Fertility slides - for more offspring
Are the chances of getting pregnant better if you slide down a smooth rock with petroglyphs? Well, yes, many people believed this for hundreds of years in many different places. You can read more about the phenomenon here.
A second use of the rocks
Within the Tanum World Heritage Site alone there are tens of thousands of images and symbols carved in the rocks, and it is clear that they played an important role for the people who once made them. Did you know that these carved rocks were also considered magic, even in relatively modern times? "When the rock carvings were first created everyone understood what they meant, but with the passage of time this understanding has become blurred. People continued to be aware of the rock carvings, but forgot what their purpose was and started to use them in new ways instead," says Ulf Bertilsson, head of the Swedish Rock Art Research Archives.
Secret and heathen
It was probably in this way that the idea of increasing your chances of getting pregnant came about. The subject is always topical - a quick Google search gives thousands of tips on how to best "boost your fertility" - and before people had access to more or less scientific methods, rock carvings were one of the few alternatives. "One example of a rock used in this way is just south of the Tanum World Heritage Site at Vidingen in Bohus county. In the middle of the rock there is a smooth, polished area that really begs the question, why? A folklore researcher at the beginning of the nineteenth century was told by the country people that children used it as a slide, but they were probably reluctant to say that it had been used by women who wanted to have a child. After all, it was a heathen ritual, says Ulf Bertilsson.
From Tanum to Italy
The custom of sliding around among rock carvings and bowl pits in the pursuit of pregnancy did not only occur in Sweden. In the Italian equivalent of the Tanum World Heritage site, Val Camonica, there is even a word for them. "They are called fertility slides, and in one day we found more than ten slides on the rocks there. Once again, though, this is not something that is readily admitted in Italy either, given its sensitive nature with regard to the church." When Ulf Bertilsson is asked how long this custom was in use, he laughs a little. "Now I'm going to let you into a secret. When Vitlycke Museum was opened for Easter in 2015, I held a lecture about fertility by the rock carvings, during which I also mentioned fertility slides. There was a woman in the audience who told me she knew two women who slid on the rocks where she lived as recently as ten years ago. It sounds unlikely, but people's beliefs are strong!"
Does it work? Well, so far nobody has proved that it doesn't! In the area around Vitlycke Museum and the Tanum World Heritage Site there are over 500 places with rock carvings where you can try your luck. There is one catch, though: rocks with carvings on are protected by law, so it may be better to rub on another rock without any carvings. If nothing else, you can always get some carnal inspiration from the rocks. The most famous Bohus county rock carving is the "Bridal Couple", depicting two people closely entwined in a love ceremony.
If you are interested in Vidingen and other areas of rock carvings, you can find more information at www.shfa.se.