Did the Piasts dream of flying snakes?
The Vikings were sexy, conquered half the world, and wore cool weapons and jewelry. Meanwhile, the Slavs ate sour soup and wore torn trousers. Even Mieszko had to bring in Vikings to create a state for him. This is the picture of the past that pop culture proposes to us and … I am wrong.
The imaginations of our ancestors were populated by fantastic creatures that the creator of The Witcher would not be ashamed of. Moreover, the Slavs were able to show them in elite art, which was long considered the work of the Scandinavians. Until the archaeologist Leszek Gardeła looked at the monuments.
Aleksander Przybylski: “Doctor, I see snakes everywhere!” – is it about you?
Leszek Gardeła*: I think so (laughs). Seriously speaking, it’s not everywhere, but on a special category of early medieval subjects. And not only snakes, but also other creatures.
The Lord thinks that they are ours, made by us, and that we can open the eyes of unbelievers with them?
Time to say it loud and clear: Slavic is cool! I professionally deal with early medieval Scandinavia, I have written over a hundred articles and five books on this subject. While browsing museum magazines, I looked at hundreds of items such as weapons, jewelry, tools. And I was convinced that many Polish monuments, which our archaeologists considered as Scandinavian imports, had nothing to do with Vikings. That they are covered with ornaments that are native and have nothing to do with the decorative manners of the North.
These are representations of the aforementioned snakes or reptilian creatures, often winged. These are images of birds, cattle and horses, interestingly, sometimes also having wings or dog tails. These are undulating motifs that symbolize the proto-ocean. Anyway…. (Leszek Gardeła takes a pair of spurs wrapped in bubble wrap from his backpack). It is a very good copy of the special spurs that we know from several archaeological sites in Poland. In the 10th and 11th centuries, they were worn by representatives of the local elite. We call them zoomorphic or Lutomiersk type spurs, because they were found in the cemetery in this locality for the first time.
Please see how richly they are decorated. Cows-like animals walk above the wavy line ending with the heads of snakes. Maybe they graze on an island surrounded by endless water? A horse with a bent neck stands on the spur’s spur, and the buckles and fittings with which the spurs were attached decorate dragon’s, snake’s or bird’s images.
Are you saying the world is enchanted in this spur?
Exactly how the Slavs imagined its creation, that is, a cosmogonic myth. I dealt with this topic together with the discoverer of spurs, the late Zdzisława Ratajczyk from the Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk and Dr. Kamil Kajkowski from the West Kashubian Museum in Bytów, a specialist in old Slavic rituals. We know from folk accounts that at the dawn of time, to quote the classics, there was nothing but an endless ocean. A figure swam in a boat on the ocean. Her name was God. At one point, another being, whose name was the Devil, emerged from the sea foam and got into the boat. Soon God decided to create the world. To do this, he needed a grout in the form of a lump of earth. So he asked the Devil to dive and take a handful of dirt from the bottom. The cunning Devil did so eagerly, but took the earth in his name. When he surfaced, there was no grain in his clenched hand. Only when the Devil took the earth in the name of God and himself the next time, a tiny grain of sand remained in the hand. God threw them on the water and the seed grew to the size of an island.
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