Skip to comments.Crystal Amulet Poses Question On Early Christianity (Denmark - 100AD)
Posted on 03/09/2007 11:37:30 AM PST by blam
9 March 2007
Crystal amulet poses question on early Christianity
An overlooked crystal amulet in the National Museum suggests new understandings about Christianity's origins in Denmark
King Harold Bluetooth brought Christianity to Denmark roughly 1100 years ago. At least that's what he declared on the Jelling Stone located in Jutland:
'King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.'
A tiny crystal amulet in the National Museum's archives suggests something quite different though, that maybe Christianity arrived in Denmark six centuries earlier than previously believed.
In 1820, a farmer found the crystal amulet in the grave of a noblewoman on the island of Funen. Together with coins and other items in the grave, archaeologists were able to date the grave to about 300 AD.
For nearly two hundred years, the amulet and other articles had been on display in the National Museum.
As part of major project to reorganise the museum's collection, however, Peter Pentz, a curator and archaeologist at the National Museum, examined the 3cm sphere of crystal and noticed that it was unlike anything found in Denmark.
Upon closer inspection, he noticed what seemed to be an upside arrow. Drawing upon his knowledge of early Christian imagery, Pentz began to wonder: could this arrow in actuality be an anchor? A sign used by early Christians?
Pentz discovered another etching on the amulet - the word ABLATHANALBA. Such a word was believed to have mystical powers in early Christian ceremonies, suggesting that its owner had a connection to early Christian beliefs.
Pentz explained that his past studies in Rome's catacombs enabled him to see the amulet in a different light.
'I'm familiar with early Christian imagery,' Pentz told Politiken newspaper. 'As I studied the ball, I recognised the connection.'
First Christian Dane
The crystal amulet says important things about the woman buried in the 4th century, at a time when Denmark was still largely populated by pagans who worshipped Thor.
But was she a Christian?
Pentz thinks it's possible. She was most likely not the typical porridge eating woman who slaved every day to carry water from the nearby well. Instead, she was of a higher class and probably wore woollen textiles dyed in strong colours.
'She could have come from south eastern Europe and been married into an aristocratic Danish family,' said Pentz.
He admits that his hypothesis takes him out on a limb. The tiny crystal ball could have changed hands many times. And maybe it belonged to somebody else and was merely placed in her grave to help her on her journey in the after world.
Factors nevertheless suggested the woman subscribed to an early Christian worldview with all the mysticism and talismans that included.
The residents of Funen, for example, had ties to the Black Sea and Balkans where many people converted to Christianity early on. As far back as 100AD, people in that region were becoming Christianised. By the 4th century, many Christians populated the area.
Travelling from Denmark to the region was a long journey at the time, but the residents of Funen were more adventurous than residents of Zealand.
So the chance exists that some form of trade existed between the two regions. And that a woman prescribing to an early Christian faith could have come to Denmark long before Harold Bluetooth took credit for converting the Danes to Christianity.
Hello friends. Haraldr harðráði in old Icelandic means Harald Hard-buttocks. Yes, you've got that right. harðráði is a perjorative in some texts for a mean ruler and just as today it is in reference to a man's hind quarters.
First remember that in the development of language "l" and "r" are liquid vowels and can replace each other. So change the Greek "l" to an "r" and you are close to abra kedabra.
Also, words of power inscribed like this were often meant so that letters were read in reverse.
That is definitely an anchor in my opinion - I have seen a number of others including one up in Deeside on Pictish Christian carvings on megaliths.
This noble woman was of extraordinary importance to have this.
I neglected to say that there would likely be a deliberate mis-spelling of the word of power so that neophytes and the unwashed could not read it.
My favorite on is Halvdan den Milde Og Matille Øysteinsøn(The Generous & Food Miserly), because it's rather baffling. His father was Øystein "Fretr" Halvdansson (the Fart), a name that is sure to bring glee to any young boy.
I think it's possible she may have been a Goth (Wulfila Bible was a 4th century translation) or possibly a Nun, who'd been collected during a raid.
I should have said you can find the perjorative use of harðráði in the Sagas. Of course, this is a rare double entendre ... the "radt" as parliament is featured in a number of northern European languages...
My bet would be on a woman the Vikings brought back during their raids through Kievan Rus' during the Viking river invasions through what is modern day Russia, Ukraine etc.
I actually took Icelandic for a semester, and my Icelandic dictionary says: "ráða (ræð; réð; ráðinn) v.t. advise; recommend; ráða e-m áð gera e-ð, advise s.o. to do s.t.; with dat. rule, govern." Nothing about bottoms anywhere.
It seems an obvious cognate with the Anglo-Saxon ræd and Middle English rede, all meaning the same thing - counsel or advice. I would think the Icelandic for the hinder parts would be a cognate of the A/S "buttuc" which means what it sounds like.
Normally in Norse you see the word "ars" employed or its variations. One of the older variations is "ard" and sometimes with a prefix "r".
Right. Brennu-Njáls saga or as the Icelandic of today calls it Njála.
I know Harald Fairhair is in there, but isn't Harald Hardrada a lot later?
Oh, its not used with reference to Haraldr or as a proper name in the Njála -- I just cite it for reference on the use of the word.
I recall that you are a speaker of Scots Gaelic. Do you get anything out of the inscription?
Is it Atli?
The Christian amulet may also been booty - a pretty trinket given a women to make her smile.
Depending on the manuscript, you find it used in reference to Atli and also Gunnar -- and a very cunning play on it in one manuscript referring to Hallgerda.