My very own fertility goddess

Standing in a field, outside the little town where I grew up, is an ancient cairn, said to be a Bronze Age tribute to the  fertility cult of Freyr and Freya. It has been there longer than anyone knows, and is erected on a collected pile of rocks, thought by many to be a tomb. The first time it was mentioned in historical records was in 1360. Its name is Rösten (Red Stone), and it lends its name to the farm that the surrounding field belongs to. We passed it often. Its proud posture consists of three rocks stacked on top one another. The largest rock on the bottom is painted red, followed by a flat, white-painted stone “collar”. On top of the collar rests a black head.


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Rösten has always been shrouded in mystery and lore. Legend has it that each year, the stone was coated in sacrificial blood, to ensure fecundity for the people that tended it. At some point, presumably long after Christianity replaced the worship of the Norse gods, the blood was replaced with paint. (Although it has existed far longer, the ubiquitous red paint that you see throughout Sweden didn’t become common until the 1800’s. and was a byproduct of the flourishing copper mining industry.) Failure to comply with the ritual coating, would invariably result in disaster. Stories of resulting fire, famine and death abound.

The first time I visited my friend Marian’s garden, I saw something that instantly gave me flashbacks of Rösten. I told her the story, and soon thereafter, she surprised me by gifting it to me! Wow – what a nice gift!! Even so, with my garden in constant flux and near complete disarray, it took me a while to find a spot for it. Happy to announce that I finally did! It is perched on an inverted  corner, created by concrete blocks, (as I was experimenting with yet another way of vertical cramscaping.)


The original home of Rösten has changed some – something I learned this past winter when I visited my hometown. This visit to the old home turf included driving by the ancient stones –  which to my dismay had moved!!  The reason is that back in 2006, someone stole the rocks. Can you imagine – this thing has been here, untouched for thousands of years, and all of a sudden, some idiot decides to steal them… Luckily, they were retrieved, and returned to their original home. The current farmer however, wasn’t taking any chances. Rösten was moved closer to the barn, presumably where it will be easier to keep an eye on it. It has also been surrounded by a metal fence, and – to be sure nothing happens to it – an life-sized artificial bull has been placed next to it. I felt a bit cheated that I couldn’t get a close-up picture, and as I stood there on the side of the road, I couldn’t quite make out whether or not the bull was real, so I zoomed in as far as I could.

FullSizeRender 2

Even so, the object of my interest was far, far away. Interesting though, to know that the powers that be apparently gave the farmer a chance to restore Rösten after the theft, before initiating the customary disaster following a disruption to the normal routine. I hope the gods display the same leniency toward me, and my version of the prehistoric cairn. I’m seriously tempted to paint it. What do you think? Should I do it?


About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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16 Responses to My very own fertility goddess

  1. Mark and Gaz says:

    It’s charming as it is but painting it would make it look more fun and a definite talking point 🙂

    • annamadeit says:

      Yeah, the head and collar are already pretty much as they should be, whereas the body could be something else, I think. But I also like it just as it is. We’ll see… 🙂

  2. FlowerAlley says:

    Poor little Rosten. First he was kidnapped and now is imprisoned with a bull standing watch. Paint yours if it makes you happy. Loved this.

    • annamadeit says:

      And he MOVED!!! Yeah, it’s a wonder the barn hasn’t burned down yet, isn’t it? Makes me think the old gods aren’t quite what they used to be. 😉

  3. I wouldn’t paint it – but then it doesn’t have the same draw to me 🙂

  4. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening! says:

    Interesting, and a bit surprising that the Rösten wasn’t bigger — I expected something more substantial to last so long. Painting would make it more “authentic”, but would that work in your garden? If red paint would be too much, perhaps a stain of some sort would be a good compromise.

    • annamadeit says:

      Yes, it’s definitely not too big to move. I’m not sure I need to paint the one I have – I’m just playing with the idea. It was more the form of it – the shape of the three stacked stones – that made me make that instant correlation when I first saw it. Although I don’t doubt it would work well either way, I’m pretty happy with how it looks right now – as is. If I paint it, I run the risk of just copying the original. And, where is the fun in that? I think this one will define its own role in due time. Maybe it’s more of a guardian than a fertility goddess…

  5. bergstromskan says:

    After this move to new grounds, why not give it some time to reconnect with its gods, and with you-and then you will know. Great story, thank you.

  6. I like the base as is and wonder if some of the detail in your version would be lost if it were painted red but it all comes down to whether the color is a key factor in its meaning for you. If you recognize it as “your” goddess in its current form, then maybe the color is unnecessary. On a philosophical level, as the red color seems to tie back to some concept of sacrificial blood-letting and I’d like to believe (whether true or not) that we’re moving beyond that as requirement for order, plenty and prosperity, I’d leave it in its natural color.

    • annamadeit says:

      Good feedback as always, Kris! It was the forms of the stones that brought back the memory of the original cairn – not the colors. To me, the red, black, and white is more significant because they are very common colors of buildings in that region, not of Rösten itself. And, of course you bring up a very good point. After what we see on the news each week, who WOULD want to see more blood??? No, I think my mother has a good point in the previous comment – let it grow into, and connect with its new spot. If after that it wants to be painted, it will tell me!

  7. Peter/Outlaw says:

    A generous gift and a cool story! I wonder if there’s a way to wrap the bottom stone with removable/temporary color to see if you like it that way or not? It’s sad that some fool stole the original stones. Perhaps the old gods are going after the thief rather than the farmer.

    • annamadeit says:

      That’s a good idea… It might be worth a try, but at this point, I almost feel it would look its best softly and partially wrapped in some moss. It is starting to own its new place.

  8. Patsi says:

    The history of these rocks is interesting. Don’t recall ever seeing a rock so red. Love the new garden. Now I know what kind of gardener I’ve been in the past, I’m a “cramscaper”.

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