Stunning glass beads have been found in Danish Bronze Age burials dating to 3400 years ago. It turns out the beads actually originated in ancient Egypt, revealing trade connections between Egyptians and Mesopotamia as early as the 13th century BCE -- as well as the fact that they had something in common in regard to religious rituals.
One of the blue glass beads (shown on the right) was found with a woman buried in Olby, Denmark, in a hollowed oak coffin, wearing a sun disc, a skirt decorated with tinkling, small bronze tubes, and an overarm bracelet made of amber beads (see image below to the left).
The Egyptian workshop that was found to have made the beads was apprently the same one that made the blue beads buried with the famous boy-king Tutankhamun, who died in 1323 BC. The glass of the beads found in Denmark also had the same chemical composition found in Tutankhamun's gold mask (shown below; Photo Credit: Carsten Frenzl / flickr). The solid gold death mask contains blue glass in the stripes of the headdress, as well as in the inlay of the plaited false beard.
The researchers speculate that glass and amber, which have been found together in burial sites in the Middle East, Turkey, Germany, Greece, Italy and north to the Nordic regions, may be evidence of a link between Nordic and Egyptian sun religions. Indeed, one property that both glass and amber have in common is that they can both be penetrated by sunlight.
When a Danish woman in the Bronze Age took a piece of jewelry made of amber and blue glass with her to the grave, it constituted a prayer to the sun to ensure that she would be reunited with it and share her fate with the sun's on its eternal journey.
There is some debate about sun religions, and the 'gender' of the sun. Personally I like the following version the best:
The idea of the sun as female is actually dominant in Scandinavia since the Saami also spoke of a “Sun-Maiden”, Beaivi-Nieida, who according to some traditions was the single origin of all souls, carried to earth on her sun-rays. Indeed, all souls were feminine in their origin, changed to men only while in the mother´s womb. The Great Goddess as Sun may have been a Finno-Ugric influence on Scandinavian religion.
Finno-Ugric people from Siberia to Scandinavia believed in the existence of a Sun Woman, Sun Mother, or Sun Maiden, who gave life to the world through her golden rays and who received the dead souls by a sacred lake filled with swans and other aquatic birds that represented the souls of people. Finno-Ugric mythologies share a common belief that probably dates back into the Stone Age. There is a realm of death in the North which is dark and frozen, ruled by the “Death Mother”. But there is also a realm in the South, called the Land of the Sun or the Winterland, in which there is a lake that offers a rebirth of the soul, or rather, a renewal. All new souls are born in this southern land, and the water birds, such as swans, are metaphors for the souls of people.
The lady of these lands is connected to the Sun; she is called the Golden Woman of the South, the Sun Mother, the Sun Woman, the Goose Mother, the Old Woman of the South or the Mother Goddess. She is both old hag and young maiden at the same time. By her lake of renewal, where birds and souls bathe and are reborn, there is also a birch tree. The woman of the south sends the birds and the souls of people out into life from where they sit, nesting, in the tree.
Somehow this all seems very peaceful to me, and of course it is wonderful to celebrate the feminine in such readings. No matter what, I'm sure we can all agree that the blue glass beads do indeed seem magical, beautiful, and perhaps even spiritual. At a time when we are keenly aware of conflicting religions of the modern world, it's somehow encouraging to think that such widely disparate regions were able to share in a rejuvinating and hopeful belief system.
Until Next Time,