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.
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.
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?