Finnish Prehistory »» The Raisio Church, Raisio »» Visited: 03-2008 »» Compiled/Revised: 04-2008

+ Location on a map / Sijainti kartalla

I seem to have somewhat of a habit of stumbling upon mysterious objects and odd bits of information in unexpected situations. I was literally looking for a toilet after attending a funeral, when I rushed past two odd-looking menhirs put on display in the antechamber of the Raisio Church. I briefly photographed them, and decided to find out further information later on.

It turned out these stones are quite a mystery. They were discovered during the repairing of the church some fifty years ago, and previously had been 'reused' as stepstones on the threshold of the main door, with their figures facing down. This indicates that the church had wanted to hide them. And there's a reason for this also, as the menhirs are apparently about a thousand years old, and the second depicts distinct 'heathen symbols'. Below can be seen a quick computer trace of the engravings. Those that I was unsure of have been marked with blue lines.

raisiorunes2 (66K)

Nobody knows where these two-meter stones came from, but obviously they are of Finnish make and may have been used as pre-Christian tombstones. While the first is noticeably Christian with its cross-bearing staff, the other is decorated with a sunwheel (or a suncross) beneath which a bird and possibly a dog crouch together with two circled crosses. The sunwheel in the North has been known since the Bronze Age, and is common in petroglyphs. Later it became the emblem of Odin/Woden (Who inherited characteristics from the older Finnic god Väinämöinen?) in the Germanic areas, but also holds its significance in Finnish heathen symbolism. This particular sunwheel is different from the common Scandinavian representations as it contains sunrays.

A somewhat equivalent menhir to these, though without inscriptions whatsoever, can be found on the churchyard of Untamala, Laitila. The stone called Kalevanpojan viikatteentikku (something like 'the scythe whetstone of Kaleva's son') marked the graves of two persons from around 1100 AD.

It is of course a bit debatable whether these two can be called actual runestones, since the content is pictographic. The existence of rune stones in Finland overall is under a heated debate. Commonly only the fragmented stone of Hiittinen is mentioned, but at least three more are known from Vöyri, and there are rumors of others that the Finnish National Board of Antiquities (Museovirasto) might be hiding from the public for some reason. Now, rumors are rumors and never should be swallowed without a level of skepticism and further inspection. However, as I have mentioned several times, the archeological institutions of this country seem to have a fear or unwillingness of some sort for introducing significant findings for larger audiences. The same is reflected in Finnish schoolbooks concerning local history: the prehistory is swept under the carpet and Finland's 'history' always begins from the Swedish conquest in the thirteenth century. If there are mentions of the previous ages -- which in truth have been very rich and play also a notable part in the Norse sagas -- there may be a pageful of text and a picture of Huittisten hirvenpää (a stone hammer chiseled in the shape of a moose) and some broken clay pot. Unto 2006, when I started truly immersing into Finnish prehistory, at first via unofficial sources on the internet, I had no idea that Finland harbored for instance hundreds of massive barrows. Or fairly impressive iron-age hill forts forming long, sometimes almost geometric queues reaching out for tens of kilometers, efficiently proving the existence of an active military system under the command of a local authority, kings that definitely were not Swedish.

Anyhow, the runestones of Vöyri have been claimed to be both forgery from the 20th century and genuine, and they have been the targets of several scientific tests producing varying results. If they are authentic, which I strongly believe since the menhirs of Raisio prove quite efficiently the point here, they would even originate from about the same era (1050--1150 AD). Yet even the suggestion that they might be fakes yet again stinks of an attempt of nullifying the status and importance of Finland/the Finns before the thirteenth century.

Below can be seen pictures of the Vöyri runestones.1 According to Sahlberger the first should read 'aft sun nut', "To the memory of my virtuous son." The second has the text 'aft ... sun sin fiarri austarla do egl fadr risti runar gud ialpi ans salu' which stands for "To the memory of ... his son, who died on a journey in the east. Egil father wrote the runes. God help his soul."

voyri1 (63K)

voyri2 (76K)

I recently also dug out an article of Sisuradio telling about a researcher called Ove Berg who had found Finnish words in Swedish runestones, particularly in the area of Blekinge and Skåne. He has written a book titled Runsvenska, svenska finska, which I'm eager to read as soon as possible. These kinds of results are not surprising at all, though, when one scrutinizes at the Norse sagas and for instance Ganander's Mythologia Fennica.

Lastly we might slide back into the resting place of the two menhirs, the Raisio Church. It has been suggested that the church was constructed sometime between 1480 and 1550, but something else obviously stood on the very site erethen, if there was such a necessity to hide or 'reuse' the runestones. This might have been a pagan place of worship or a hybrid of somekin mixing old and new beliefs. Such a thing scarcely would be impossible, as for instance such pendants have been excavated in Finland where Thor's (or Ukko's) hammer is merged together with a Christian cross. Perchance later the church regarded that treading upon these stones with their inscriptions facing the ground symbolized a victory over the heathen ways.

Many Finnish churches are surrounded by heaps of folklore, and that of Raisio is no exception. According to the tale it was built by two giants, Killi and Nalli, as early as 1305. Presently the duo is portrayed in a statue some hundred meters off the church. Translation of the story will appear later on these pages.

References and further texts to read/ Lähteet ja oheistekstejä:

1Pictures (and reference) from Mikael Herrgård and Peter Holmblad, Fornminnen i Österbotten, Scriptum, 2005. Raision paadet
Pictures of the Vöyri runestones (in Finnish)
Tutkijat lukevat suomea Ruotsin riimukivistä (Sisuradio)

Click thumbnails to see full images.

Klikkaa pikkukuvia nähdäksesi täysikokoiset valokuvat.

raisio_menhirs_tb (6K)

raisiochurch1_tb (4K) raisiochurch2_tb (2K)