Kultur, Zoologi og metafysisk spekulasjon

Thunderbolts, thunderstones, tordenkiler

In Arkeologi, Kultur, Litteratur on april 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm

They appear in mythologies all over the world; Hindu, Hittite, Greek, Roman, Germanic, Maya, Cherokee, Ojibway, Igbo. The list goes on. But where are the literary sources? What are the hard facts on the thunderbolts?

One interesting book in the subject is Tordenvåbenet i kultus og folketro. En komparativ-archæologisk undersøgelse (lit.transl. “The Thunderweapon in cultic practice and folklore. A comparative-archaeological study”) by Chr. Blinkenberg, a Danish archaeologist. Blinkenberg (1863-1948) reached some fame after his excavations at Rhode in 1900-1914, where he found, accompanied by Karl Frederik Kinch, a lost temple chronicle dated to 99 BC. He published this piece on ancient mythology in 1909.

The book has it as its goal to study the relation between the thunderweapon and people in different times and cultures of history. He focuses mainly on three contexts; the Myceneaen period (double axe in bronze), the historical period (the classical keraunos, the weapon of Zeuz) and today (stone axes). When commenting on his nearest history, he argues that scientists such as J. L. Wolff and O. Worm marked a break with the older definitions.

All the way up to our own times, the belief in thunderbolts has prevailed, and it is still alive. About 30-40 years ago, it was very much alive in south-eastern Jylland [Denmark]. (p.7)

He then presents the Danish definition of the thunderbolt. Supposedly, the Danes believed the thunderbolts fell down from the heavens during thunder, or more precisely; every time a lightning occurs. According to this perception, the lightning strike is defined by the rock falling down; the fire and the sound follows after (secondary phenomena). The stone protects the house and other dwellings from being hit, because the lightning will never struck the same place twice. The stones were usually kept on a shelf, or in a crate. Occasionally it could be hidden in a special place, embedded in the wall, dug into the floor, placed over the bed, or under the roof. In Denmark it was usually kept under the bed, because no one was allowed to touch it.

The thunderstone was also a guardian against trolls and other beasts. As most of the evil in the lifeworld of the farmers were caused by these mythological figures, the stones protected both the house and its inhabitants. It protected the new born child from being “exchanged” (“forbyttet”), and the horses from having nightmares. The stone was also used during the milking of cows; it could be placed on the shelves next to the bottled milk to keep it fresh. Cream was supposed to be better if was accompanied by a thunderstone. The same went for butter, which gave it the trivial name “butterluck” (“smørlykke”).

Different types of artifacts were perceived as thunderstones in different areas of Denmark. Blinkenberg sees three different areas according to the literary sources; at Sjællland and nearby islands and at parts of eastern Jylland, the thunderstones were identified by what now know as regular stone age hand axes, knives and sickles. At parts of Sjælland and the southern islands such as Falster, Lolland and Bornhold, belemnites (“vættelys”) was included as thunderstones. In the western and southern areas of Jylland, petrified urchins was also included. Blinkenberg speculates in whether only the petrified pieces were associated with the different dairy productions, and only the flint objects were rigorous thunderstones.


Blinkenberg argues that in order to fully understand the thunderstones as cultural phenomena, one must look across borders. For instance, the situation was not the same in Norway as in Denmark. In Norway , people usually took round and smooth stones as thunderbolts (“et slags runde og glatte stene”), but in the southern parts of the country, tools from the stone age were also acknowledged.

Blinkenberg has four literary sources from Norway. The first is dated to 1750, when the parish priest of Askevold, Fr. Arndtz, shipped a small round stone to bishop E. Pontoppidan. He wrote in his letter that the local farmers believed the rocks were the cause of thunder, and that thunder was the natural killer of trolls. Supposedly, the thunderstones were projectiles intended to kill trolls and other beasts. The stones could be found where the thunder had ripped open the ground, the biggest ones were about the same size as an egg.

Another source informs us that in areas such as Nordhordland, Söndfjord, Ryfylke, Søndhordland, Hardang, Voss, and Sogn, the usual name for thunderstones was “torelod”, “torestein”, or “dyrenestein” (lit.transl. thunderstone). In Smaalenene, Vestfold and Ross they called them “toreblöyg” or “tordenkile” (lit.transl. thunderwedge). Supposedly, a farm called Mee-ås in Telemark had been the location for some form of cultic practice up till the 18th century. Thursday is in Norway called “torsdag”, which literally means “the day of Tor” or “Tor’s day”, associated with Thor as the Norse God of thunder. At Mee-ås, every Thursday evening they found their stones, rubbed them in butter or some other ointment, and placed on the high seat of the farm. Through these rituals the stones were worshipped as deities.

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