One of the
largest collections of Pictish Carved Stones in Scotland is
on display in the Museum in the old schoolhouse in the village
of Meigle. Inside is a stone that is identical to the so-called
Loki Stone of Kirkby Stephen.
Loki Stone exists in the parish
church of Kirkby Stephen, in northwest England. Inside sits
a stone that was deemed to be unique in Britain – and
of which only two remain in Europe: the Loki Stone.
The 8th century Loki Stone is small and is decorated by a carved
figure, chained, with horns. It is one of the few physical survivals
from the time when the Vikings had settled in this area. A largely
forgotten god, Loki was raised from oblivion for the movie The
Mask (1994), in which the “mask” was made into an
artefact of ancient Scandinavian culture, rather the African
origin it was given in the comics.
Loki is largely the Norse equivalent of the Christian devil.
He was a joker and a mischief-maker, who eventually went too
far: he caused the death of the god Odin's son by trickery and
was punished by being imprisoned below ground in chains. This
is how he is depicted on the Loki Stone: a horned being, with
arms and feet wrapped in ropes, so that he cannot move.
stone is located in the Sculptured Stone Museum at Meigle, which
displays 26 Pictish carved stones dating from the late 8th to
the late 10th centuries, and which is therefore contemporary
with the 8th century Loki Stone of Kirkby Stephen.
The collection makes up one of the most important collections
of early medieval sculpture in Western Europe. They are all
that survives of a centre of Pictish wealth and patronage.
were a confederation of tribes who lived in eastern Scotland
until around 850. They were converted to Christianity in the
6th and 7th century. Meigle was an important centre of power
in early medieval Scotland. The villa, or royal estate, at Migdele
(Meigle) is mentioned in the time of King Pherath (839–42),
shortly before the Picts were united with the Scots under Kenneth
We know remarkably little about the Picts, and most of what
we know of their beliefs comes from the iconography of carved
stones, such as those housed in the museum. There is a local
tradition that one of these stones also marked the grave of
Vanora. She is better known as Queen Guinevere, wife of King
Arthur, who was abducted by King Mordred and held captive on
Berry Hill, near Meigle. When she returned to her husband, he
sentenced her to death by being torn apart by wild beasts. The
scene showing Daniel and the lions was believed to depict this
A far less
well-known stone in the collection, however, does bear striking
similarities with the Loki Stone: a horned being, whose arms
and legs are held by ropes. Little is known about the Picts,
but their very location, in eastern Scotland, near the sea,
makes them primary candidates for having been exposed to Viking
influence. The timeframe of when the stone was carved, coincides
with the time of Viking invasions into Britain. That they therefore
carved a stone depicting the chained god Loki, should not come
as a total surprise.
Loki Stone of Kirkby Stephen (left) and the Loki depiction from