Sold as being a 'Extremely Rare Viking 'Odin and Ravens' Firesteel
Copper-alloy, 38.42 grams, 60.98 mm. Circa 9th-10th century AD. A cast copper-alloy firesteel with iron striking surface below, bifacial with identical design to each face. The openwork handle is formed as a baseline of pellets upon which sit two birds of prey with detailed wings and eyes, their heads arched over a bearded male figure shown with his hands extended to the baseline, his broad shoulders emphasised and the bracelets on his wrists carefully modelled. Between the two birds' heads, a narrow band forms the suspension loop. The symbolism of the male between two birds of prey points to the god Oðinn (Odin) who gathered news by sending out two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, each day at dawn and listening to their reports in the evening. Reference: cf Hammond, B. British Artefacts vol.2 - Middle Saxon & Viking, Witham, 2010 item 1.16-f. Very fine condition. Provenance: from an old English collection, at one day..
Sergeij Upstad mailed me mailed me more than uptight, making me out for somewhat of a fool..
'... firesteels (steel is a key word here) were all made out of iron of high carbon content during the entire history of mankind. The bronze and other copper alloys are not strong enough to serve the purpose. What you have is a decorative anthropomorphic (combining elements of a man and animals or birds simultaneously) pendant or a plaque of Perm (Finno-Ugric tribes) animal style. Such decor pendants, plaques, clasps and belt ends served as amulets against evil spirits in medieval times..'
Addressed as being Permian animal style this would refer to the ancient history of Finno-Ugric peoples living west of the Urals – Zyrian Komis, Permian Komis and Udmurts – and their art, most frequently referred to as ‘the Permian animal style’.
It was at its prime from the 6th to the 8th and 9th c. and its end fell to the 14th c. Treating Permian art, we should bear in mind that the art of Ob-Ugrians is fairly similar to that of Permian peoples and that at the time there were also the Ob-Ugrians Mansis (or Voguls) living west of the Urals.
And indeed, as one searchs for 'Perm animal style' images, one stumbles upon an image (on the left beneath) wich depicts a similar artefact..
The drawings are from a Russian book, title unknownn (possibly: Sedov, B.B. Finno-Ugri i Balti v Epokhi Srednevekovija, Moscow, 1987,
A similar amulet / plaque is to be seen in the book:
Chudskie drevnosti Rifeia: Permskii zverinyi stil = The animal style of Perm (Iskusstvo Prikamia) (Russian Edition) (Russian) Hardcover – 1987
p. 67, plate 22.
So clearly being addressed to the X-XIth century, this is an artefact from the same period as the Viking Age, with a Odin and his ravens alike image but it might be some image known in Finno-Ugrian shamanism or a depiction of the ressurrection of Christ (or: soul flight). It is the question if the image of Odin and his two ravens destines from Viking mythology. Probably this cult/history originates in a much earlier stadium of Indo European culture. The figure of Odin is very much alike a shaman in Finno Ugrian mytholgie who communicates with his two ravens between the world above and the underworld. Very well possible that the Vikings took over this image in a much earlier stageout of Finnic mythology and this image already was made in Finnic bronscasting excisted in the period of time before the Vikings. The two images on the right are from a book (very limited printed) called "Ugrian heritage".)