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Showing posts from December, 2014

A speculative connection between Fortuna and Viking "Valkyrie" figures

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Distinctive small Viking Age figures showing robed females in profile, often carrying a horn, are widely interpreted to represent valkyries. The horn is typically inferred to be an offering of drink to heroic warriors reaching Valhalla (e.g. Graham-Campbell 2013 Viking Art pg 39). Price (in Vikings: Life and Legend 2014) is more cautious, however, writing, "Representations of female figures can be understood in a number of different ways, and may represent a range of supernatural forces including goddesses, valkyries, norns and disir."


A silver figure of a robed woman holding a horn found in Birka, Sweden.
A small pendant figure found in Ukraine on the banks of the Dnieper and attributed to the Kievan Rus' led me to the idea that perhaps these Viking horn-carrying females could be a Scandinavian adaptation of the figure of Fortuna, Roman goddess of luck.

Kievan Rus' pendant amulet of a robed female in the round, probable cornucopia in right hand, likely to be a repr…

A visit to the equatorial African wildlife reserve of la Lopé, Gabon

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In the heart of Gabon is a fascinating wildlife reserve known as the Réserve de la Lopé. This is one of the few places in Africa where a visitor has the chance of encountering a western lowland gorilla, a family of chimpanzees or a band of the colourful forest baboons called Mandrills. A variety of other animals, such as the small forest race of African elephants, dwarf forest buffalo, several types of antelope and many monkeys are more easily seen.

The reserve can be reached by bush taxi or train from Libreville, or by chartering a small plane. Our group of 15 set off in a chartered Twin Otter (this was February 1995) from the town of Gamba in south Gabon. Ahead of us was a one-hour flight towards the centre of the country. The flight traversed a vast extent of the forest, which covers most (about three quarters) of the country, the ground becoming hillier towards the northeast. On the way we saw beneath us the orange-red laterite road to Lambaréné, famous for Albert Schweitzer’s ho…