“In many ways, Orkney is the golden land. There’s a strange light here. We’re at 59 degrees north, so the sun never gets directly overhead, not even at midday in midsummer; we nearly always have the sun at an angle and that gives us the oddest light”, write the authors. The title of the book, they add, comes from a reference in Phil Rickman’s The Chalice. Although an obscure reference, This Old Golden Land is the perfect title for an alternative guide book on Orkney.
I doubt that Orkney needs much of an introduction, as most will know of Orkney as the jewel in the crown of British ritual landscapes and an archaeological dream. This book, however, is not your average guidebook but one aimed specifically at “spiritual pilgrims” or people with an alternative faith system, such as mine and probably readers of Indie Shaman, who are considering a pilgrimage to Orkney. I first visited in 2017 and wish I had this book before I went! The reader is treated to Mark’s sumptuous full colour photos and Helen’s scholarly yet engaging narrative; each chapter, starting from right back at the beginning of time and moving forward though each age to the present day, is packed with everything you could possibly want or need to know. Added to this, with each chapter is a short “Personal Reflection”; Mark & Helen’s personal experiences of living on Orkney, which provide invaluable insight into the real life and breathe of Orkney and her people. The recommendations of places to visit, walks to go on, folklore and customs, can only broaden anyone’s experiences of a visit to these magical isles. I particularly appreciated the simple meditative exercises which accompany most chapters, enabling a richer, deeper knowledge for “spiritual seekers” anywhere!
I should add that I was delighted to see that there is a section on the witch trails included, as well as The Orkney Witch Trail Memorial Project which I know Helen had a lot of involvement with. This is by far, the best book I have read about Orkney and I would definitely recommend it to anyone seeking a true spiritual experience on visiting This Old Golden Land.
Book Details: Helen & Mark Woodsford-Dean. This Old Golden Land.
Review Details: This Old Golden Land was reviewed by Thea Prothero for Indie Shaman magazine and published in Issue 47.
Buy from the authors: Spiritual Orkney