Finally it’s the 24th of December and Christmas Eve. We round off our advent calendar with a Runestone from Södermanland (Sörmland), the region south of Stockholm.
Runestones are Viking Age inscriptions on stones, written with runes, the alfabet in Scandinavia of the day. Inscriptions often talked about expeditions, and commemorate kinsmen who died in the trip. While runes are seen with a kind of mystique today, they were indeed also kind of a mystery in those days, because most people were illiterate back then.
Sweden is a country full of runestones; since Gamla Uppsala was an important political centre during Viking Age, the surrounding region is also full of runestones raised by people who lost relatives in expeditions or who have somebody to thank.
This particular runestone is outside Gripsholm Castle, one hour from Stockholm by train. The runestone was raised by a mother called Tola commemorating her son Haraldr, who died on an expedition to Serkland, the name for a region around the Caspian Sea. The “snake” on the stone is called a lindworm, a legendary creature that is a hybrid of snake and dragon.