Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Folklore - Superstition and Stones

Poskær Stenhus

  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.
Klebæk Høje
Sletterhage beach

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.
Kalø beach

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.

hollowed stone
People in the old days believed that the holy stones had a healing power on both humans and animals. If the sick spot was rubbed against the stone, or if some stone-dust was scraped off and eaten, then the sick person would be well again. To put selected precious stones upon sick people or to produce ointments from pulverized stones were known in the 1700s. The magic stones are still innuse today. Alternative healers use crystal-healing. The various stones and crystals are said to hold various qualities and energies. A stone like rock crystal (quartz) is called the stone above all stones . It is said to create energy with lots of good and positive qualities. The Gold of the North, amber, can make the body heal itself.

Various stories:
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

Hærulf stone

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.

There was a stone at Højby church yard. It was cleaved in two by the *lindorm's tail, while it was fightning a bull, which people had sent to attack the worm, because it blocked the church door.

A stone, called the Grey Stone, stood in 1900 about 100 meters from the northern beach at Sejerø. It was said that the stone turned around when it smelled bread - and it was said that the stork fetched the babies at the Grey Stone. In the stone was a mark from the Hesselø-Troll's foot, when he jumped down from the horse. The stone was thrown from Hesselø to Sejerø church.
Another story about the stone is that a horse had to jump from Sejerø  to Hesselø, when it fell down in two pieces and became a stone. It was split and disappeared when they digged for stone and gravel. Two other stones were thrown in order to hit Sejerø church. One fell down at Sønderstrand and the other in the edge of the water.
Hollowed stone/Sun Stone
The Sun Stone is a holy stone from Bronze Age. The holes or the hollows carved in the stone are symbols, which had to beg the gods for fertility in field, stable and home. Source: Carsten Lingren, Hverdagens Overtro - i det moderne Danmark, 2003. 
 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


Wanda..... said...

Stones of all types, large and small fascinate me. I can't go down to the creek without bringing something home. Recently I've been reading up on dolmans, so interesting...didn't realize the enormous number of them around the world.

Thyra said...

Hello Wanda! I'm also fascinated by stones at the beach - and about bringing some of them back home! I remember that you often find such fantastic heart-shaped stones on your walks.
Grethe `)

Joan said...

This is so interesting Grethe. I love these old stones, dolmans. When at the beach I often find myself placing stones and shells.. and carrying some home.

Thyra said...

Hej Joan, yes isn't it odd that we are so fascinated by those old stones. I would like to find amber too, but this is difficult. You'll have to go to the beach before the "professionals" go there early in the morning!

MyMaracas said...

I often pick up small, smooth stones. I am especially attracted to egg shaped ones and those that have smooth holes in them. I have no difficulty imagining stones, large or small, as living beings. All things are one.

I do love your stories.

Thyra said...

Hello Maracas! I like those with holes too, well, I like many various stones, also the ones we call gneiss-stones,which have come all the way from Norway once. They look like they have gold or tiny diamond-spots scattered all over them. I've got some fossiled sea-urchins too, but no amber!

Thank you for saying those kind words about my stories. It's much appreciated. ´)

timkeen40 said...

Thanks for the great photos and stories. You have made me want to be there.


Thyra said...

Thank you very much! You're most welcome!
Grethe ´)

CherylK said...

This is so interesting, Grethe! I, too, love stones and until now didn't think much about it. My grandchildren love searching for stones on our beach, too. Now I think that we are experiencing an energy of sorts from the stones.