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  The Odin Stone

Magical traditions

"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."
G H Black

As can be gathered from the reaction to its destruction, the people of Orkney believe that the potency of the Odin Stone was unparalleled. Thought to possess miraculous healing power, the stone was the focus of a number of "magical" rites.

When visiting the stone, it was customary to leave offerings of food, or ale, and it was common for young people to stick their heads through the hole to acquire immunity from certain diseases. Along the same lines, new-born infants were passed through the hole, in the belief that this would ensure them a healthy future. Crippled limbs were also passed through in the hope of some supernatural cure.

The stone's healing powers were often combined with the water of the nearby well at Bigswell. For more information on sacred wells, click here.

"It was customary for the peasantry to leave some offering on visiting it, such as a piece of bread, or cheese, or a rag."
Volume III - Transactions of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries

The Odin Stone also seems to have had the power to bestow some of its magic on to mortals. One old folktale tells how a farmer from Turriedale in the parish of Evie:

"for nine moons at midnight, when the moon was full, went nine times on his bare knees around the Odin Stone of Stainness. And for nine moons, at full moon, he looked through the hole of the Odin Stone and wished he might get the power of seeing Hildaland."

Later in the tale, the farmer's wish is granted and he drives the finfolk from their magical island, claiming it for the Christian God and renaming it Eynhallow - Holy Island. For a full version of this tale, click here.

The Odin Oath

But aside from its healing and magical powers, the Odin Stone was perhaps best known for the part it played sealing agreements and binding marriages and unions.

People from every corner of Orkney, in particular young lovers, would visit the stone to make their vows absolute by clasping hands through the hole and swearing the Odin Oath.

Click here for more details.