Nordic Magic Healing:
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The "Buddha" from Oseberg


taken from , with permission, follow the link to see the pictures of this find

The famous Oseberg ship-grave has given us numerous archaeological treasures. Among them, an interesting but puzzling finding still doesn't have a satisfactory interpretation; the so-called "Buddha-bøtte" (Buddha-pail). It got its name from the two small figures, only few centimeters high, that were placed at the upper edge of a pail and their heads form the joints in which the handle of the pail rotates.

Indeed, these figures immediately make you think of typical representations of the Buddha from Asia. The classic seated Lotus position and the peaceful and sunk expression with the closed eyes are interpreted as belonging to the deepest meditation. How could such a representation originate in Norway, about 800 AD?

The archaeologists, however, are not completely convinced that it is a native work. The ornaments on the breast are executed in enamel-technology, and this technology should still have been unknown in Norway at that time. Therefore, one suspects England or Ireland as a possible place of origin. This opinion is however very old, and even though it has been repeated again and again, no new argumentation has been put forward to take it out of its status of unexplainable curiosity since then.

However it is excluded as being an import-piece from the Asian area, as is the case with the Buddha statue found in Birka, Sweden. The ornaments on the breast of the statue also point at native traditions and not to Irish ones, the Irish were already Christian at this time. The fourfold symbol is also found in other representations of the Germanic culture-area. In Norway, until modern times, this symbol is the one for blessing and for protection against harm. In the folklorist literature of Norway, it comes as shapes called " runehakekors" (rune-swastika) or simply "det nordiske hakekors". Fortunately, this kind of find does not stand alone, nor is it unique. Another finding from Norway, the figure of Myklebostad, is so similar to Oseberg’s Buddha that a work of the same artist might be possibly hypothesized. That breast is also adorned with "runehakekors". The difference is that we do not find the Lotus seating position in this figure, instead, it stands on its feet. This other finding further decreases the possibility that the Oseberg-Figure is an accidental booty from the British islands. If proof of a British manufacture could really be produced, then this could be inferred on the basis of the ornamentation because of its working.

An illustration of the figure of Myklebostad is located on the web pages of the archaeological museum in Bergen at: However, the manufacturing of his figure could also have taken place on the British islands, so that still leaves the question of what this figure is representing. From the ornaments in the yellow fields, which have the form of a T, we could consider that it is a Thor-hammer. Together with the interpretation of the "runehakekors" as a lightning-symbol, it could be possible to imagine that it is a representation of Thor himself. This interpretation is admittedly wrong. However, it seems extremely incredible that it could be an illustration of the actual Buddha. It is just as unlikely that the artist used an Asian original, that he would have merely copied. An argument could be developed as follows: in order to capture exactly an expression of deep meditation in its most inner nature, a mere imitation would fail to achieve it. Consequently, the question remains: was meditation known in the North European area of this time?

The idea of a "meditating Viking" at first appears unconvincing, but it becomes of little surprise with more thinking. Such knowledge could originate from the intensive contact with Asian people, Huns, Alans etc. during the migration times. On the other hand, and this is much more probable, it could be a technique common to the Celtic and Germanic people. Also, the famous Gundestrup cauldron from Denmark shows the Celtic God Cernunnos in a similar seat-stand. All early people and cultures have developed trance conditions and as well as the techniques necessary to acquisition them. And the discovery, that a certain posture is helpful for it, could have very easily happened independently of each other everywhere. It should be therefore astonishing if such methods were missing in the North European area. And actually we have hints of such methods from the written sources. Shamanic elements are well known in the North-Germanic religion. The only problem left is to know if these traditions are native, or whether these elements are only borrowed through contact with the finno-ugric people. It is however certain that the "útisetia" (literally "sitting outside"), the name for a trance technique, is again and again mentioned in the context of certain rituals and invocations in the Norse literature. We maybe have a representation of that posture here?


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