skeleton of urchin


“Nordic Stones” I. - The Native ones

With few exceptions (e.g. flint, quartz and amber) precious stones were imported to the North and their processing remained almost exclusively in the hands of foreign craftsmen.
The only precious stone that was used in the North continuously is amber. Its Latin name “glesum” (Norse *gleza) was used by antique writers - an early proof of the local designation.

What kind of magical significance was attributed to amber in the Germanic world-view can be inferred only in the rarest of cases.
An archaeological find of amber in the North that one can bring relatively safe in context with magical use is the one from the Bronze Age burial from Hvidegård on Zealand, Denmark (usually called the “shamans grave”). The dead person had a small leather case with exceptional items such as unidentified roots and pieces of bark, a tail of a grass snake, a claw of a hawk, a jaw of a squirrel, a sea-urchin-skeleton, a flint and red chalk, and last but not least a a large piece of raw amber.

Much later, amber was carved in forms of animals and humans in large quantities (Roughly, since the material is not very suitable for sculptural work) and was worn e.g. in the form of Thor’s hammers and crosses as amulets - so one can also assume that these pendants and its material had not only a decorative function.

Probably another “magical gem” in the Norse literature is the gem in Völundrs (Waylands) ring. Due to the pictures on Franks Casket - a small Anglo-Saxon carved whalebone casket with various biblical and native mythological scenes - researchers had drawn a relation between the famous ring of Solomon (that gave him power over the spirit-word) and the ring held by Völundr (who is called “leader of álfar” in the Völundarkviða). Maybe the ring of Völundr and Solomon were considered identical. And maybe it were the gems that gave the ring its magic.

Völundarkviða (Völundr’s poem):

But alone sat Völundr in Wolf-Dales;
He struck gems into the red gold

According to the Eiriks saga rauða (Saga of Erik the Red) the prophetess Þórbjörg had a staff: “with a knob thereon; it was ornamented with brass, and inlaid with gems round about the knob”. Maybe this staff was a kind of wand and the gems had not only a decorative but also a magical function.

Source: one photos

  • first one: Bronze Age flint-stone dagger (this kind of stone-weapons in Bronze Age graves are seen as prestige or ritual objects)

Part three: Before she heads back to the States, Lizzie Armanto send us a final dispatch from her three-week tour of Australia.

During the last week of my travels, I headed down to Bondi Beach where the last event was to take place. Part of every day leading up to Bowl-A-Rama’s main event was spent skating the pool. I enjoyed the practice sessions; everybody was charging. I also tagged along with Tony Hawk and his crew to the Sydney Zoo, where I got the chance to see chimpanzees up close and got to pet a bunch of animals including a seal, an echidna, and a mata-mata turtle (look them up :) ). On the morning of the contest there was a little rain; fortunately the sprinkles cleared up. Overall, I was happy with how I skated. I had a rough start and took a slam on my first run, but after that I made most of my runs. Post-contest, I caught dinner with the Vans crew and got to enjoy the evening. On my final day, I lounged around on the beach, with heaps* of sunscreen on.—Lizzie

*heaps: one of the most used terms in Australia

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