The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Superstitions in South Ronaldsay

In the Statistical Account of Orkney 1795–1798, the author comments on the superstitions of the people of South Ronaldsay.

He tells us that there are few people convicted of capital crimes, although petty theft is commonplace. He goes on to say that it is extremely difficult to convict the delinquent because “there is a very general belief, that whosoever is concerned in bringing the guilty to punishment will never thrive”.

The minister in the parish had been interrupted when administering baptism to a female child. The minister was told that he had done very wrong as the female had been baptised before the male. She would grow up to sport a strong beard, but any boy baptised after the girl would have none.

People firmly believed in fairies and witches and it was common for knives to be placed in the walls of houses to offer protection against any attacks. They also were known to draw imaginary circles around the houses for the same reason.