Firth and Orphir on a December day
Chris and I have been trying, throughout the year, to complete the St Magnus Way – the 55 mile long new pilgrimage route leading to the St Magnus Cathedral.
While walking leg leading from Finstown on the Bay of Firth to Orphir, as I did today, we think of Hakon Palsson, Earl of Orkney, and the theme of forgiveness.
Hakon was the first cousin of Saint Magnus, co-earl and later rival, and the one who ordered Magnus’s murder in 1117, nine hundred years ago.
How did he feel afterwards? While Orkneyinga Saga gives us no direct insight into his feelings, it does say that Hakon went on to travel on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Back in Orkney, he had a beautiful round church built on his estate in Orphir, the remains of which is the end-point of this leg of the St Magnus Way pilgrimage route. The walk invites us to reflect on the need both to receive and extend forgiveness: Can we forgive Hakon now? And can we forgive others, who have hurt us in our own lives?
The route takes us past the find spot of the Naversdale Rune Stone, on which someone in the Middle Ages has carved part of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin, but using the Runic alphabet of the Norse people. The surviving portion reads: “…in heaven hallowed …”. I find it quite fitting, and moving, that the Lord’s Prayer, with its message of “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” should have been found just here.
Today, the sky was dark and loaded with sleet and rain. Snow was lying in patches on the hill. But in the distance, on the horizon, was the most beautiful golden glow. It was as if the December weather itself reflected some of the themes of this pilgrimage walk: Hakon’s darkest hour, followed by remorse and forgiveness.