THE MAGICAL and majestic raven, so revered to the Vikings, is gliding through Delting today on the banners and suits of guizer jarl Ian Jamieson and his squad of Viking warriors as they celebrate this year’s final fire festival.
Ian is representing Sigurd Hlodvirsson, the 10thcentury Earl of Orkney and Shetland whose life was spent defending the Norwegian realm of the Highlands and Islands from mainland Scots.
The saga of his life contained a story of an infamous raven banner that Sigurd’s mother had made and given to her son whilst prophetically uttering a cursed blessing that the banner would bring victory to the battles that he would lead, but death to the man who carried the banner.
Fortunately, no battles are being fought in Delting on Friday and hopefully the raven banners will bring fine weather blessings rather than any apocalyptic scenarios.
“I’ve not told the rest of the squad about the cursed banner,” Ian joked. “But I’m sure all will be fine.”
The raven symbol also pays homage to Ian’s father George Jamieson, who was guizer jarl in 1994. As Ian explains, “my dad represented Kari Solmundarson who had been a bodyguard for Sigurd so the story is all tied in together. My dad had a raven on his shield so I decided to put a raven on our suits and on some of the shields.”
The red and black colours of the outfits, shields and banners are certainly striking. Ann Johnson from Muckle Roe has hand-made a stunning array of red dresses for the six princesses in the squad as well as the red kirtles for the 39 adults, all made from woollen cloth woven by Jamieson’s mill at Sandness. Each kirtle is embroidered with runic writing on the arms, which translate as Delting.
All the suits are slightly different as Ian clarified: “I wanted us all to be totally different to begin with, but this was going to be impossible to do. So now we’re all a peerie bit different.
“Some of us have a different design on our tunics which we made ourselves from black suede. We have six varying designs on our shields, ranging from the raven to ones with black and red shading to just plain red ones. Even our weapons are all quite diverse. We have axes, swords, spears and flails which are like a ball and chain and kinda brutal looking!”
It is certainly an array of formidable weaponry which hopefully will not terrify any guests staying at the Brae Hotel where the jarl squad start their day with a ceremonial toast and breakfast before marching to the galley shed for photos with the galley, Raudoy Maer.
Named in honour of Muckle Roe, where Ian is from, raudoy muckler was the Norse word for the red island and maer is a Norse word meaning maiden.
Ian combined the two to designate the galley. A selection of shields designed and painted from local schools have been fitted onto the galley and the Jarl squad will visit the Lunnasting, Brae and Mossbank schools before dropping by to the care centre in Brae in the afternoon.
There will of course be a wee rest for the jarl squad in the Northern Lights bar before the 24 squads light up torches and start the procession at 8pm from the galley shed, marching through Brae to the boating club where they will burn the galley.
Ian’s jarl squad is very family orientated with his dad and two brothers in the squad, his son Ethan as well as nephews and nieces. But unlike the Lerwick Up Helly Aa which does not allow females to participate, the rural festivals are a bit more flexible and the Delting jarl squad has two women warrior maidens – Ian’s sister and aunt who will be given as much Viking prestige as their fellow men and wear the same outfits and carry the same weapons.
“This is not the first time women have been in the Delting jarl squad,” Ian explains. “There’s been a couple of years that there were women in the jarl squad and we’re very open to women being involved.”
This will be an exciting day for Ian, his wife Lara and their two children and it is the culmination of many winter months spent planning and making sure everything was ready for the big day.
“I’m nervous, excited, but also relieved to get the suits finished,” Ian said. “I’ll no ken whit to do with myself when it’s all over. I’m looking forward to it but I’m wanting to get started and get on wi it.”