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Painting "Donar-Thor" by the German painter Max Koch (1859 - 1930), painted about 1905.

Discovery of Hammer of Thor artifact solved mystery of Viking amulets

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The discovery of a 10 th century Viking artifact resembling the Hammer of Thor solved a long-running mystery surrounding more than 1,000 ancient amulets found across Northern Europe, according to a report in Discovery News .

The relics, known as the Mjöllnir amulets, appear to depict hammers, which historians have linked to the Norse god Thor. However, this could not be concluded with certainty as their shapes are not conclusive, and none of them contained inscriptions revealing their identity. 

However, another similar pendant was recently found in Købelev, on the Danish island of Lolland, which is the first one to be discovered with an inscription. The runic text reads “Hmar x is”, which translates to “this is a hammer”.  Cast in bronze, and likely plated with silver, tin and gold, the 1,100-year-old pendant shows that Thor’s myth deeply influenced Viking jewellery.

The rune-inscribed Mjöllnir amulet

Image: The rune-inscribed Mjöllnir amulet. Credit: National Museum of Denmark

“This is the only hammer-shaped pendant with a runic inscription. And it tells us that (the pendants) in fact depict hammers,” Henrik Schilling, a spokeperson at the National Museum of Denmark, told Discovery News.

According to Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and fertility. Thor is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania, to the tribal expansions of the Migration Period, to his high popularity during the Viking Age, when, in the face of the process of the Christianization of Scandinavia, the Mjölnir amulets were worn in defiance and Norse pagan personal names containing the name of the god bear witness to his popularity.

Etching by Hugo Hamilton, depicting the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen Ansgar the preaching Christianity to the ‘heathen’ Swedes. ( Public Domain )

Featuring an interlacing ornament on one side of the hammer head and the short runic inscription on the other, the newly discovered Mjöllnir amulet is believed to have been made by a local craftsmen. Fragments of silver needles and a mould for making pendants indicate that the jewellery was produced in a silversmith’s workshop on Lolland island.

Featured image: Painting "Donar-Thor" by the German painter Max Koch (1859 - 1930), painted about 1905. 

By April Holloway

Comments

I think something was lost in Translation, maybe the inscription says "this is The Hammer" as in Thors Hammer.

Justbod's picture

Really interesting discovery. The thing that fascinates me most is the inscription and the motivation to write 'this is a hammer.' Why would you do that? Interesting...

The only thing I could come up with is, when I'm making things inscribed with Runes, I am thinking more about their use decoratively, rather than their meaning, so often opt for a simple statement.

The discovery is good news for archaeologists and historians.

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature: www.justbod.co.uk

 

 

 

Well in the Eddic Poem Voluspa mankind is referred to as "highborn and lowborn of Heimdall's children". We also have the myth by Tacitus of Mannus the son of Tvisto who sprang from the earth - a deity from which Germanic tribes descend according to Tacitus. The Eddic Rigsthula has a deity Rigr or Heimdall who fathers human children and classes. We have beings like alfs and disir, semi-divine beings, some of whom were clearly once human in the lore. For instance a dead king in the mound who becomes an Alf associated with fertility. An old Germanic general has his name invoked on a rune stone years later amidst other divine names. So while it may be risky to say this is the exact same as apotheosis the Romans accepted, there is definitely evidence of humans becoming different and semi-divine beings upon them or venerated in cults. We also have kings tracing ancestry to Wodan or Yngvi. Not all dead end up in Valhalla or are warriors. Numerous ideas of where the dead could end up or how they could transform.

The idea that the Norse (or any Germanic pagans for that matter) considered men divine is not at all true. There is a fairly explicit class distinction between humans and every other type of being in the mythology, like the Aesir (gods) and giants (jotunn), and at no point to men ever become gods. In Norse mythology men who die in battle are taken by valkyries to join either Odin in Valhalla or Freya in Folkvang and are fated to eventually join the gods in battle against the giants during Ragnarok, after which the remaining gods and dead human warriors that survived Ragnarok will live in a hall in Asgard called Gimli (I suppose people that die after the earth is repopulated will also go here, but I can't remember).

tl;dr Nothing you said is accurate in relation to Germanic paganism

Unfortunately the words we usually employ changed (in a way) the original meaning of what they should represent.

We have to read ancient myths always trying to fit in their writers' point of view. "Pagan" is a christian word introduced in the IV century A.D. "Religon" too, it could sound strange to Ancient Greeks or Nordics.

Maybe these population didn't believe in a god as represented today by monoteists, but - in some occasions- both Greeks and Nordics- linked their principal god (i.e. Odin or Zeus) with the universe itself. It's still different, of course. Myths talk about divinities, strong people who became gods or ascended to the stars (think about constellations or planets' names..is this a tribute to those people or is this the opposite?) but also describe cosmogony as maybe the whole ancient world knew it: Eddas, Greeks myths and I'd add also Enuma Elis (sorry Sitchin!) seems tales of how the universe, or at least solar system, was born. Now the question is: how did they know?

 

Ture

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