Offerkast and Roadside Memorials

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


The erection of roadside memorials in Sweden is commonly considered a novel practice, appearing during the last 10-15 years. Nevertheless similar precedent practices can be found in the history of Sweden.
Stories about marking the site of an unexpected death with a cross could be said to date back to the eleventh century legend of Saint Sigfrid, telling of the first English missionary to spread Christendom in Sweden. A phenomenon more specifically related to the road is the so called offerkast, [literally: ‘victim throw’ or ‘sacrifice throw’] referring to the throwing of twigs, branches, and stones onto places of accidental death by the road. This practice is for instance mentioned in Carl von Linné’s travels of Västergötland in 1746 where it is commented on as a rural custom. An early literary mentioning of the similar practice of throwing stones onto places where extraordinary things had happened can be found in the so called first Swedish humanist, Olaus Magnus, fantastic work Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus from 1555.
Although these precedent practices may not be directly related to the recent practice of Swedish roadside memorialisation they are none the less interesting as a backdrop to the phenomenon. This since, as Jennifer Clark and Ashley Cheshire recognizes in their comparative study of roadside memorials in New South Wales, Australia, and Texas, United States, spontaneous memorialisation of today often draws from the cultural and religious heritage of the locale. Another concern is that changes in our attitudes towards death may span over several generations and thus go beyond collective memory. Hence, to minimize ‘the risk of attributing originality to phenomena that are really much older’, as Philippe Ariés states in The Hour of Death, I believe it is important to examine mentioned precedent practices in order to fully understand current Swedish roadside memorialisation.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Design


  • popular belief., roadside memorials, practices, folk life, offerkast, death
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch
EventThe 8th conference on The Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal - Bath, United Kingdom
Duration: 2007 Sep 122007 Sep 15


ConferenceThe 8th conference on The Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal
CountryUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Theoretical and Applied Aesthetics (011036008)

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