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The Symbolic Nature of Gold in Magical and Religious Contexts

Charlotte Behr

Paper given at the Staffordshire Hoard Symposium, held at the British Museum, March, 2010

Introduction: Gold can adopt many different meanings. In economic contexts it can acquire material value, in social contexts it can gain significance for status and position within a hierarchical structure, in religious contexts it can be used to express veneration of the divine or a divinity, in magical contexts it can be perceived as a material with inherent powerful qualities. We can define the symbolic nature of gold as a means of communication. That implies, firstly, communication among humans in different situations for different purposes but also, secondly, between humans and a spiritual world.

The topics that Helen Geake suggested for this paper were: evidence for gold and golden objects in religious and magical contexts, what this evidence may mean for our view of the Staffordshire Hoard, what implications it may have for future work. That is why this paper is about ideas, beliefs and perceptions of gold, the predominant material found in the Staffordshire Hoard, it is not about individual objects and their interpretations.

Click here to read this article from the Portable Antiquities Scheme