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  The Origin of the Selkie-folk

Into Orkney

When 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 19th century.

Finnish descendents

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".

Magical healers

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.

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