According to the Oxford Concise is an altar a flat-topped block for offering to deity; Communion table. We need that neutral global definition to fit all religions and even ancient times. There is no need to use another vocabulary about our forefathers.
Altarstone, rock-carvings, altar, Otherworld, law-room, ancient field, going beneath, handstone, cupmark, May Stone, Sumerian season, Enki, Inanna
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The Holtane Stone about 1840 R. Dybeck
R. Dybeck was never exact in drawing pictures but the trees are always very artistic. Here he has drawn some carvings in the stone. He tells that nearby is a place with rock-carvings of axes, hammers, footprints, cow feet and other objects. Since we see a tradition of connected cupmarks I think the cow feet are such carvings.
They took the stone about 1880 when they build the railroad. I have been looking for the carvings but the "Big Eater" deny me entrance. We can note that the altar seems to be standing on small stones and that is a feature we see in other places. See also Footstools.
Thisaltarstone is the only remains at Taan in Braalanda
In neighbouring village Braalanda he note the Taan mound, which now is gone and the diameter was 25 metres. "On it there has been something like a table with four feet". There have probably also been a rampart to the Dyrehaug mound close to it.
In his text he mention a few ramparts and A. Lignell mention the avenue in Haugsbyn. Such remains disappear when the real plough comes and even the land hunger in 19th century took many stones.
Dybeck tells about Bandane Valbo "a thin stone slab on four stones". In Baggetorp Valbo "a stone circle with 11 stones and in the middle e thin stone slab 3 x 2 metres and 30 centimetres thick". In other stone circles and big ships there are sometimes a stone that maybe was meant as altar. But if it is small and round it seems more like some symbol.
Emperor Constantine was riding two horses in beginning 4th century for long. On one hand he satisfied the army that was used to Mithras cult and himself was god begotten son of the Sol Invictus … seeWere they Christian. He was Pontifex Maximus = High Priest of Sun and Mithras ritual but also of the growing Christianity to satisfy his mother Helena. That means the highest priest and he ordered how many things should be.
Ritual was a not entirely new thing but they needed instructions that give the Christian ritual its forms. He ordered for instance that an altar should stand on an elevation. In Scandinavia that maybe means a mound or terrace. The tabula or mensa was a rectangular flat stone and it could also have one leg in the Greek style or normally four legs in Roman style. In some case they had 12 legs and later they build in reliquary. Yet for long as we see on the Roman coins the old deities were living strong.
For us on Dal it is very interesting since as above we see or know about four places that have the memory of the stones to such an altar. This type of altar we could date to the Golden Age 300 to 500 AD then. And we can also expect that they were Arians in some places and that is 500 years before Ansgar and in pace with continental Christianity. We have also terraces that can have been made for a holly place.
In other hand also thing places were on a terrace. For the Celts there were no big difference between thing and ritual place. They tell that our Celtic ancestors used to have their holly places in the open air. That is a too rough generalisation. There are finds showing that in some places they have at least for some time build a shrine from Stone Age onward. It is surely the kind of act and matter that make the shrines alike independent of time. Then what should we call it when they were in a holy grove?
They call this Trollsoffan = Trollstool
In several places on Dal folk memory have given odd names like this. A name like this tells that they did not know what it is, but they knew that it is not a good thing or not allowed by church.
At the same maybe some little women went there on a Thursday night in spring and offered in the cupmarks. She was anxious and did what some told could be good for a better year. At least the mind calmed down and maybe the Mights looked kindly upon that little lady. I write this because I read about a little lady in the doombook from 17th century.
We still knock in stone when someone goes to the Otherworld. These special stones are of course as much altars as our altars. Some are for the community and some are more local or private. However we can expect that they were organised in family clans before Christianity. The settlement surely had own altars.
Later with private property they moved clans outside the mother settlement. The place names ending in -ungar/-ingar = kids = children = sons from 500 - 1000 AD indicates that it was a family clan living there. That is why we find altars in the forest nowadays. The place names are outside the mother village and indicate a new order or another law-room. WE see next step in early 13th century when the landscape laws were written down and codifyed.
The stone string maybe is showing an oldancient field
Hard to tell if just this string is ancient since there is a farm nears it. But in the grove to the left are many Iron Age small stone mounds. On the other side of the road is a horse meadow with clear strings of ancient kind. There are also a couple of stones with cupmarks like on the stones shown here.
In West Gautland they have some Majesten = May Stone and the linguistic form suggest they were "Maying". That is the ritual in beginning of May better known as the Maypole but with variants locally. It could have been a stone for offering and/ or knocking in the stone to wake up Mother Earth. It was the ritual act of going symbolically beneath to start the resurrection in nature.
Since there are no order of the cupmarks it looks like occasional offering in spring and maybe at funeral. It could be that they wanted to "knock in" the dead like we do. In chaotic rock fields with rock-carvings it is hard to tell if the cupmarks belongs the picture as units or are they for offering. In some organised rock-carvings there is often a corner with many cupmarks and that may have been for offering. The altar stones have surely been used only for offering and "knocking in"
Stones like this we find at the border of many ancient fields but also near stony graveyards. Alternatively some stone of the mound have a number of cupmarks. We got to remember that the ritual was nearly the same at funerals as the spring ritual when going beneath. Nowadays it is difficult to see that many of the fields and graveyards are near former water in some form like bigger fields of rock carvings. Our ancestors knew that water is the real Ferryman.
The arrangement shows that the practised the same ritual when sowing and at rituals. We have also a few find of "handstones", i.e. small hand size stones with a cupmark. They were custom in Denmark in many places. This custom is very old and in caves they have found small stones with painted symbols. Maybe it was an offer to or call for Mother Earth and a message to the Ferryman. They call it Charon's Coin in later times. For growers it could symbolise the grain on it way in the River of Underworld.
Detail from the Lotterud Stone
On this enlargement we see the connected cupmarks. We see that the cupmarks are double and tripled. Maybe it symbolises the uniting of the Mights/ Mothers of Underworld and growing. The stone have surely been at the border of an ancient field.
We can also call it an altarstone and some of them were used nearly to our days. Folk memory tell that they offered to "what it should become", i.e. bread, butter, milk, blood bread and such things to the Old Goodie giving fertility … we have lost the humble attitude to nature. It is thought to be primitive acts and that it is silly thinking. We should pretend their lifestyle and understand their poetry speaking about and with nature as Woman
Many of the rock-carvings or part of rock-carvings could be seen as an altarstone. Many of the British rock-carvings look like altars that have been used for long time. In some places they have used some hollow natural stone as altar and it is difficult to recognise it in nature. It is also difficult to know that for sure. It is easier if it is in connection with some clearly holly place.
Altar or oathstone is the question.
This could be the May stone at the ritual highs in my neighbourhood. The boulder lies on the rocky hill ten meters above the field we see below in the background. It is on the platform that is the Olympus of Nordal with mounds, doom-rings, ship settings and probably noble graves. An altarstone should fit the idea, but there are no cupmarks on the stone … or I have not found any.
On Zealand they have the place name "Stenlille" = Little stone that seems to have been set up in beginning of May. The name Frey-/ Frejstone is maybe the same since Danish variants mean "germ". The medieval calendar in Denmark has Little Hans at 6th of May. Then it could be understood that they "sent away the little one on a journey on the River of Underworld". The Twig shows he is back and that is the same symbolism as the Egyptian djed-pillar as sign of growing. Here on Dal folk memory tells about "the rowan" they set up after that the cows were let out on grass in May.
In other places they maybe used "The Girl" as symbol. The Greeks have Kore and on in our symbolism we see a little girl as late as on picture stones from around 800 AD on Gotland
Round seal from the Akkadian period in Sumer ca 2200 BC
This is a good example of the Sumerian season. We see the "twig" between Inanna here as rain and thunder and the Archer with a bow and he is our Bearwatcher. The seal shows the summer season beginning with Utu at right and we see he has two faces. They are all crowned with the quadruple bull horn crown. The bull was the Oxen symbol of "Four Corners of the world" and starmap. We see the same symbolism in Egypt ca 3000 BC on the Narmer palette.
In the middle is the "Hill of Origin" as they call it in Egypt. Even the Babylonians and Hittitians used the hill as symbol. Enki, the first on Earth is stepping up from the Ocean and he has the Watergate on his shoulders and in the hand is the Sun Eagle or Fire Eagle since it is also symbol for the lightning.
Dumuzi is stepping down to underworld with the seed and he has a knife of course, since he wants to come out again. That means that the corn will grow. Inanna is Virgo as well as the New moon symbolising rain and thunder for the season. The Twig symbolises the growing corn and Archer is guarding it.
From medieval sources we know the "meadow guard" in the night looking out for night frost, when he must lit fires and of course he had to look after thieves on four legs too. We have many signs of this season symbolism in our rock-carvings.
… the symbol under the animal is normally interpreted "altar" and as we see it was in use in Bohuslaen in Bronze Age. In Sumerian texts and even in the Bible we learn that the offering usually was that the priest or officials splashed blood on the altar. Depending on how big the community was the official made a meal of the animal since gods are pleased with blood and bones. In small settlements the ritual were not too serious, I suppose. In Egypt and Sumer the priest told that gods rather eat gold, however other gifts were taken in store too.
In the Indian ritual they started the seasons with fire rituals and surely offering of some meat for the feast. Besides this was the often-used libation with water.