the Norse began settling in Orkney and Shetland, they brought
with them them their traditions and concepts of the Saami.
But it has also been suggested that a number of
"finnar" also made the trip across the North Sea and settled
in the Northern Isles, possibly even arriving prior to the main
Viking "invasions" of the late 8th and 9th centuries.
It has been suggested by Orcadian scholars, in
the past, that the traditions surrounding the Norway Finns were brought
to Orkney by “Finnar” slaves or thralls. This, however,
seems to go against certain Old Norse texts which often place Saami
in positions of influence, even marrying into prominent Norse families
and dynasties. In many cases having a Saami ancestor was a prized
part of family trees, something that remained in Orkney until the
But whatever the historical
truth, local tradition at least has it that 'finnar' did make their
way to the island and their physical traits were common knowledge
into the 19th and 20th century., with some individuals,
usually those said to possess otherworldly powers, claiming descent
from Norway Finns.
In Orkney, the "Norway Finns" retained
their reputations as sorcerers - so much so that the term remained
in general use in some areas until the early 1900s.
But over time the lore became confused, and from
the "Finnar" - a race of potent magicians - the traditions
corrupted into the mythical Finfolk, who, although retaining much
of the traditions surrounding the Finns, were turned into an aquatic
race over a confusion over the term "finn".
But although the Finfolk in Orkney folklore were
perhaps treated a little too literally, elements of the original
Finn/Saami traditions remained strong, particularly when it came
to Scandinavian folk medicine. In this field, the Saami were unequalled
healers and their powers often called upon.
In Orkney we have documented 'charms' calling
upon the powers of the Finmen to avert such conditions as toothache.