The nature is multifarious and has always impressed us. In the old days people believed that the nature was alive and endowed with spirit like everything living. Phenomenons like fire, water and stones and phenomenons in the sky like the sun, the moon and the stars all gave nourishment to the supernatural powers and not at least to the omens.
When you walk along a beach you cannot help collecting stones - you'll just have to examine some of the pretty stones. Stones are fascinating - and we are attracted by their colours, their shapes and the nice feeling it gives to hold a little stone in the hand. In the world of superstition are connected energies, powers and omens to both large and small stones - and it is still said that it brings luck if you'll find a fossiled sea urchin. In the Middle Ages they believed that there was a small coin isnside the sea urchin, but it was unfortunately difficult to get hold of.
When the ice withdrew after the last Ice Age it left a landscape of large and small stones, which were powerful and endowed with spirit to the first hunters. This was a belief, which was still seen only a few generations ago, where the peasants said that the stones in their fields grew up from the earth, or that "the devil had loosened up his bag when he was sowing stones", which is understandable, when you see a spring-field with large and small stones all over the place.
Legends and fantastic tales are often connected to the large stones in the landscape. At the eastern part of the island Funen outside Hesselager lies Denmark's largest vandreblok ("travelling stone"), Dammestenen, which is also called Damestenen (Lady's stone), or Hesselagerstenen. The impressive stone has a circumference of 46 meters and a height of 12 meters, and it weights supposedly ab. 1000 tons. In a document from the 1800s is told that the stone ended, where it is today, because a giantess in the town of Korsør tried to throw the stone after a *lindorm. Others meant that it was a troll, who hurled the stone against Svindinge church tower, when the bells started ringing - but the church was not hit.
Before Christianity arrived to the North there was a belief that the "holy" stones in the landscape were able to protect people against bad luck and other evils. The stones were powerful and became still more powerful, if they were worked on with runes or holy script. If iron-wedges were hammered into a stone it became more powerful, since both iron and stone owned magic qualities.
People sacrificed to the large stones in nature, gave them bread and considered them as being living creatures. If the stones were not harmed or moved to another place, they would protect people and animals by swallowing up all evil powers and bind them inside the stone. Until a few generations ago it still meant disease or death to those who destroyed or moved a large stone. When Christianity took over, it was forbidden to worship stones. It is argued that the church killed many holy stones and removed their power by beating off a corner.
In some farms the peasant had a beskyttersten (protecting stone), which among other things protected the farm against lightning and fire. And in the beginning of the 1900s are still descriptions about peasants,who gather each year before the spring-ploughing at the hvæssesten (whetstone), which was found at several parish churches. The whetstone was filled with grooves and each farm had its own groove. Before harvest rubbed the peasants ritually their scythes in the grooves of the stone to secure a good harvest.
The king had to stand upon a large stone if his coronation was considered to be valid and to have judicial effect. Such stones are Daneryg-stenen at Viborg Thing and Hyldestenen at Lejre.
During a trial the accused had to stand upon a certain stone and the judge upon another, or else was the judgment not valid.
All public announcements had to be read by the priest after the service at kirkestævnestenen, (church meeting-stone), which was placed upon the southside of the porch in the corner between porch and nave.
In Kongelunden ( a park at Copenhagen) was up till present time a stone where all wedding couple had to go, for if a stone was the witness of a wedding then this was permanent and could not be broken up
A stone from Jægersborg Dyrehave north of Copenhagen shows an image of the sun upon a ship (1100-700 BC) To carve images in stones and rocks was a ritual act. When holy and sacred objects and symbols were carved in the hard rock or stone people came closer to the divine world. The ship was not only the most common motif in the petroglyphs, it is also found in numbers on various bronze objects. The ship is often seen together with the image of the sun, it was not a common ship. It was the Sun Ship, transporting the sun.
And then there are all the rune stones with their inscriptions, but this is quite another story
* lindorm = is the giant snake or Old Norse mythological worm that is winding around the earth.
photo: grethe bachmann