Snake-witch Stone - Parallels, Interpretations, and Speculation

Parallels, Interpretations, and Speculation

The figure on the stone was first described by Sune Lindquist in 1955. He tried unsuccessfully to find connections with accounts in Old Icelandic sources, and he also compared the stone with the Snake Goddess from Crete. Lindquist found connections with the late Celtic Gundestrup cauldron, although he appears to have overlooked that the cauldron also shows a figure holding a snake.

Arrhenius and Holmquist (1960) also found a connection with late Celtic art suggesting that the stone depicted Daniel in the lions' den and compared it with a depiction on a purse lid from Sutton Hoo, although the stone in question does not show creatures with legs. Arwidsson (1963) also attributed the stone to late Celtic art and compared it with the figure holding a snake on the Gundestrup cauldron. In a later publication Arrhenius (1994) considered the figure not to be a witch but a male magician and she dated it to the Vendel era. Hauk (1983), who is a specialist on bracteates, suggested that the stone depicts Odin in the fetch of a woman, while Görman (1983) has proposed that the stone depicts the Celtic god Cernunnos.

It also has been connected to a nearby stone relief on a door jamb at the church of Väte on Gotland which shows a woman who suckles two dragons, but this was made five centuries later than the picture stone.

  • The Snake Goddess from Crete c. 1600 BCE

  • The antlered figure on the Gundestrup cauldron c. 1 to 2 BCE found in Denmark

  • The purse lid c. 6th to 7th century Sutton Hoo burial site, England. British Museum

  • The relief at Väte of a woman suckling dragons

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