Thing-stone / court stone

Thingstone, thing mound, thing circle and more are manifested in our place names. With agriculture population increased in villages and it brought a need for a common thing in Iron Age. The thing seems to be just a little bigger than the village circle.

Thingstone, thing mound, thing circle, Tynwald, allting, Manx cat, platform, terrace, Monks' Altar, fylgia, Gulating, oathring, tingrith, third man, oath-going, oathstone, edstone

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The church of St Bendt in Ringsted Zealand Denmark

The church of St Bendt is the oldest building of bricks in Denmark from the middle of 12th century. The little city Ringsted became a place of royal burials for a time. The name tells that it was from the beginning a thing place ring = circle = district and reverence show that they want to keep the reminds.

On a map 1 : 100000 I found more than 30 "ting mound"-names in Denmark and there are more of them with other combinations of "thing + attribute". With the kingdom came the concept of province thing and known at Viborg North-Jutland and Urnehoved South-Jutland and the kingdom began from Jutland. Later there was separate province things also at Fyn, Zealand, Lolland and Skaane.

The early thing seems to have been up to local traditions and in some places the local chieftain established some of them. We have no proof that there have been chieftains everywhere. In fact in some places we may expect a female leader and in others combination of pairs of two male or females or female and male pair. There was no standardised shape of the thing as we see it in the remains. Still they wanted to save the organisation in stony arrangement and other monuments.

Even in Denmark we see in places the dualism. Observe the two thing-stones. The dualism is seen in many places. Here we can associate to the texts from Ugarit telling that "the Twins" were lawmen. We have finds of two neck-rings in some places showing that they had two leaders and maybe we different responsibilities. But maybe we can find a better explanation later on.

On Dal we see that the doom ring and circle of small and medium boulders are so frequent that they have been used in the ancient villages. The thing concept is for the county or hundred of which we on Dal originally have five. The kingdom organised the land in provinces but they have been established maybe in Bronze Age due to the population and needs. As we see from the few big mounds that may have been made for common ritual things in Bronze Age.

The crown of the Scandinavian thing is Tynwald on Isle of Man with the original outdoor thing still going strong after more than 1000 years.

On Isle of Man they have preserved the original idea as the big mound and the standing stone/pole as centre of the world of the thing. In old language the own world was named "allheimr" and the thing was "allting" or as in West Gautaland "alla gauters ting" understood as concerning all people within the border of their own folkland/province. The land outside that was "another world" or "outgard".

Observe that I think that the migration to Isle of Man came from a larger area than just the Norse in 10th century. For instance I include North-Jutland, West Gautaland and my own Dal besides Norse Viken and Vestlandet. I decide this from style in figurative art such as the Borre-style and some place names. They think that immigrants and Celts on Isle of Man invented the chain-ornament and we find it also in mentioned places and of course at Gotland too.

Near the place of my childhood there is a little peninsula Reers Island. At least then their cats were without tail in the same manner as the Manx cat. Naturally it is a place to ask who did get that cat race first? Since I now live on Dal it is the place to ask about the origin of the place name Dalby at Isle of Man.

We cannot know if the terraces are original or made in time caused by needs. Yet we see some ritual places with terraces even in Scandinavia and on Zealand should be something like a ziggurat or step pyramid. In Steneby on Dal there has been a low bank with a ditch around of the size 16-metre diameter and that might have been a place for local thing. At Haugsbyn there may have been something in the end of an avenue. Places like Lindelse Langeland and Snarup Fyn with ramp to a mound contends the same idea.

Making a platform or footstool lifts the official to a higher "world" that preferable should be better than that of equality for the people. Equality is of course the natural right, but when population grow there is a need for delegation since a leader is needed if job should be done. Originally the power of the official is given by the people and with certain limits. Our forefathers were wise when they gave power only for defined jobs and for limited time. They perhaps knew that power is easily misused.

However mankind has always difficulties in seeing what is map and what is terrain or what is idea and what is reality. Some on the higher plane believe that they are better people or half gods once they are there. It is hard to live after the rules on the higher plane law and common decisions made and that is why we have trouble with arrogant officials and politicians believing that they have more right than others ... just these writing days we have a case in Swedish politics.

In some Danish churches they have found remains they believe have been a platform in the western end of the building. They believe that such churches were thing churches and the platform part was for the officials and for nobility. Some churches were build with a gallery in west for the high nobility or maybe royal visitations. From the beginning the kings were elected by the people but that was not welcomed in all provinces. Maybe it was because the king had forced a province to be within the kingdom, so some province churches were build like a tower. This was the case in southern Scandinavia in 11th and 12th century.


The Monks' Altar

This is obviously a ritual place since the place fenced by boulders is like a platform. Not far from it are two stone circles with seven stones. It could have been a local thing place since it is situated in an area suitable for that.

The folk memory calls this Monks' Altar however we know of no monastery on Dal. Still the first church brought Benedictines from England to assist the church and the priests so it is possible that the folk memory is right.

We see that they have fenced the place with stones and the ritual place is surely much older than the church. But the folk-tongue sometimes rationalise, sometime hide unwanted memories and sometimes use imagination to explain things.

Naturally decisions of building churches were taken on places like altars and doom-rings. Maybe it was hard for people to understand the Latin and the new god. Although the new "only god" was just another one between the assembly of gods they had before. And soon the only one became also Maria and Jesus and then Smokey too. The latter was not far from the invisible small things they had before.

It must have been shaman-like events when the first priest read Latin and introduced the new ritual. The Pope maybe understood this when he recommended the missionaries in England and on Ireland to allow the old wells and ritual items. Later they build a church over it and used the stones and so on.

Old words like fylgia = follower sounds like poetry of the charisma we have and that make people talk about us while we are away. It fades out when we die and is kept in memory only by near relatives.

Our province laws were for peasants and their kind of society. They did not need an upper class, but institutions that solved common problems both in positive meaning and the negative in handling crime.

Maybe it was influence from Egyptians and their three seasons that lead to the triad symbolism we see under last millennium BC. It seams that it was connected to the moon symbolism and that we see also in the Indian culture. The medieval three termini division of the thing year may origin from this. That gave the winter thing in February and a summer thing and law-thing in autumn. The first two was for each county, while the lawthing was for the entire province.

In our place names folk memory we have a few words about thing. Disating and Gyrsting are surely the same as Celtic Imbolic and Gyr means, "flow out". Gelting and Gula ting maybe originate from the Sumerian word Gula = gate then meaning the gate between lawless and law due to the gate symbolism. It sounds like the term for lawthing. Gelting is a place name and Gulating is the name of the oldest known thing in southern Norway.

In the Norse saga of Erik Skallagrimsson he wrote about Gulating:

The court sat on a bank fenced in a circle with hazel sticks and a rope running around. It was called veband. In the circle sat the twelve judges in a circle twelve from each of the counties Finda-, Sygna- and Hordafylke.

The arrangement was maybe suitable for province thing that was hold in different places. They gathered the counties' thing to the lawthing in one place. In the province laws of Vaestmanland and Dalarna is a short saying "a thing and a ring". Then it is easy to think about thing and doom when we see the rings in some connections.

We have also the concept oathring and that goes back to the Celtic Age and the neckring worn by the oath-sworn leader. We do not know much about it. Some fragment is about holding the ring when swearing oath, but there may have been different rituals and uses. The Forssa ring has the text about the Vi and the fines … see the Vi. The ring may have been replaces by the stick and it ritual after the Celtic Age.

In the province laws they mention three things a year and they name it tingrith, which show that in the sparsely populated land the law writer supposed that everyone came to thing horseback. The riding nobility wrote down the laws, but ordinary people did not own that many horses at least when I read the doombooks of Dal.

If we systematise we can see three types of counsels. In villages they needed a permanent place for the assembly maybe coming together once a week at the doom ring. The county maybe had their own thing place and that was the most important kind since common topics were on table. The province thing were in provinces with own identity like the Gaut with "All Gauts Thing" and it was the law thing. With Kingdom that was his thing and in some codes he was the judge.

It is only natural that there were differences between provinces. In Uppland they organised their fleet and at least the hundreds near the seas in boat teams. And the team was a suitable unit for the assembly. We can say that their entire life was about sailing. We know that the town law was written down as birkeret, but not much about earlier praxis. However they surely had rules for the law-room of marketplace. The medieval court of town had meeting every week but it concerned only the town.

The hazel stick was the sacred symbol like our club today. The decision was final when it fell from the hand of the leader. The parts and the witnesses holding in the stick sealed agreements between two parts. The assembly around the place got a memory of the act even when they did not hear what was said. If there was quarrel about a field with corn a claim was made by stripping a hazel stick and to mark the place. After that the case was settled in the local court.

Developing of the laws was a long process and it is still going strong …and heavy when I see the law book grow in my lifetime. It began more than 6000 years ago. We see a stick in the hand of Sumerian leaders and the Egyptians had a bunch of staffs meaning different things.

I think we should admire the ingenuity of our ancestors and their inventions when organising society. Whit no ability to read and with no paper to write on they had to solve the problem by other means. Their solutions were ritual acts easy to remember and in addition to this they build pedagogic places to illustrate some of the abstract concepts. From medieval customs we know they ask "the oldies" if there was quarrel about something and they remembered how it has been for a man-age.

It is not as easy as it sounds to see that if you make a holy promise or an agreement that should stand in time against your best interest. Maybe you soon will forget it. Then is the only safety for the other part that there is a neutral community as memory and witness in the past. Symbol acts are for the memory and just as a gate between the two conditions before and after the agreement and that the staff has fallen.

There is always the need to protect "third man" = only the collective community can protect the unknown or the innocent that should be equal with everyone. The first "third person" I know of in the symbolism and Sumerian texts is the innocent motherless child. "Her mother sleeps in Underworld". It is a duty of the collective to create a society that protect the innocent and weak. It is a kind of self-preserving of mankind and a guaranty for sustainability as far as it is in the power of man. If you do not care for everyone you are compromising with life and soon man eats man.

From Aanimskog we have a puzzling description of a double mound connected with a bank. The biggest mound with 7 metres diameter and connected by a 4 metres wide and 7 metres long bank to the smaller mound. On the big mound was one metre-long stone slab. I suggest it has been used as mean for the "Edgaang" = "Oath-going" between the mound symbolising "no order" to that with the stone creating order. There is an old saying that "Oath should be sworn at grounded stone". Some of the stones maybe are an oathstone and not an altar.

Here on Dal we have a place-name Edstena = Oath-stones and the form indicate that the name is in dual or plural. The word ED means also ford and up to their logic there needed to be footbridge between two stages. The Twins in the night sky are just in the portal between new and recent year as the original idea. Swearing an oath is like going from the place without agreement to the place with a specified agreement. Then we maybe also understand why there is two thingstones in Ringsted. 

As for Dal we have to remember that it was the land of Elk and Oxen and all small animals in between. Growing crops to a larger extend began with Iron Age around 500 BC. Before that their villages were "milking places" as we can note from place names. In planning settlements the task was to live in healthy places above the seasonal wetlands.

The pollen curves inland show occasional agriculture in periods 3400 -- 3200 BC; 2300 -- 2100 BC; 1300 -- 1100 BC before it became continuous about 500 BC. The first fields were maybe "Celtic fields" which means a "bread-meadow" the village used as a collective.

Then we have two sizes of organise "rings" that of the thing for the county or hundred and the smaller for the village with one or two doom-rings as the normal. The bigger term "folkland" we cannot see in the stony monuments since if there were that kind of organisation they used the thing places or set up an occasional thing-place. In place-names we have a few telling about "Foot" as a concept for folkland.  

It seems that real private property was introduced about 400 -- 700 AD in Scandinavia. Place names with endings -ungar/-ingar indicates owned by a clan and they are usually outside the root village. That can be the first signs of private property. Maybe the novelty forced the Danes to get rid of the upper class of Eriles in end of 5th century AD. The Eriles knew everything about feudal order since they traded with Romans and many were legionaries in Rome. At some stage they got "Herulian lots" meaning they were allowed to use the lots like Roman citizens.

In the empire they practised feudalism with a peasant class and the nobility owning their own farms. It is much the same order we see in the early medieval society. The peasants had their own "law room" and the nobility had their farms outside that. However even peasants could rise to be part of the nobility.

It was convenient to let some from the outside be responsible for hard decisions so the peasants let the nobility be the lawmen and also leaders of ritual … AS LONG AS IT DID NOT COST TOO MUCH!

At the end a look at the proportions with my Dal as example. This little province counted around 300 taxpaying farmers in 1413. It was 60 years after the Black Death so maybe the number was 30 % lower than before. At the time of Gustav Wasa in 1540 the books shows 850 1/1 farms and in 1700 around 1000 estates.

The number did not rise but the estates were divided in smaller parts so at most there have been around 3000 and a lot of small now forgotten small houses. Now they are less than 2000 and they plan there should be 1000 efficient estates when the governments will is fulfilled. I think all farmers dream about a big farm and next generation will get it.

These figures should make us understand that in the sparsely populated Scandinavia there were now people for building big monuments and stony houses… and to that great cultural pictures and mighty chieftains keeping slaves and fighting with other chieftains and burning down their places. Some archaeologists believe in such imagination, however they cannot point out the fireplaces.

It is just a wonder that we in Scandinavia created the real folk home including equality and direct democracy. It is soon gone and forgotten. But at least in my generation we know about it and I have written down how it all began as far as I find some facts.