Standing stones at Yule
intriguing series of Yule traditions involved some of the islands' many
standing stones. Remnants of these still survive, although most have been transplanted to New Year.
The most widespread of these beliefs involved certain standing stones which gained the power to move. These megaliths would usually walk to a nearby loch, where they dipped their heads into the water,
or in some accounts, drink.
It was generally thought to be bad luck to see
these walking stones, so locals would avoid
the areas surrounding the stones until well after sunrise on
New Year's Day.
For more on Orkney's roaming stones
But although the walking stones were avoided,
other traditions actually involves the stones in the celebration of
the New Year.
Ronaldsay, the most northerly of Orkney's islands, New Year
saw the locals travel to a solitary standing stone - known locally
as the Stan Stane
- where they would dance around the monolith to herald the New Year.
This custom persists today.
At Orkney's best known group of megaliths - The
Standing Stones o' Stenness - an old historical account tells
us that during the five days of New Year feasting, lovers would
visit the Standing Stones.
There, the woman would kneel and pray "to
the god Wodden" that she and her partner might keep the oaths
they were about to swear.
The couple would then make their way to the Ring
o' Brodgar where the kneeling "ritual" was repeated
by the man before their pact before the Odin