Chant du monde boréal
Sandshifter, 60N.
Where it all makes sense.



Through Chronicles from Arcania, I shall attempt to share walks with you, this poetics from 60N, where I feel at one with our Earth, my sense of place so maritime.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

January, fire power

return of the light

"Day-night... Day-night... Day-night!"
As trivial as it may appear to the visitor to our shore, the most noticeable sign towards the Vernal Equinox remains our return towards light.
At fixed times in the day, 0800 and 1600, we no longer endure darkness. And if our British Met Office provides us with acurate information, we are currently re-gaining 2 minutes of light at each sunrise and each sunset... Heart-warming.

Today, I took two photographs from my school bus on the way home.

...And saw a fire-breathing dragon, as we made our way to the 60th Parallel...

As if our sky was whispering us some omen.  Such sight made me smile!
return of the sun
It is now rather well known some islanders go to great lengths to celebrate an old ritual - that of the return of the sun. Between mid-January and April, torches illuminate our nights under a name some may find odd or exotic: Up-Helly-Aa. It is not one single fire festival, but a season of torch-lit processions, longship burning and merryment behind the closed doors of our halls!
A bit like in the Beowulf movie, though minus the curse. Each procession is led by a squad disguised in full Viking gear - led by a Guizer Jarl, that is a notorious Viking Chief or hero carefully chosen by the selected squad leader. Each autumn, carefully chosen boatbuilders and craftsmen meet inside a galley (longship/boat) shed and spend many evenings building a replica Viking longship they will set on fire with their torches in the depth of winter. Teams of seamstresses elaborate the squads' costumes and a Proclamation Bill appears on the morning of the celebration at around 0600.

fire power
It is also well-known men like to play with fire, since they invented it.
This year's season of fire festivals kicked off last weekend in Scalloway, the island's ancient capital. Islanders' tradition. The Lerwick one always follows on the final Tuesday of the month. The Jarl will be given freedom of merryment in the town and will visit a myriad of places prior to the evening procession. A Junior Jarl squad procession also mirrors its senior one. It departs from the Anderson High School and da boys will burn their peerie (small) galley near the burning site of the senior one at Islesburgh.

Each replica Viking longship has a dragonhead.

...We, or some of us, would appear to like dragons and fire on the island.


  1. A wonderful post Nat. Thanks for showing us the importance of light and dark and how it is celebrated and endured.
    In the south of the continent I live in, between January and April is our autumn - when the winds die down and the sun shines and it rains enough to green everything up again. The salmon start running and then is the run into winter (tho not quite as extreme in light or weather as yours). Must be exhilarating, that rapid change.
    Is there a good university in your Shetland neighbourhood? I'm thinking it would be good to jump on the conference bandwagon and present a history paper on the Australian sealers of the early 1800's. Would make for a grand cross-hemispheric story swap.

  2. Thanks for your post, Sara :-)
    Oh, yes, we have Shetland College (as part of UHI, University of Highlands & Islands) as well as The North Atlantic Fisheries College based in Scalloway!!! Google both, although I trust you will get a real buzz with the latter ;-)
    How I would love you to deliver such a paper.
    Say WHEN :-))