Swedish island associated with witchcraft reveals evidences of Stone Age rituals

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Situated in the Kalmar Strait, off the mainland of Sweden, the very geological nature of the Blå Jungfrun island (Blå Jungfrun roughly translates to ‘blue maiden’ – a name given by Swedish sailors) is dramatic, with its portion of bare rock covered in dense hardwood forest. Such contrasting landscapes are interspersed with mysterious caves, while being also home to an ancient stone labyrinth. Suffice it to say, the Blå Jungfrun isn’t really an inviting place, and as such the island has long been viewed as a dark and evil place in traditional Swedish folklore. One apt example would be how location is associated (in a folkloric manner) with the meeting place of witches, where they supposedly openly worship the devil every Maundy Thursday. This legend has been in existence since at least 1555 AD, as was documented by 16th century Swedish writer and Catholic ecclesiastic Olaus Magnus. Similarly, another fable entails how someone could be cursed with a lifetime of bad luck if that person removes any stone from the aforementioned labyrinth.

But as with some folkloric traditions, the goofball ‘magical elements’ associated with this place seem to have some kind of real-life basis. To that end, archaeologists investigating the Blå Jungfrun island for more than a year, have potentially identified two caves where various kinds of rituals might have took place in the Mesolithic Stone Age era. One of them displays a big hollow, about 2.3 ft (0.7 m) in diameter, which seems to have been intentionally hammered out by the Stone Age people. This is accompanied by a fireplace built inside the cave, just below the hollow. So, one of the rituals (or activities) might have entailed squeezing through this hollow, and then taking in the fireplace ‘spectacle’. As Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay, an archaeologist with Kalmar County Museum, said –

The entrance to the cave is very narrow, and you have to squeeze your way in. [However,] once you’re inside, only half of the cave is covered and you can actually stand above the cave and look down into it, almost like a theater or a stage below. The act of producing the hollow could have been the important part [of the ritual], perhaps even the sound created while doing so.

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The second cave have produced more odd clues for the researchers, including a hammerstone and a particular space inside which was probably used for grinding up stuff. The entire area might have an altar where the Stone Age folks gave their offerings. Furthermore, the archaeologists also discovered a 520 sq ft (48 sq m) rock shelter in between the two caves, and it comprised stone tools and seal remains (which were consumed as food by the people taking refuge here).

Interestingly enough, the researchers believe there is more to investigate and analyse in the Blå Jungfrun island, including a layer below one of the caves. This zone is replete with quartz, which might have endowed the Stone Age people with raw-materials for their tools. However, excavating the island is a logistical problem that the archaeologists have to overcome, since there are no light, electricity and food amenities available on the ‘magically evil’ island.

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Source: LiveScience / Image Credits: Kenneth Alexandersson and Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay 

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