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The Changing Meaning of ‘Thunderbolts’

Author(s): Kristiina Johanson

Journal: Folklore : Electronic Journal of Folklore
ISSN 1406-0957

Volume: 42;
Start page: 129;
Date: 2009;
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Keywords: archaeological material | folklore texts on ‘thunderbolts’ | history of archaeological thinking | ‘thunderbolt’ belief

The article concentrates on the widespread belief in the phenomenonof ‘thunderbolts’. Stone artefacts like Stone Age axes, adzes, chisels, daggers, sickles, spear- and arrowheads as well as Iron Age strike-a-lights are mainly understood by the name ‘thunderbolt’, but no doubt various natural stones of peculiar or unusual shape were believed to have been created by strike of lightning as well. While corresponding examples of identifying and using ‘thunderbolts’ are given from different areas of the world, the emphasis is set on the respective Estonian material, introducing both the sources of archaeology as well as of folklore. The author discusses the background and the motifs of the well-known belief in ‘thunderbolts’ and reaches the conclusion that in Estonia it cannot be dated to a period prior to the Pre-Roman Iron Age when stone artefacts were no longer produced for practical reasons, and it is believed that the motifs of the belief were adopted significantly later, perhaps after the Christianization of the country in the 13th century.
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