Stockholm Runestone

The perfect place to start a Viking journey

Krista Marson
Taking Off
Published in
4 min readJun 24, 2023

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Inscription 53 Runestone, wikimedia

We started our trip in Stockholm on a street corner where we puzzled over the mystery of how a metal barrier post thing, which, to our eyes, looked every bit like the front end of a sawed-off cannon, got so knocked off kilter in an area of town where supposedly no motor vehicles were allowed to roam. By all appearances, it seemed as though one too many cars had shaved that particular corner way too close and had the barrel end of a cannon barrier thing not been planted in a bed of cobblestones as it was, the fragment of runestone that was embedded on the building behind the cannon would have been damaged more than it already was.

Historical records were more than a little murky when I tried to look up whose decision it was in the Middle Ages to use a fragment of runestone as a chunk of routine construction material and it was disappointing to learn that no one could really say where exactly where that particular runestone came from aside from somewhere near present-day Stockholm. It was generally assumed those who built medieval Stockholm likely scoured the countryside for readily accessible building material and those who lived in the Middle Ages apparently didn’t weigh much historically significant value on items that dated from the late Viking era. If a heavy chunk of stone could be moved, then medieval men moved that heavy chunk of stone and they made no qualms about using that stone to help build a wall whether that stone had writing on it that they couldn’t understand or not.

Old Stockholm, photo by author

History is rather rife with cities being built with the discarded bits of someone else’s age, and in Stockholm’s case, its particular bit just so happened to have an amazing twisty red serpent carved upon it. Both Ryan and I wanted to start our Scandinavian vacation in front of that carved serpent with the intention of properly orientating our heads towards the direction that we wanted to face. Mentally, we wanted to visit the past, but, physically, that runestone was about as close as we were going to get as travelers to the Viking Age, and even then, that runestone was just but a fragment. The runestone had an inscription carved on it (not that we could understand it) but the words were cut off because the other half of it resided somewhere on the landscape where only Odin knew.

Only having half of a Viking inscription embedded in a wall seemed a fitting tribute to who they were as people. They let themselves be known to the world, but the world only ever saw the side of themselves that they allowed to see. They kept their mysteries to themselves and what we don’t know about them we can only speculate. What rituals were done in the names of Odin, Thor, and Freya only the Vikings really knew, and the rest of the world has only been able to imagine. There is something about the thoughts of what pagan rituals must have looked like that puts my brain into some seriously strange compartments that I am typically unaware are sitting unused inside of my head. Paganism taps into our primal nature, and we are trained at an early age to disregard that nature as being a relevant part of ourselves. There exists a part of me that wants to run into the woods and dance around a tree but that part of me lies effectively dormant. I remain unsure as to how to arouse my pagan passions out of their slumber, yet I fear what sort of animal I might unleash if I succeeded in waking those desires.

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