Testimony of Tradition

Testimony of Tradition
Catalog # SKU3612
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name David MacRitchie
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Testimony of Tradition

David MacRitchie

The author suggests that historians begin to rely more on the traditions for achieving a more accurate view of history, rather than the sciences alone. His studies into Finnish, Danish, Norwegian origins are like none other.

Larger Print, 13 point font



In one of an interesting series of papers on "Scottish, Shetlandic, and Germanic Water Tales,"[2] Dr. Karl Blind remarks as follows:-

It is in the Shetland Tales that we hear a great deal of creatures partly more than human, partly less so, which appear in the interchangeable shape of men and seals. They are said to have often married ordinary mortals, so that there are, even now, some alleged descendants of them, who look upon themselves as superior to common people.

In Shetland, and elsewhere in the North, the sometimes animal-shaped creatures of this myth, but who in reality are human in a higher sense, are called Finns. Their transfiguration into seals seems to be more a kind of deception they practise. For the males are described as most daring boatmen, with powerful sweep of the oar, who chase foreign vessels on the sea. At the same time they are held to be deeply versed in magic spells and in the healing art, as well as in soothsaying. By means of a "skin" which they possess, the men and the women among them are able to change themselves into seals. But on shore, after having taken off their wrappage, they are, and behave like, real human beings. Anyone who gets hold of their protecting garment has the Finns in his power. Only by means of the skin can they go back to the water. Many a Finn woman has got into the power of a Shetlander and borne children to him; but if a Finn woman succeeded in reobtaining her sea-skin, or seal-skin, she escaped across the water. Among the older generation in the Northern isles persons are still sometimes heard of who boast of hailing from Finns; and they attribute to themselves a peculiar luckiness on account of that higher descent.

Tales of the descent of certain families from water beings of a magic character are very frequent in the ... North. In Ireland such myths also occur sporadically. In Wales ... the origin from mermen or mermaids is often charged as a reproach upon unhappy people; and rows originate from such assertions. In Shetland the reverse is, or was, the case. There the descendants of Finns have been wont to boast of their origin; regarding themselves as favourites of Fortune....

But who are the Finns of the Shetlandic story? Are they simply a poetical transfiguration of finny forms of the flood? Or can the Ugrian race of the Finns, which dwells in Finland, in the high north of Norway, and in parts of Russia, have something to do with those tales in which a Viking-like character is unmistakable?

Repeated investigations have gradually brought me to the conviction that the Finn or Seal stories contain a combination of the mermaid myth with a strong historical element-that the Finns are nothing else than a fabulous transmogrification of those Norse "sea-dogs," who from eld have penetrated into the islands round Scotland, into Scotland itself, as well as into Ireland. "Old sea-dog" is even now a favourite expression for a weather-beaten, storm-tossed skipper-a perfect seal among the wild waves. The assertion of a "higher" origin of still living persons from Finns ... would thus explain itself as a wildly legendary remembrance of the descent from the blood of Germanic conquerors. The "skin" wherewith the Finns change themselves magically into sea-beings I hold to be their armour, or coat of mail. Perhaps that coat itself was often made of seal-skin, and then covered with metal rings, or scales, as we see it in Norman pictures; for instance, on the Bayeux tapestry. The designation of Norwegian and Danish conquerors, in Old Irish history, as "scaly monsters," certainly fits in with this hypothesis.

But however the Finn name may be explained etymologically, at all events Norway appears in the Shetland tales, and in the recollection of the people there, as the home of the "Finns." And this home-as I see from an interesting bit of folk-lore before me-is evidently in the south of Norway....

300 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover