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The Orkneyjar, called the Orcades by the learned and Orkneys by the Scots, are a cluster of mostly lowlying islands of varying size off the northern coast of Scotland, about ten miles north of Caithness. The chain has over seventy islands, the largest of which is Meginland, which forms the northern boundary of the Skalpaflói, a natural anchorage.

The isles have been inhabited from the most ancient times, first, it is thought, by the Picts, who left many standing stones and henges and other mysterious structures, including the Ring of Brodgar, scattered about the islands, which continue to be an epicenter of magical and faerie activity.

The isles were used as a base of operations for Scandinavian raiders from the late 8th century, until in 875 the great King Harald Hårfagre subdued them and annexed them to Norway, granting them as an Earldom to Rognvaldr Eysteinsson, first of the Earls of Orkney. They were Christianized in 995 by Olavr Tryggvasson on his journey from Shetland to Norway. Summoning Jarl Sigurd, Olavr ordered him to be baptised; Sigurd refused, but assented when Olavr threatened to kill his son Hvelp. The islands were created a bishopric in the early 1000s, but from 1153 to 1472 the Kirkjuvåg bishopric was subordinate to the archbishop of Nidaros.

In 850, a Hermetic Covenant was founded on the isle of Haey, taking an alternate form of the name of the Skalpaflói, Scapa Flow. As part of Scotland, the Orkneyjar are nominally under the jurisdiction of the Loch Leglean Tribunal, but given pagan domination of the area as late as the 11th century, the Order of Hermes has little influence there.