Barely a week goes by without a really interesting article in CoinsWeekly. The July 7, 2011 issue has several nice articles, including this one on the Eye of God in numismatics. Here's a short excerpt, but be sure to read the whole thing - it's loaded with great images and information.
A rare silver coin of the Iceni, struck in Norfolk over 2000 years ago, was recently found by a metal detectorist in East Anglia.
It shows a man’s head with one eye blinded (or closed) and with another eye – a third eye, an open eye – in his mouth. Who is he? What is he doing?
I think he may be an Icenian counterpart of the Norse god Odin (German Woden, Anglo-Saxon Wotan) who sacrificed one eye in order to gain wisdom and the gift of prophecy. I think this amazing coin depicts the deity looking inwardly into the future – not with his physical eyes, but with his ‘inner eye’ or ‘third eye’ – and foretelling the future like a shaman or seer; in other words, he seems to be speaking with the all-seeing, all-knowing ‘eye of God’.
This is why I believe Odin (or whatever his Icenian name was) is portrayed here with an eye in his mouth – he is speaking with insight – and this is why I call the coin ‘Odin’s Eye’.
You may well wonder how a Scandinavian/Germanic god came to be on an ancient British coin, especially when that coin was minted hundreds of years before the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings invaded Britain.
Dr Daphne Nash Briggs, author of Coinage in the Celtic World (Seaby 1987, Spink 2004) thinks that an ancient Germanic ancestry may have influenced the language, iconography and coin inscriptions of the Iceni and cites their famous Norfolk Wolf gold staters as evidence of this (Chris Rudd List 100, July 2008, pp. 8-9, Chris Rudd List 110, March 2010, pp. 2-4).
Moreover, a number of iron age coins of northern and north-eastern Gaul – those parts of Gaul most obviously influenced by Germanic culture – give prominent display to the ‘eye of God’. One of them, a cast potin coin of the Suessiones, is nothing short of fantastic.
On one side we see a man with an eye in his mouth, like the Odin’s Eye coin but treated more realistically; on the other side we see Tyr (a son of Odin) with his left hand in the jaws of the wolf Fenrir who is standing on a sun-wheel. A superb specimen of this mythologically fascinating coin – as remarkable as it is rare – was recently sold for 2400 euros.
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. Other topics this week include The Japan Mint
in Osaka and editor Ursula Kampmann's Numismatic diary of a journey throughout Greece, part 3
To read the complete article, see:
The eye of God
Wayne Homren, Editor
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