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Eynhallow, Ancestral Home Of The Finfolk


On 14th July 1990, eighty-eight bird watchers got off a ferry organised by the Orkney Heritage Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at the uninhabited Eynhallow Island. Only eighty-six returned for the journey back, which sparked a huge search and rescue operation involving the police and coastguard. The two people were never found and it was assumed that the crew of the ferry may have miscounted the amount of passengers they had taken to over to the island.

However, some of the older members of the Orkney community suggested that the two people may not have been human, but were instead Finfolk (mer-people) and that they had returned to their own kind. Or that perhaps they were human and stolen away by a Finwife, who according to tradition needed a human male to prevent her from aging.

The Finfolk were much feared amphibious nomadic shape-shifting sorcerers who possessed an amazing talent for boating handling and had a reputation for kidnapping both the inhabitants of the Orkney Islands.

Eynhallow, which translates from Norse as Holy Island is 185 acres in size and got its name after a farmer from Evie drove the Finfolk from the island which they had used as a summer home. This summer home was known as Hildaland (Hidden Land) and whilst the Finfolk were in possession of it, the island did remain hidden behind a mystical shroud. The wife of Thorodale from Evie was kidnapped by a Finman, so Thorodale took his sons to Eynhallow to seek vengeance. They cut nine crosses into the turf of Eynhallow then walked around the island three times. They then sowed nine salt rings around Eynhalow. This prevented the island from being hidden by the Finfolk and enabled humans to lay claim to it.

"And so the Finfolk's Hildaland was cleared of all enchantment and lay bare. Empty and clean to the sight of man and heaven. Then it was called Eynhallow - the Holy Isle - and a church was raised there."

The human population of the island itself was cleared from the island in 1851 (population numbered 26 in 1841) leaving behind the remains of a 12th century monastery which is now in the care of Historic Scotland. Eynhallow is now a bird sanctuary and visitors must make their own way there by chartering a private boat.

In 1529 Jo Ben mentioned customs on Eynhallow in his Descriptio Insularum Orchadiarum which he himself did not believe in.

"It is of old times related that here, if the standing corn be cut down, after the setting of the sun, unexpectedly there is a flowing of blood from the stalks of the grain; also it is said that if a horse is fastened, after sun-down it will easily get loose and wander anywhere during the night."

"Here you may discern the futitious and fabulous traditions of these people."

It is also said that no cat, mouse of rat would thrive on Eynhallow.


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Ian Topham
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Re: Eynhallow, Ancestral Home Of The Finfolk

It is my understanding that the Hildaland of the Finfolk was originally considered to be made up of three islands, of which Eynhallow was one.  Eynhallow is considered today as the location of the Hildaland.

it would appear some of the magic may still work as it is hidden from the google map above, though you can just see it if you look at the satellite view.

The Finfolk would use their magic to manipulate the sea and weather to their whim.



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