GIANTS IN THE LANDSCAPE. All around england there are carved mysterious figures in the hillsides, mostly horses, which have puzzled and amazed people for many centuries. You may have seen them as you are walking or wandering in the valleys or on the hill tops. People have debated their origins and meanings for longer than anyone can remember. New ones occasionally appear and others are sometimes left to grow over and disappear back into the hills.
Myths and legends grow up around some of the older hill figures, the magic of the landscape seeping into our subconcious, and helping us to absorb the atmosphere of these ancient places.
The oldest remaining white horse, and certainly the most beautiful, is the uffington horse, which is dated to the bronze age or early iron age, possibly over 3,000 years old. So local people have kept it cleared and told its stories as cultures and ideas have come and gone and changed over the centuries.
Uffington white horse
Iron age Celtic coins have been found which are astonishingly similar to the stylised design of the uffington white horse.
iron age coins
Just below the white horse is a small hill known as dragon hill, where legend has it that a dragon was killed, and where its blood dripped no grass will ever grow, and just over 1 mile away is Waylands Smithy, an ancient barrow where the giant Wayland had his forge.
It is thought by some that the horse was first cut into the hillside as a tribal symbol or totem, or more likely a shamanic spirit animal, similar to the earlier neolithic shamanic cave paintings.
palaeolithic cave painting. Approx 16,000 years old.
another particularly nice one is the Westbury white horse.
Westbury white horse
The white horse of kilburn is englands biggest white horse and also the most northerly.
The white horse of Kilburn
Its not only horses which adorn the chalk hills of england.
The Cerne Abbas Giant is the most interesting giant in england and its obvious why people for centuries have believed he is connected with fertility.
The Cerne Abbas giant
The long Man of Wilmington is another interesting one. Not least because there are tales that he used to be a woman, and has been re-cut many times, changing shape over the years. Another theory is that he is an ancient depiction of Orion.
The Long man of Wilmington
According to Scandinavian mythology, the Runes were discovered by the god Odin as he hung impaled on the world tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nine nights.
Carved Runestones of great antiquity can be found mainly in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and a few elsewhere.
Many were carved as commemorative markers for people or events, and many were destroyed by christian missionaries and monks during the countries conversion, often being seen as reminders of their pagan past. Many are thought to be carved on standing stones which were of even greater antiquity and may have stood since neolithic times.
These pictures are just a selection of some of my favourite Scandinavian Runestones ,though im not sure of some of the translations in english.
This one is the 'Smiths stone' in Llungby Nisse (?), Smaland, Which had been used as building stone in an old house, and was re-discovered in 1954.
Small Rune staves used for divination and other magical purposes were more traditionally made of wood.
SOME BRITISH RUNESTONES..................
This stone was found on the isle of Barra off the west coast of Scotland and commemorates Thorgerth, daughter of Steinar.
This stone was found in Yorkshire in Northern England. The inscription says 'Eoh made this'. Eoh is the name of the rune representing the yew tree, a tree which has always been held sacred in its association with death and rebirth, hence it being common in cemeteries and for its use in coffin making.
These are just some of the runes carved on the stones inside the beautiful barrow at Maes Howe, a neolithic temple on the Orkney islands just off the north coast of Scotland.
This inscription says "The man who is most skilled in runes west of the ocean carved these runes", but he doesn't give his name. There are many inscriptions and verses inside the barrow, some of which speak of magical axes, and buried treasure etc.
This lovely Rune-ring was also found in Yorkshire in northern england, but is kept in the national museum in Copenhagen.
The franks casket is carved from whalebone, with scenes from Scandinavian mythology.