Monday, June 14, 2010

Skarfskerry. Norse Surname - Skarf, Skarfr, Scharfe

North, on the flatland north of the Highlands, farming country, near Orkney.

1.  The Norse were in Scotland early, the 9th Century or so.  Their surnames and place names remain, but are eclipsed in modern times by all the tartan-related clan names.

For a history-chronology of Norse settlements-invasions of the British Isles, see page 2 at Scandinavian Influence on Southern Lowland Scotch, by George Tobias Flom back in 1900, reprint 1966:  see page 59, at

2.  Norsemen moved in later years also from Ireland and Man to Scotland and the Western Isles, the Hebrides (Harris, Lewis, others) in about the 852 AD (how can they be so precise? This from the Cleasby Introduction to the Dictionary, see below.  The work by the Late Richard Cleasby, completed by Gudbrud Vigfusson, MA,, introduction by others, here the Cleasby Dictionary, from 1874.  It, can be downloaded from .  Also find there manuscripts and specific references, pages given by first entry to last on that page.

3.  Specific word -- skarfr, or variations.

For the Cleasby dictionary, you need the page to go directly to the Skarfr - Do a search either for Cleasby Icelandic Dictionary, or try the address at
For the Cleasby dictionary, you need the page to go directly to the Skarfr - Do a search either for Cleasby Icelandic Dictionary, or try the address at

Find Norse words skarf or skarfeor at page 539 of the dictionary. In Orkney, skarf as cormorant.  

4.  Also at that site, are Grammar outlines, signs, wonderful for International Scrabble or the worst crossword puzzle you could imagine.  Memorize this book and you WIN.

 There is also a list of the Sagas (our family is represented, at least by name, in the Icelandic Burnt Njall Saga,, with Otkell, son of Skarf, and Otkell was not a generous person).  There are poetries, laws and histories. Icelandic was spoken by the four main branches of the Scandinavians, see Introduction at iii, and was called Old Norse. Is that so?

Kindle can never compare to holding this old book. I need that book.

5.  Browsing:

In the Shetland Islands, skarf
In Scotland, scart

the green pelican
pelicanus grandus
topp-skarfr   that is the crested cormorant
dila-skarfr     that is the common cormorant (what is that?)

Local names: Skarfakletter

Plant: Skarfakal, or "scurvy-grass" - a plant growing on rocky shores, "good against scorbutic diseases" (like citrus?)

6.  Spelling - many variations as the word eased into the Gaelic with Norse plundering and settling. Or just  repeated contacts.

Scarth, sb. the cormorant. Dunbar, T.M.W., 92; F., 194; Douglas, I, 46, 15. O. N. skarfr, Norse skarv, cormorant. Shetland, scarf.  People of the Settiscarth

And later, at page 81, another spelling - : O. N. f > th in scarth (O. N. skarfr).

Find the Scandinavian origin of Gaelic names in the Gaelic sgarbh ("SKAR-av") and the Norse scarf, at The Nature of Scotland, at / -- scroll down to Seabird Names, cormorant.

The name "Skarf" or a variant such as Skarfr, scarff, occurs in Orkney, and Shetland, and in Skarfskerry, Scotland; near John o'Groats, in Caithness, near Thurso.  See it at  In the Gaelic, it is Sgarbh Sgeir.  In Old Norse, it means Cormorant's Rock, see

Norse roots: Norway itself.

 Skarfjellet is a mountain in Norway, above Innerdalen in Nordmere, and rock climbers flock there, see and on a map and also a photo at

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Caledonia - Scotia; and Scotland before Scotland. Scota. Women Warriors; Thistle

 The Ship-Wrecked Brig, The Caledonia
and Queen Scotia; Scota
Clue from a Figurehead
A thumbnail is fair use of a photograph.  Here, from is a copy of the figurehead of the wrecked ship, the Caledonia, showing Queen Scota of the Milesians. 

1.  Caledonia.  The Romans called this area that is now Scotland, north of their Britannia, by the Latin, Caledonia.  It lay beyond their wall, their armies, their provinces.  As "Caledonia" evolved, look at the legends of women warrior there:  we found this on.  Meet this figurehead from the Scottish ship, "The Caledonia", that wrecked between Falmouth and Gloucester, in 1842, see 

  • Looking at a map, Falmouth is down at Cornwall, England; on the underside of the peninsula, toward Plymouth; and Gloucester is around the water 'way  northeast, where Wales meets England.  Vet everything.  Where was this ship wrecked? But the point here is the figurehead.  And the site does specify "Morwenstow."  That puts it on the Cornwall coast, about midway between Bude and Hartland Point.  Better. Not Gloucester at all.
The figurehead has come to be known as The Last Virgin of Morwenstow, and shows a woman warrior in Scottish garb, complete with tam o'shanter, sporran, sword, and large swath of kilt.  Morwenstow:  village on the coast at north Cornwall.
This review by Ann Skea for a book written about the wreck, The Wreck at Sharpnose Point, by Jeremy Seal 2003, says this lady with the sword is an identifiable figure: fair use quote --
"But the woman is Scotia, "national emblem of Burns and Scott," and she is an old wooden figurehead, salvaged from the Caledonia, which was wrecked in 1843 on the rocks below this graveyard at Morwenstow in Cornwall. "
If so, she is far more than the national emblem.  She is a Queen, who led her troops into battle. Must all women warriors be deemed "Amazons?"  Amazons were tribes of women, whose battle leaders were women leading other women.  That is specialized as a culture:  Scotia instead led troops of men, and - why not - women.
"Queen Scotia had led her troops in a well-fought field, and when the day was won retired to the rear to rest from her toils." 
See The Thistle for Scotland, November 25, 1888 -- fair use quote here from
"She then lay down to rest, but unfortunately did so upon a thistle, prickers and all, and rapidly leaped up, tore it out, and was about to cast it off.  But she thought she would never forget it anyway so put a sprig in her casque and it became the national symbol."
The lady, as well-dressed as she is, and clearly in charge of her own sword, well-balanced, cap not even askew, is called a "wild woman"  at   Not so wild.  Just good at what she does.
Women in war.  At least as far back as the Scythians of the Caucasus, as far as records go. See Studying Wars:  Women in War.

See also details of the wreck at  Women have long been participants in the bloodiest aspects of war. See  See also

2.  Is this Scotia? 
The BBC does not make that connection, see its report on the 166th anniversary off the disaster, at
Who is Scotia? If she is as ancient as this story suggests, then her garb is not appropriate, is it? Or is it.

It looks like Ireland was first, with its Scotti people then going to "Scotland", 
then back and forth for centuries? Scotti. Queen Scota. Milesians. Were they Celts from the central-east Europe? Or what?

Scotia the woman warrior.

Queen Scota, see

This stems from the mists when Irish "Scotties" settled parts of Scotland, so we understand, and from a legend in 1700 BC. Scotia, or Scota, was a queen, the wife of Milesius (the same or of the same tribe as those who raced Ui Niall to the shore of Ulster to claim it, when Ui Niall hacked off his hand and hurled it to the beach just in time, and won the land?) and mother of 6 sons.  The red hand of Ulster, now coopted in American political-economic maneuverings, see
The Milesian invasion.  Part of Irish history-mythology. See
She was killed, say some, in battle at Slieve Mish Mountain, in Ireland, fighting with the legendary Tuatha de Denaan (who are we to say this is only legend?) (read further here to find the Tuatha-de as originally a Hebrew tribe).
Read the overly-romanticized but enjoyable Scotia's Grave, by Nell Sullivan, at  She had come in vengeance, as her husband had been killed in an ambush earlier in South Kerry.  Her sons went on to defeat the Tuatha de Denaan to rule Ireland, it goes on.
For those who enjoy connecting legends, Scotia is said to be was the daughter of a pharaoh, and there are hieroglyphics on her grave. That idea of an ancient Egyptian liaison is echoed in some of the legends of migrations of Hebrews (yes, Hebrews) from Palestine through Egypt, to Hiberia (Spain) and to Hibernia (Ireland).  There are other ancient connections people find, or want to find, with Egypt and western religion or groups.  See, for example, the Black Madonna traditions, one of which (at least) cites the blackness as designating Mary Madonna's color, as a person from Egypt, see that  at
This migration route and origin is supported at an early source: The British Chronicles Vol I by at David Hughes, at page 46. See

But the role of Scotia is downplayed; the role of the sons of Milesius (whose origin is unknown, but who fought in Egypt and Spain, and one of the sons is named Heber) is set up as the main event.  Milesians could have been Scythians or Iberians, or "Gaelicized" descendants of the original Irish Tuath-de who were - here we are - Jews. It would be more accurate to call them Hebrews, designating the tribe -- at that early time they were not "Jews". Hebrew migration.
But the Brits focus on them as Gaels, which actually is less likely but fits the Brit mythology better.
The Scotti were the first Irish; who were pressed into the northeast corner, Ulster, and from there launched their raids against the Picts of then-Scotland, also settled and joined in with the Picts against the Romans, and ultimately the Scotti in Scotland surpassed the Scotti in Ireland in influence.  Is that so?
An Egyptian or Milesian arriving in Spain, and from there to Ireland? Recall that ancient Carthage and ancient Egypt were great empires before Rome, navigators, and took over Spain as well as the Mediterranean coastal areas, and tips of other places.  See legends from the time of the Flood, through the Old Testament, at After the Flood:  Irish Biblical Roots and Egypt.