Dragon in the Darkness.
Slovenia was an old international cross roads like Turkey. It was on the Amber route and the Silk routes were close by.
The Dragon legend is very strong in Slovenia. Icons of St George (a Syrian immigrant) slaying the dragon in association of a maiden to be rescued are numerous.
Cuddly toys of the dragon are on sale for the tourists. There is a dragon bridge in Ljubljana in Slovenia, the legend is also associated with St Margret of Antioch.
Various creatures are associated with the dragon, snakes, crocodiles, bulls and the basilisk. There is an aquatic salamander, white in colour which is locally called a baby dragon. Locally it is associated with floods rather than fire.
The dragon legend is also strong in Mesopotamia, India and Egypt, However it is strongest in China. It is here that we see the first real clue to the origins of the legend. In the Gobi dessert there are to be found exposed dinosaur fossils. Some of these are very similar to Chinese dragons.
At the end of the lecture Dr Frelih gave Howie* a can of Dragon beer and a tourist cuddly dragon. The stone with the markings of a dragon came from Hoy and was discovered Recently by Christine McFedries.
*Howie Firth is the Director of the Orkney International Science Festival and has been since it’s inception in 1991.
The men in Maeshowe.
Dr Ragnhild Ljosland of UHI Orkney Campus gave an in formed and in depth lecture on Maeshowe and also Viking Mounds which Maeshowe is not.
An understanding of these is necessary to understand the motives of the men who broke in in 1150.
Viking mounds were taboo and to be left alone in their culture. They were supposed to be guarded by fearsome supernatural creatures. Those who attempted it normally had to have support from companions or “higher authority” and were seen to be hero’s for braving the supernatural. There was always supposed to be treasure in the mounds, Viking Grave goods discoveries would have reinforced this belief. The Mounds were also associated with strange lights seen at night sometimes violet in colour. So the men who broke in did have the backing of the then Earl of Orkney, and perhaps wanted to be seen as Heroes.
The Runic graffiti stating “we carried away treasure” is open to “interpretation” as to why it was carved in the first place.
The builders of Maeshowe did not have access to metallic objects and gem stones are exceedingly rare in the contemporary archaeological record.
So what was this reference to, treasure, a form of boasting perhaps? I doubt we shall ever know.
Reporter Nick Morrison