Sacred places

Sites and landscapes in Poland: Experiencing sacred sites

In mid-September part of the Time Machine team had the privilege to explore some of Pomeranias most interesting sacred sites in the landscape.

The first day of our study trip to Pomenarania we went to Odry, the vestige of the Iron Age shrouded in legends, with a vigorous sprinkle of mysticism. Dating to the time of the Goths (the first or second century A.D.), the 40-acre (162 000m2) site is comprised of 12 circles, each with a large stone at the center called a stelae that is ringed by 16 to 29 boulders. Scattered between and around the circles are over 600 small burial mounds called barrows, each believed to contain remains of between one and three people. It is Europe’s second largest collection of circles left nearly intact, Odry’s relatively undisturbed condition is perhaps attributable to hundreds of years of avoidance by locals, who have been warded off by tales of magic, witchcraft, and evil lurking in the surrounding forest. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, archeologists began studying the formations, looking for clues of their exact origin and purpose. Early theories revolved around some kind of calendar or astronomical configuration, but these have been mostly debunked as the area has undergone more rigorous study. They do hold mystery for many visitors, some who report a flowing sense of calm and positive energy, relaxing to the mind and body. It has also become a favorite spot for dowsers and diviners, and some claim that by standing or sitting within the circles, ailments such as headaches and fatigue can be healed. It is definitely a place worth to be visited.

Our second stop in our visit, we went to the reconstructed stronghold in Owidz, likely the first and only Museum of Slavic Mythology in Europe. It is situated on a moraine hill, where one of the most important fortified settlements in Kociewie functioned in the early Middle Ages. The dominant view is that it was built at the beginning of the 11th century, but our local archaeologist and team member, Karolina, indicated that the stronghold of Owidzki may have already existed in the 9th or 10th century. During the Swedish invasion in the middle of the 17thcentury (1655-1660), the invaders set up their camp on the Owidz hill, and therefore the inhabitants' minds kept this place under the name of "Szwedzka Górka" until the present day.

Owidz was one of the most important fortified settlements in Kociewie functioning in the early Middle Ages. Attractively located in the bend of the Wierzyca River, surrounded by forests and meadows. In its modern form, the whole area including the castle and the surrounding infrastructure occupy an area of over 6 hectares. There are, among others: an amphitheater for 400 people, and a large playground. The reconstructed city is a place where historical events, reconstructions of Slavic rituals, knight and archery tournaments, handicraft fairs, scientific meetings, archaeological festivals, handicraft workshops, development workshops, sculptural open-air events are organized. It is also a perfect space for organizing recreational and events. According to the description provided by Karolina, Owidz is an institution that is constantly developing its great potential both as a regional tourist product and a local culture-forming entity, winning important awards and distinctions in these areas.

During our last day we visited the Stronghold and Archaeological Museum of Sopot. The Museum has a permanent exhibition of the oldest archaeological objects in Sopot, but also displayed a temporary and interesting exhibition about sites and materials from the Baltic region. It is possible to find there a description of the prehistory of the southern zone of the Baltic Sea area, presented with the use of some modern audiovisual techniques. Furthermore, there are activities for children and adolescents offering practical classes consisting in recreating medieval crafts. Visitors of all ages can participate in a series of readings presenting early medieval history. Afterwards we visited the adjacent Stronghold in Sopot, a remnant of an early-medieval fortified settlement that has been reconstructed as an open-air museum as an educational center promoting the history of early medieval Pomeranians. It is visited by national and international tourists and also by enthusiasts of Slavic and Viking traditions and customs.

The establishment of the open-air museum is in line with the currently propagated trend of experimental archeology. Its purpose is to protect archaeological monuments and to popularize history. The archaeological and historical festivals, which are organized annually, are especially conducive to popularizing history. They include a series of cultural and tourist events with a strong emphasis on the educational dimension of the entire undertaking. In addition, historical outdoor events, integration meetings of Polish and foreign youth are organized, and, above all, live history lessons for children and school youth are held here. At that time, workshops of old crafts come to life, there are numerous competitions, games, demonstrations of sword and ax fights, archery, weapons presentations, spectacular Celtic, Scottish and Irish dances and early music concerts. This appealing open-air museum is situated in a scenic landscape of lush greenery and rustling streams. The reconstructed buildings of the settlement are presented here: huts, gate and partly - a palisade (fence made of wooden piles). All elements of the development were reconstructed closely in the places where their relics were discovered, i.e. the remains of authentic elements of buildings existing in the past.

Author and photographer: Caretta, N., Bornholm Museum. Image texts and minor edit by: Lindell, L., Linnaeus University

People resting in the forest
Project leader Lali Lindell and a few regular visitors to 'the ellipse' of Odry, a place said to be high in energy.
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A sacred sculpture of Świętowit, one of the main Slavic Gods at the altar location of Owidz.
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A sacred sculpture of Baba Jaga, a goddess of death and regeneration in the Slavic folklore.
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Part of an archealogical exhibition in Sopot designed by our team member Karolina Czonstke-Świątkowska.
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Central place
Central place of the reconstruction of the Sopot stronghold.
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Palisade of the Sopot stronghold.
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Stone circle
One of the stone circles of Odry.
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