200 depicted; was it understood as a representation of some physical object, rather than an abstract two-dimensional design? We cannot even say for sure that this conceptual opposition existed for seventh-century Gotlanders. On the Tängelgårda stone, the design occurs twice in the triangular spaces between a horse’s legs. This repetition and neat con?luence of contour suggests the decorative as much as it does the denotative or pictorial. Yet again, how can we say for sure that this opposition was accessible to the carvers of the picture stone? We can say very much about these artifacts, yet there is little we can say about what their creators “meant” by making them. Without any clear record of how the people of prehistoric Northern Europe understood the function of symbol and the operation of visual signi?ication, we have little to offer other than educated speculation. A lack of meaning, or more properly a lost meaning, and the signi?icance of that loss, can be dif?icult to communicate. We ?ind ourselves in an unresolvable relationship with the people of the past. Another thing we can say little about is what concept the carvers of the ?irst “valknuter” would have had of a future. Yet whenever anyone carves in stone or etches in metal, they establish a certain relationship with the future. Though these monuments were likely aimed at a contemporary audience, they were also made to outlast the context that made them intelligible – much as there is no reason to suppose the people who erected them had any expectation that the world would change so much that those meanings would be truly lost. Even today, we rarely consider the possibility of such a loss; the designing of signage for long-term nuclear waste storage facilities, or the golden records on the Voyager spacecraft, are among the few examples that spring to mind. Being the caretakers of things that have lost their meanings puts us in a peculiar position. We have to be sensitive to something we cannot sense, and we have the even more dif?icult task of explaining to others how to be sensitive in this way. For some, the answer to this problem is to simply deny that anything has been lost, to aggressively interpret based on whatever context is available to us – even if there is practically nothing to go on. The study of religion in the Viking Age is particularly prone to this tendency. It is founded, after all, on the strong desire to make pre-Christian Scandinavian religion present, to make it accessible; the desire comes before the study. This desire to make the past present is what we have in common with the tattooed fascist. Though Chansley would likely balk at this term as much as we do when we ?ind ourselves in proximity to it, the image of him clearly takes its place in a history of the fascist male body broadly de?ined: the “soldier male” and his “body armor”,4 albeit in a twenty-?irst century guise that the Freikorps man of 1919 would ?ind dif?icult (but perhaps not impossible) to recognize. Again, I ask that we view this image not as a product of a set of personal 4 Theweleit: Male Fantasies, 348-351.
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