Tag Archives: festival

tribal

Every first Friday of March, as told by the tide, we gather, united by bond and fire, and we celebrate the return of the sun.

#smuha 2017, from Cunningsburgh, with burning at Mail Beach.

 

SMUHA Community 2017

SMUHA 2017 tribe

SMUHA 2017 Community spirit

viking SMUHA 2017 e-

 

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burning

  It takes one jarl to lead his squad to beach and flames, and his community to celebrate the return of the sun.

SMUHA is a young fire festival that has now grown to rival with well established ones, such as Delting in the more northern township of Brae.

Every procession is magic, every burning of the galley, mesmerising, every moment, memorable.

   This  year, I shared it with a friend, who came especially for her first experience. She would tell you it is unique.
And it is! The atmosphere, torches, embers and smiles glow inside night.


A moment to savour every time!

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March extraordinaire

   I always have to make things up to distract my heart from this one.
Month of rainbows, dark and tears, March is the wild beast in my head. This year, for the very first time, it feels somewhat different.

Time-tight schedules, activities that keep my soul right off the edge of oblivion, March is flying like a comet.

   Some extraordinary meeting with amazing poets, including freshly former Makar (Scotland’s National Poet) Liz Lochhead – as pictured above – during a night of poetry at the Shetland Library; whilst reconvening with Welsh-born Emma van Woerkom, on a short-stay on the island for our local fire festival (SMUHA) proved so much light and breaths of fresh air!   

 Such two slices of life took me temporarily from my ivory tower,  as Compass Head is mutating into a book 🙂

     Light has returned on the island, and with it, the spirit of #voar, “planting season” as we know it on the windswept, wild 60N latitude.
There’s still a few miles to go, but it looks bright till publication. 

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Feathered

Feathered for a day,


Feathered and proud, on the final Tuesday of January, as eyes of the world turn to a group of young Vikings about to perpetuate a tradition fit for our Nordic latitude.

It is a time when our Junior Jarl Squad shines inside our hall before they stampede through the school and then the town with their elders for a marathon of merriment.

Every year, the island’s sole urban centre sets itself for such day.

As night settles, their replica viking long ships will be torched like a winter bonfire. You can watch live via 60N TV online.

May this summons the return of the sun 🙂

Happy Lerwick Up-Helly-Aa!

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winter

   Already the sun has begun to rise higher at its zenith.
To celebrate its return, men have built long boats to immolate out in a gale from winter’s depth. Whereas Scalloway opens a season of fire torching,  and merriment inside halls, the island’s (modern) capital will attract crowds local and global on the final Tuesday of this month. 

 

Winter will die out by fire. Like cosmic laws on the island, we brave the rawness of the ice that grips the Auld Rock to the core – from Saxa Vord to Compass Head… As snow covers heather and shore, and swans gather on frozen lochs.

    And every trip defies the light in icicles.
Dawn starts earlier, 

  
Crystal purple before sunrise. 

It feels magic when this sky speaks in such colour. By the time I go home, light still lingers behind curtains… With it comes sly thin layer of black ice that seek your feet every morning.

  
Winter feels harsh on us, dwellers of the north. Yet I find solace in the thought that February welcomes Imbolc – the early signs of Earth’s Spring – in spite of struggle with more ice. 

Winter possesses so many claws it defies those of the dragon. Soon the sun will revive our hearts as it continues to rise higher in our sky. 

In the meantime, we shall raise our eyes to torches, it is written in every bay. 🙂 

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smuha 

There’s a tremor in the island.

A she-jarl emerged off a long line of masculine “tradition” of guizer jarls… She made headlines in newspapers, and I hear even in London.

She made us dream last Friday night.



Here, to celebrate such event, a humble triptych of poetry.

SMUHA 2015

For Lesley S., first ever woman jarl in Shetland history.

Acrostic

Skeo Clett,

Music inside sand,

Undo twilight to let us sing,

Hold torches high for a galley & a woman,

Aud, unafraid of world’s fire.

—-

Free Style

By the Atlantic we gathered,

blue-eyed dragon looked to Venus

inside a night fit for

a realm, where

folk marched 

as one with

fire,

down to

the edge of

shells and sand, to

celebrate Aud The Minded

who captained her boat

till its end –

brandished her axe

before our world,

stars 

assembled 

inside a

sky

fit for 

a Jarl & her

people.

—–

Avant-garde

Sleep

in 

the 

arms of the

dragon, by Skeo Clett, 

wild Atlantic, where stars gather

above our heads, home of 

the human fire snake

that comes to die

in boat’s belly –

woman,

child, 

man 

march

by your side, 

through day and

night around da Ness,

fire unites kindred

spirits, fills cups

with mead

after

twilight,

animates hearts

till final reel.

Now

you have

stood among its flames,

led your own crowd

to edge of waves,

and sang the

song of

the

Norseman, 

wake 

in the arms of the dragon.



Notes:

SMUHA is Shetland’s South Mainland Fire Festival, held annually South of Lerwick.

A “jarl” is a viking chief.

“Skeo Clett” is the name of the rocky feature on the northern side of St Ninian’s tombolo (sandbar that links the Isle of Saint Ninian to the mainland). 

A “galley” is a viking longship. 

“da Ness” is the way folk call the Parish of Dunrossness (the southern part of Shetland’s main island, itself known as “South Mainland”)

© Nat Hall 2015

Programme image courtesy of smuha.org where more information can be found 🙂 

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alight

Up-Helly-Aa 2015
Lerwick, Shetland – 1 Jarl, 47 squads, 969 torches through the streets of the Islands’ capital…
Les moments forts, highlights in a string of images fresh from my iPod 🙂

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