Tombstones Gotland 2

Tombstones 400- 600 AD Gotland 2

When we see the Greek shields on the tombstones on Gotland we understand that even foreign trade has been essential to the farmen. Since there are no names on the stones they only tell about their culture that produced these masterpieces of style and simplicity.

Tombstone, farman, trader, running spiral, Sunhorse, Yin Yang, Ferryman, Lady with Snake, Sheela Na Gig, fertility, rus, centaur, battle mate, play mate, companion, funeral mate

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The mighty stone from Sanda was 330 cm.

Some people like to brag out, however we cannot say that all people do it. In the texts on tombstones and golden bracts we see that some makers told "I did this", some texts are dedication to the idol and mainly on tombstone and on Norse "fjell" they shout out "Here I am". We have no help of the name since it does not say anything to us now.

Stones like this tell that a man was a big farman /trader and the ship on the stone gives us the same impression. But we cannot know if this was an expression from the clan that lived on big farms. In the long rune a stone placed on a farm tell whom we are living here. Stones on the graveyard are more anonymous and tell about the clan/ tribe owning the graveyard

This stone was in two pieces found at two occasions with 50 years between. There ground groves in the lower half and naturally there have much academic discussion about that. But as we see re-use happens now and then and we see it also in Stone Age. Then especially in Denmark where they have relatively few stones and no rocks.

Upper border is "running spiral" and on the sides there are saw-tooth running with outgrowth. Maybe it is only decoration maybe it symbolises running time or sunshine. We cannot always know. Here the upper snakes are more like vegetative figures maybe from nature and they are made different.

The snakes and the shields in pair seem to picture the battle of life. We get the impression that they were not sentimental about that and we can believe in the faith was the normal at least when they were asked. We cannot generalise from burial customs since we find cremation, burial with many gifts and burials with no gifts. Both sizes are found on graveyards but there are also big mounds.


This stem make us think of the Aegean Seas

The style of the ship copies freight ships in the Aegean. Is it a dolphin on next cut? That was frequent in Bronze Age art of the Minoans. Tree of Life of life is maybe a wish for rebirth and I come to think of Socrates. His last wish was an offer to the healing god.


This stone from Vallstenarum Vallstena is 170 cm in this shape

On this stone there is "animal looking back" that is a very old motif we find in cave art. Here we can only guess what they meant to say. The one at left has bullhorns but the body is of the horse and since we know from the golden bracts they pictured the Sunhorse that way. The horn and the scut make it look more like a goat. That was the earlier Capricorn and one of the old landmarks in the night sky.

The lower border is a long looping snake with head symbolising life maybe. The duelling men has different shields as i natural when picturing battle. The magnificent big shield has the running four seasons. The small symbols are maybe only decoration. But is it the YIN and YANG symbol at the bottom?

Maybe the artist used some kind of "art book" with sketches of "everything" he had learn under his years as journeyman. We know from later times that artist, handicrafters and architect kept their own "book of art" and the builder or buyer could buy such figures. It takes much time to make the precise figures above so only wealthy people or clans could afford such things.

The stone from Vaeskinde is now 180 cm.

One more of the favoured whirl shields that gives life to the stone. Such figures can only symbolise life and maybe the driver the Sun. For the animals see below.

There is another similar from Garda but with horses looking back above the shield.

Less than half left of the pictures on this from Austers Hangvar 100 cm

The odd fish with many legs occurs in several places. From Norway we have the Eggja stone with a long text and maybe only a few hundred years older than these stones. There are some fragments from sagas we know from later times as for instance Ynglinge Saga Chapter 7. We should maybe understand that the Ferryman used horse on the road to Hel and then took the shape of a fish in the Hel River and the last bit fly like a bird over the swamp and mountains.

The Ferryman as archetype is known from Sumerian literature and from many later places. They tell about three locks and three guards where the steps are the important things here to go through the different layers with special precaution ... It is always good to have some explanation when the difficult questions stands in form of you. Our ancestors had something to start with.

The boat could be instead of the boat here, but on the picture stones the "blinded horse" on road to Hel is shown on several picture stones. For the farmen of Gotland a boat would be instead of the horse. But some times it is difficult to see if the scene with the "fish/ drake and man" is it the "Hero and the beast" fighting? … see for instance the Gosforth Cross.

In original symbolism they often split the images as for instance the wild bull and the tame ox or the wild lion and the tamed sphinx. So we cannot know if we should speak about the normal bullfight in opposition to the battle against the unknown Dragon with unknown shape. The road to Otherworld was unknown so they just painted some "beast". It is quite the same in medieval maps that in unknown seas they painted sea beasts up to their imagination. Naturally that was just a warning.

On this stone we get a glimpse of the normal boat shape and the border is in the same style as on other stones. There is a shield with four spirals that look much alike next stone.

This stone is from nearby Martebo

There is about 6 miles between these two stones. We get a glimpse of the "animal" as the upper border. It looks as if the buyer first wanted the shield but in "king size".

The boat got place but the borders were added later. The borders are different but the buyer looked in the art book and wanted both. The border foregoes the more sophisticated borders in next period. He also wanted the little figure at seven o clock that is much alike the next figure.

The stone from Sandegaarde is maybe 100 - 200 younger than this series

The picture is reconstructed and they tell the ornaments are very like what they have found on metal mountings in graves

This is from Smiss and 82 cm high

The head of the Birth-giving Lady is much like on the Angle's Horn from Gallehus. She is the forever-young lady from Stone Age as well as the Lady with Snakes from Knossos. She is the Moon Goddess that leaves the seed to her twin sister in Underworld. Observe that the snakes have different heads.

Over her is the three season snakes with individual heads. We can clearly see the dog-head and the eagle-head but the third is indefinite. The moon year was split in three seasons and that seems to be import from India were it would be natural to have the calendar tri-sected. Compare also with the reverse of Tyr-bract from Trollhaettan.

The Engelstrup Stone Zealand

We see her at the Engelstrup stone and on a dozen rock-carvings in Scandinavia to Alta in North Norway. Similar scene we see on a seal from Sumer 3rd millennium BC and that is surely the primary source for Scandinavia. It shows the Inanna myth when she leaves her seed to her twin sister Ereshkigal in Underworld. She is the New Moon and rain as well as the water flow. There is a hymn entitled "She steps down".

However she has several incarnations but is still the archetype of birth giving and growth. The last occurrence is as Sheela Na Gig that is stone figurines of women, usually many breasted, and holding open their vaginas. Found in isolation and in medieval church walls. Some 70 appear in Ireland, 40 in England, and 11 in France. Some in Denmark belong too of the type. And maybe we should remember the naked ladies in Indian temples too.

None seem to date earlier than the 11th century, and whilst Celtic origins have been assumed, modern research suggests that the motif actually reached England and Ireland from French Romanesque architecture. Local church builders wanted to keep the old icons for their life. We should maybe also remember the Nordic influence in Normandy.

Sheila-na-Gig = sheela na gig, from the Irish Sile nà gCioch" = sheela na gee-och, which means "Sheila of the breasts" (Kübebe/ Kübele). She is the very old fertility icon that tells "I am ready" like some 4th millennium BC Egyptian figurine with her head over the head and offering her lap… see also

These figurines/ sculptures are often worn and defaced, perhaps deliberately in more prudish times, maybe by being touched or rubbed "for luck", perhaps simply by the passage of time. For some reason "fertility" became taboo/ sin in Christianity maybe because the priesthood did not know much about real life.

So became the Snake = womb of earth/ and woman devil and sin. Nakedness and natural sex was not allowed … I remember some people of the kind from my younger days. So today we have overkill capacity not only with weapons but also because of people not loving nature and fertility.

They are not all horses

The original horse was small and they have still the little "rus" in Icelandic "hross" at Gotland that is in the class "small" like Shetland pony and Iceland horse. From the beginning we could set horse = food. Next step after taming was horse = travel since it could be used for carrying goods at a pack-saddle. If heavier pack they made a simple sledge of bars on each side of the horse and dragging it in road-less land. The horses were generally small until 18th century in Scandinavia and the breed was much of status.

In the world of legends the horse = centaur when man trained his horse to understand that mankind has a better head. The Greeks meant that educates the young man. Then horse = battle mate and the chariot meant greater speed but still the advantage of being on a higher level that the man on foot

… I have not seen in the symbolism that horse = playmate, but I have seen on TV some Polish and Hungarian who were like a horse and they fooled around like equals. On Crete we see the youngsters play with the Bull and that would not be possible with out equal friendship.

In the picture-stones we see horse = fun when they set the stallions against each other and that must have been popular amusement and even better was the exiting mating. Riding is always fun as long as you manage to be on the back of the horse. We see the long Celtic hair flying on some golden bracts and it is fun to galloping. For the cavalry we can set horse = companion that set the rider higher than others even in private life. The riders became nobility like the traders that could go farther than other and could get the epithet "have seen much".

Lastly we should set horse = funeral mate. The horse symbolises the travel to the Otherworld or Hel. From this time we have also for instance the cavalryman buried together with his horse a Lakenheath Suffolk England and nearby they found the Undley bract and both date to around 6th century AD.

The two upper pictures show surely horses and that they loved horses. In third row we are in the world of ideas or the Upper World of asterisms. In forth row the horses seem wild and the other are surely goats. We know from later times of the Goat carriage of the Thunder and Lightning. Maybe they did not know much about the "big cats" the Kubebe used for her chariot so they used known animals in the myth.

Gotland has given us many finds from the Golden Age. Initially that surely depends on the favourable conditions for archaeology that have brought diggers to the island. On the other hand on such a little island there has been use for every bit of land so the finds have popped up in time. The finds are of the same style as the south east corner of Scandinavia.

On the museum at Gotland and its Fornsal they have gathered most of the stones. They have also a site in English