Viking Age Women in Man Search of iMuseum

Viking Age Women in Man

Posted on 17.12.2015

The stone crosses that can be found in many of the parish churches across the Isle of Man provide us with some of the earliest depictions of people.  These fantastic artworks were recorded in pen and ink by the first Director of the Manx Museum, PMC Kermode, in the early 1900s.  This drawing is of a stone in Kirk Michael church and to the top right you can see a female figure, albeit a mythical one!


To zoom-in on this image take a look at the full record on iMuseum: 2006-0295/123

You can see she is in profile, with long hair, wearing a long gown and holding a staff.  She has been interpreted as Hyndla, a giantess, or wise-woman or seer that appears in a Medieval Icelandic manuscript.  In the poem, the goddess Freya travels to the cave-home of Hyndla, and they both then travel to Valhalla (Freya riding a boar, Hyndla riding a wolf) to prove the pedigree of one of Freya’s proteges.  Freya greets Hyndla with these words;

Maiden, awake! wake thee, my friend,

My sister Hyndla, in thy hollow cave!

Already comes darkness, and ride must we

To Valhall to seek the sacred hall

Hyndla is also said to foretell the great battle of Ragnarok, the war that was to end the world as it was known.  One of our most famous Viking Age women, the Pagan Lady of Peel Castle, was buried with an iron rod as well as a fabulous necklace of beads.  Perhaps she too was a wise-woman with a staff as her symbol of office.

Allison Fox (Manx National Heritage Curator of Archaeology)

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