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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Thor
Is a 3000-Year Old Swedish Petroglyph the Oldest Known Depiction of Thor?

Is a 3000-year old Swedish petroglyph the oldest known depiction of Thor?

Here's what Swedish science journalist Karin Bojs (sounds like “Boyce”) suggests in her highly engaging genetic study of Europe, My European Family: The First 54,000 Years:

The Vitlycke rock engraving includes a man driving...a two-wheeled chariot, clearly drawn by a horse. The man holds the horse's reins in one hand and a hammer in the other. Before him, a flash of lightning can be seen. The most likely interpretation is that the man is a thunder god—the Bronze Age counterpart of the god later known to the Vikings as Thor. The thunder god's attribute was an axe or a hammer, with which he would strike to produce thunder and lightning (296-7).

Is she right?

Well, the time and the place are right. The Vitlycke charioteer is one of tens of thousands of petroglyphs located on rock faces near Tanum, Sweden. Petroglyphs are notoriously difficult to date, but experts are agreed that these petroglyphs date mostly from the Scandinavian Bronze Age. We know that Scandinavia was populated by Indo-European speakers during this period, and that these petroglyphs are therefore a product of an Indo-European culture. The pantheons of virtually all IE cultures feature a divine Thunderer, often conceived of as a warrior, armed and riding in a two-wheeled chariot.

Take a close look at the petroglyph shown above. A horned man with a noteworthy ithyphallus drives what would appear to be a highly schematic chariot drawn by (apparently) a horned animal. If so, with apologies to Bojs, this is no horse, but would only strengthen the image's likely identity as a sort of proto-Thor, since Thor's chariot was said to be drawn by goats, and historically the goat is associated with the Thunderer across the Indo-European diaspora. At very least, one can say that, if this chariot is indeed drawn by a horned animal (instead of a horse with unusually elongated ears, say), we are likely in the realm of myth here. No one, after all, hitches an ox to a chariot.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    It does look like a snake, I agree, which made me think of sperm cells with their little wiggly tails. I suppose we'll never know
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Cool, I was an Art History Major back in the 80's.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    I agree that the animal looks more like a goat, and that the hands look like they are depicted with fingers, although the vajra al
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    The head reminds me of another storm god: Set. I think I've seen depictions of both Teshub the Hittite storm god and Baal Hadad t
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Oof, that really does look like the Seth animal. Well, I wouldn't want to try to make a historical case for a connection, but it d

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Apport by the Roadside

In February 2017, I was walking along a road with my friend and fellow author Jodie Forrest. What happened next, she described as an apport, a word I had to look up. It means an object produced during a spiritualist séance.

It was a sunny winter day in southern California. Ravens danced above an open field. There were always ravens around wherever Jodie was.

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Pagan News Beagle: Airy Monday, June 8

Welcome back to Airy Monday for the Pagan News Beagle! This week we're covering all the different ways in which pop culture is intersecting with magic, witchcraft, and Paganism, from the religions of Game of Thrones to the recent adventures of Marvel's Thor to the recent decision to remake the 1990s movie The Craft. Check it out!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How to Make an Oak Leaf Crown

Across the North, the two preeminent sacred trees of Midsummer's are the ("male") oak and the ("female") linden.

On the linden, whose spicy flowering perfumes the longest nights of the year, more in a future post. But for today, the oak.

The Oak is the tree of Thunder, most virile of gods,* whose thunderstorms rumble spectacularly across the prairies at this time of year—the Ojibway call July "Thunder Moon"—and, they say, "holds fire in its heart." (In his youth, the Horned hid the fire of the gods there after he had stolen it from Thunder's hearth, but that's another story.) Fire drills used to be made from oak, and their "cradles" from linden wood. Extinguishing all the fires in the village and kindling the New Fire from wood on wood is an old, old Midsummer's tradition.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Truly, the Old Gods are everywhere. You can't escape them.

I had been listening to Bach's Goldberg Variations on the radio. “That was American pianist Simone Dinnerstein,” said the announcer.


Dinnerstein (rhymes with “seen”): a not uncommon Ashkenazic surname. But suddenly it was as if my ears had become unstopped.


It's Yiddish for “Thunder stone.” (German would be Donarstein.) There are men named Þórsteinn in Iceland, and Torsten and Torstein in Scandinavia, even today. English Thurston could be “Thunar's stone” (or tún: Thunder's enclosure). It's a name from the Danelaw—the area of England settled by Scandinavians—so it could bear the name of the Norse rather than the English Thunder. But they're both still Thunder.


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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Thunderstruck in Reykjavik

The way I heard it, back in 1972 the heathens of Iceland petitioned the Althing—Parliament—for federal recognition. The official state church in Iceland is the Lutheran church, and everyone pays tax dollars to help support it, but there are a few other recognized religious organizations that you can designate to receive your money instead. The heathens, very reasonably, asked to be included on the list.

Parliament thought it was a joke. (Hey, it was 1972.) “Odin? Thor? Come on, this can't be serious. Recognition denied. Jeez.”

That night (almost I want to add: of course) the Parliament building is struck by lightning. Lights go out all over Reykjavik. (I should add that thunderstorms are rare in Iceland.)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

When your doubts overwhelm
When you act out your fears
When failure drags you down
Call on Magni, son of Thor

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