Archive for the ‘carvings in stone’ Category
I love small sculpture. On my eight-day trip to Ontario, one of the things I was inspired to draw was a small stone carving of a man. He was purchased in Greece… the little carving is a modern example of a sculpture done in the Etruscan style.
His head is down, resting on his knees, encircled by his arms. He reminds me of the games of hide-and-seek we played as children. For a few moments, the one who is ‘it’ covers his or her eyes and knows only the small space between knees and arms. Then, after counting to ten, the eyes can open and perspective returns to normal. Then it is the task of ‘it’ to hunt down companions who have hidden while he or she counted to ten.
count to ten
arms enfold head
wrapped in knees
count to ten, unfold
dark to light
seek what imps
send them home
© Jane Tims 2012
Recently I was able to take eight days and visit some of my family in Ontario. While I was there, I spent some time drawing and writing. In the next few posts, I will show you some of these drawings and the poems I wrote to accompany them.
The first concerns a small statuette of an inuksuk, carved in northern Canada by an artist who created a gentle, thoughtful tribute to this traditional form.
For more information on the inuksuk, see my post for November 18, 2011, ‘monuments in stone’, under the category ‘the rock project’.
and sculpted, carved
by a hand, skilled as ocean
salt-polish and sand
edge of stone and surfaces
between solid and liquid
solid and air
© Jane Tims 2012
In eleventh century Sweden, rune stones were often raised by landowners as a memorial of their accomplishments.
Jarlebanke was a landowner and a local magnate who lived in Uppland, Sweden during the second half of the eleventh century. He took pains to ensure he would be remembered, and six stones survive of the many he ordered to be carved.
Four of the surviving stones stand at the ends of the Täby bru. The Täby bru is a ‘bridge’ or causeway marked with two rune stones at each end.
One of these stones (U127) was used in the 17th century as the threshold of the church in Täby; it now stands to the side of the church door. The inscription (in runes) says: Iarlabanki let ræisa stæina Þessa at sik kvikvan, ok bro Þessa gærđi fyr and sina ok æinn atti Tæby allan. This has been translated as: “Jarlebanke let raise these stones after himself, while he was living, and he made this bridge for his soul, and he himself owned the whole Täby.”
The stone depicts two serpent creatures enclosing a Latin cross. Symbols of the old religion and Christianity are often found together on rune stones, evidence of transition in belief systems. Jarlebanke was not taking any chances when he recognized both religions on his rune stones. The facimile (below) of the runes on the stone is from:
a bridge for the soul
Danderyds church, Täby, Uppland
ok bro Þessa gærđi fyr and sina…
and he made this bridge for his soul…
– inscription on a Täby bridge runestone
Jarlabanke made this bridge
for his soul
a causeway crossing marshy ground
for though he owned all Täby
he was afraid
he raised these four while living
a rare deed
the stones, of course, never care
first at the ends of the Täby bru
then at the threshold
of the south church door
the Cross tethered to old faith
best wager for passage into heaven
© Jane Tims 2003
Some eleventh and twelfth century Scandanavian rune stones were established as memorials to family members.
The Bro rune stone in Uppland, Sweden, was raised by a wife, Ginnlög, in honor of her dead husband, Assur. It also commemorates the building of a bridge (a causeway across marshy ground) in memory of Assur.
The stone is carved with two serpent bands, around an ornamental cross. It says that Assur kept watch with a comrade Gæitir, as part of the Víkinga vorđr, a local defense force against Viking raiders. The photo below is taken from:
Beginning in the 8th century, Viking raids were carried out regularly in England and Ireland. Two well-known raids were on the monasteries at Lindesfarne in England (793 AD) and Glendalough in Ireland (834 AD).
In the first stanza of the poem below is a poetic form called a ‘kenning’. The ‘kenning’ is a figure of speech using two or more words to convey an idea or image. It is usually associated with Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetry. For example, ‘silver sun’ is a kenning for ‘moon’, and ‘summer smoke’ is a kenning for the windborne seeds of milkweed.
the Bro Stone, Uppland
bitter is the wind this night
which tosses up the ocean’s hair so white
merciless men I need not fear
who cross from Lothland on an ocean clear
– Irish monk, 8th century
on a calm night
under the shine of the silver sun
the shadow-self of dragon
square sail, glint of gold
swords polished and drawn
these are signs:
the white belly of a gull
lifted on the thickness of air
stalks of milkweed bent
their summer smoke pushed inland
no fear tonight
the wind bitter
the ocean tossed
Gætir, new leader of the watch
I warm my hands
in Assur’s cloak, now mine
today I raised a bridge
and this sad stone
to my husband
my Víkinga vörđr
my protector from the raid
bitter this night
from the Danish shore
yet will I watch
listen to the whisper of milkweed stems
rumors of Lindesfarne
where the coil of a serpent
may strangle a simple cross
© Jane Tims 2004
How do you show the boundary line between you and your neighbor?
At Ågersta Village in Uppland, Sweden, is a rune stone positioned to mark a boundary between two properties. The stone is carved with two serpent creatures entwined, their heads in profile. Each has two sets of legs, the forelegs strong, and the rear legs weak and helpless.
The stone was carved by Balle, a frequent carver of rune stones in Sweden, and raised by Vidhugse, in memory of his father. The boundry, established in the twelfth century, showed the boudary until 1856 when the property lines were finally changed!
The inscription reads, in part: Hiær mun standa stæinn miđli byia – “Here shall stand the stone between farms.”
stone between farms
(rune stone in Ågersta Village, Uppland)
Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone…
– Deuteronomy 19:14
ninth morning already
irate I rise
gather my tools
trudge to the hillside
stone waits for me, Balle
(master carver of runes)
shadows pulled into dragon
compete with guidelines
‘what is not’ more complete than ‘what is’
another fair day
Vidhugse to the west and south
Austmadr to the east
surely their bickering over boundaries
by noon the sun
embroils the rock
streaks my brow with sweat
floods the serpent creature’s clever eye
lip lappets drip
mosquitoes dither about
the creature’s profile acquires
the look of an insect head
reckless slip of the rune tool
could end its smirk
hill of rock dust
settles on my shoe
birches stir the air
odor of leaf layer
memory smell of Birka
© Jane Tims 2005
In my studies in history, no topic has engaged me like the use of stone to record our human endeavors. I have made a small study of the rune stones of Scandinavia, the stelae of Mesoamerica, and the petroglyphs of North America.
The majority of Scandinavian rune stones are found in Sweden (2,900 in Sweden, compared with 300 in Denmark, 50 in Norway and 33 on the Isle of Man).
These stones are upright or horizontal, frequently taller than two meters and marked by rune carvers with runes and various images. Rune stones are found scattered across the countryside and are mostly memorials, providing records of family relationships and history, community happenings and property ownership.
The majority of rune stones were made in the eleventh century, coinciding with the gradual conversion of the people of Scandinavia from pagan beliefs to Christianity. The transition took years, a merging of doctrine and practice from the two religions. The majority of rune stones show some religious symbolism, usually a blending of pagan and Christian ideas.
In the yard of an old church at Sigtuna, Uppland, is a rune stone once part of the Dominican cloister foundation.
The stone was raised by a guild of merchants to honor one of their members. The rune stone is carved with a ribbon of runes enclosing a simple pattée cross. The facimile (below) of the carvings on the rune stone is taken from:
The Dominicans are a Christian Order of mendicant monks founded in the early thirteenth century. The monks are also called “black friars” because of their black cloaks.
The chant in the poem below is based on the Order for Compline in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
they too were brothers
(rune stone at the Dominican cloister, Sigtuna)
Frisa gildaR letu ræisa stæin Þennsa æftiR Þor [kil, gild] a sinn.
The Frisian guild brothers let raise this stone after Torkel, their guild brother.
– inscription on the rune stone at the cloister
we, black friars, stride
stone to stone
the measured step
lighten our darkness
from perils of night
beside the singular stone
our voices waver
pause on the syllable
explore the octave
and the chant moves on
relief of a quiet night
perfect end to imperfect day
of the grave
they too were brothers
to him, Torkel
we, Frisa, raise
ribbon of runes
cut by Torbjörn
the cross by his blade
brighten our darkness
hide us beneath
the shadow of thy wings
God bless him and keep him
Guđ hialpi and hans
© Jane Tims 2005