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Beyond the Lone Islands

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Passing Through Stone

Above is a collage of winter and summer pictures of a sculpture.
I posted pictures of it back in July 2009 too. My comment then was: "This is another one of those sculptures that may work as a magic door, if you dare look through it instead of just circling around it." (The perspective you get when looking through the stone is different from when looking past it from a distance, and it is added to by reflections, since the inside of the hole has been polished so that it works like a mirror.)

I'm generally fascinated by (stories about) "magic openings". And I know this is something I share with people all over the world, through thousands of years back in history...

Today, a post at the Japanese blog Camera Works Blogger by Tsutomu Otsuka caught my attention. It is entitled Relationship Making and Breaking Stone, and tells of

a shrine with "a giant stone 1.5m high and 3m wide. It is said that the power of the gods flows into the round hole on the top side of the stone. Pass through the hole in the stone from front to back to break off a bad relationship. And then pass through from back to front to make a good one."

This triggered a memory at the back of my brain - something I read a couple of years ago about a stone on some island off the coast of Scotland, to which similar traditions were connected. At first I couldn't remember what island, or why on earth I had been reading about it, but it came back to me...

It was in connection with my "Harry Potter research" that I came across it. I had been reading up on and comparing Old Norse and Celtic traditions; and then, in connection with "unbreakable vows" (there is one of those made in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), I happened to come across a web page about The Odin Stone on the Orkney Islands. Once I remembered enough to know what to put into the search engine, I managed to find the website again now.

The Odin Stone, or Stone o' Odin, was a "holed monolith" (thought to have been erected around 3000BC) that stood in a field by the Standing Stones o' Stenness; until it was destroyed in 1814 by an incomer to the island, by the name of Captain W. Mackay.

The stone was "approximately 2.5 metres (8 feet) high with a breadth of about one metre (3.5 feet)" and "played a major part in a number of Orkney wedding traditions".

"...the man being on one side and the woman on the other, they took hold of each other's right hand through the hole, and there swore to be constant and faithful to each other. This ceremony was held so very sacred in those times that the person who dared to break the engagement made here was counted infamous, and excluded all society" 
"It was likewise usual, when a husband and wife could not agree, that they both came to the Kirk of Stainhouse (Stenness), and after entering into the kirk the one went out at the south and the other at the north door, by which they were holden legally divorced, and free to make another choice." - Although in this case, the "divorce" took place in the church of Stenness, a short distance away from the Standing Stones, was this a later development? Perhaps an attempt by the church to draw the Orcadians away from their heathen practices? 
I just find it interesting, that in so different parts of the world, a giant stone with a natural hole in it should be connected to "relationship making and breaking"...

(The modern Swedish sculpture, as far as I know, has really nothing to do with this, except in my mind.)


Don said...

It's always interesting to follow personal connections... and the epiphanies which follow. Almost miraculous.

GB said...

Absolutely fascinating.


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