against Teran that lasted for weeks and manifested itself in devastating storms that churned the sea into a boiling froth.

However, the result of this conflict was always a foregone conclusion. The Sea Mither had returned, refreshed and strong, and would always triumph over her adversary.

Once overcome, Teran was bound firmly at the bottom of the sea and thus began the Sea Mither's beneficent reign.

She would immediately set to work restoring the damage caused by Teran.

She stilling his violent storms and calmed the raging sea. Warmth and life returned to the water, interrupted only by the occasional squall, caused by Teran as he struggled to break his magical bonds.

The autumn tumult

But as winter approached and the equinox grew near, the Sea Mither, exhausted by her labours over the summer, was forced to confront Teran again.

Breaking free of his shackles, another battle - the "Gore Vellye" or Autumn Tumult - ensued. But this time, Teran would emerge victorious, gripping the islands once more in a terrible embrace.

His foe banished, Teran would once again reign supreme and for a while every living creature had to submit to his tyrannous rule.

During these dreadful days of winter, the Sea Mither was said to be able to hear the cries of every drowning man, consoling herself in the knowledge that, when spring arrived, she would return, refreshed and invincible, and prevail again.