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The Pagan Lady Necklace

So, in my last post I mentioned a new project that I am working on and this week, I am going to fill you in with what it is all about and what I have been up to!

The inspiration for this new project came from a rare and beautiful piece of jewellery from the period in the Isle of Man’s history when the Vikings ruled the land and the seas (around 950BC). The piece of jewellery is called ‘The Pagan Lady’s Necklace’ and it is currently on display at the Manx Museum in Douglas. I think I will probably also draw on other decorative symbols and patterns that are found in the Viking display – I am not 100% sure yet because I am still very much in the research part of my design process!

I would love to say that it was my fantastic idea to base my new body of work on this unique and exceptional artefact but it was, in fact, suggested to me by one of the lovely ladies at Manx National Heritage – they are the main stockists of my work on the Isle of Man. To begin with, I have been asked to design a jewellery collection that will retail at around the same price point as my Tartan ranges and we shall see how it goes from there!

Julie Anne Denton's amazing replica

As with my other Manx inspired jewellery, I will not be making a perfect replica of the piece (if you would like one you can always contact Julie Anne Denton who did make a perfect replica in 2007) but I will be using the artefact as a jumping off point and drawing inspiration from its bright colours and patterns and the Manx Viking history.

(I know my photography skills are a bit rubbish…but in my defence it is dimly lit in the museum to preserve the artefacts!!)

Here is a little bit more information about the find itself –

he necklace is made up from 73 unique beads. When this was discovered at the Peel Castle dig, it made it one of the richest Viking Age female burials that have been found outside of Scandinavia. When they were found, the beads were not strung together and the Manx National Heritage team have recreated the necklace into what they think it could have looked like.

It is thought that the beads were collected together from all over Europe and Britain, with the possibility that some came from further afield as well! It is also known that a couple of the beads in this find were already 300 years old when the Pagan Lady wore the necklace. It was a very unusual find because, during this period, it was more common for men to be buried with such high status symbols so it does show that there were also high status females at a time in history that was usually dominated by men.

here is still a mystery surrounding the lady owner of the necklace and people are not completely sure how all these priceless beads came to be with her in a Christian cemetery at Peel Castle because to be buried with items like the necklace is usually a feature of a Pagan burial not a Christian tradition. One of the theories is that they were gifts brought home by the lady’s husband after travels abroad. With another idea being that she was a wise woman/healer/shamen and would have been seen by her local community as having special ‘powers’ and the beads were given to her as payment for her services.

I have to say that I prefer the idea that ‘sisters were doing it for themselves’ and she was paid with the beads for her magical help, rather than them just being given as gifts from her husband for an awesome bit of dusting while he was away marauding and whatnot!

(I am no expert so I won’t lie I found a lot of the above information a BBC article – read the full one here and the Images are courtesy on the Manx National Heritage Archive!)

So, that was the whistle stop history tour of the Pagan Lady’s Necklace, there is far more than I have written about the necklace on the magical inter web if you fancy a browse!

When you look at all the pieces that were made around this time period, it is truly amazing how much skill the craftspeople must have had to make sure exquisite works because the tools they were working with were so basic compared to what we have now – it really is astounding to think about!

I will keep you all updated on my progress with this project – it came just at the right time as I was looking for something new to get my teeth into…how can you not believe in fate!


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