"Det er ei råd, - det leiter på, men det får til" : om dokker under kirkegolv
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionViking 70(2007), S. 189-208
Archaeological examination of four church fundaments/floors in East Norway has revealed a total of 19 textile doll shaped so as to resemble a small child. In this paper I discuss which function they may have had, and which beliefs lie behind their being placed beneath the church floors. My point of departure is a comparative description and analysis from four main perspectives : topological distribution and context, dating, particular properties of each object and technical analysis. The results are summed up and discussed in relation to traditional beliefs concerning the use of dolls as part of magical folk-medicine. Dolls have mainly been used prophylactically or as therapy for two child ailments; for children who do not thrive or are restless, and for rachitis. The evidence points to curing rachitis as the main motive for placing the dolls under the church floor. The dolls must be interpreted as a substitute for the sick child. By placing it in the foundations of the church, the intention was to trick the collective of the buried dead - who had caused the illness in the first place - that they had been successfull and that the child was now among them. The basis for this remedy is the ancient custom of burials within the church, and the consequent belief in the church fundament as the realm of the dead. One of the dolls from Reinli stave church had a nail stuck into it torso. This doll has probably had another function and may have been part of a magical rite to wound or kill. This doll has most likely been placed under the floor in order to utilize the power of the Christian rituals used in the church. The doll seem to mirror two different perceptions of the church fundaments; as graveyard and abode of the dead on the one hand, and as a holy and blessed site with its inherent divine powers.
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