Eye tray

Eye tray
Lithograph after a drawing by Richard Dybeck, from around 1870.

Eye tray is a flat hill in Öja parish, Södermanland, where the young, unmarried men of the village gathered in times past to measure their strength against each other. Who knows, maybe Öja bricka can become that place again?

"Öja bricka", an old gathering place for troops in Öja parish, Södermanland, in the form of a flat rock with three heavy stones that was used for manhood tests by the unmarried young men of the area. The hill is located about 500 metres west of Öja church in Stora Sundby, Eskilstuna municipality.

If you managed to lift the smallest stone, you could be elected to "Öja bussar" with 16 young men. The strongest member was called "king", and had to lift the biggest stone ("the king's stone") to prove himself worthy.

The Nordic Museum's yearbook tells about "Öja bussarna" Fataburen vintage 1928:

The buses were in league with the neighbours to the west, "Västermo tussar", but slogans included "Väsmanna",
vingåkersvargarna, "Grötlunda makker1" in Närke and "Rademacher och hans anhang" (Eskilstunasmederna). Before the spirits at the end of
18th century broke them, the team's youngsters had a good reputation. They sometimes acted as a kind of providence, moving sheaves from the rich man's field to the poor man's, etc., but during their wanderings, when they were dressed in a special costume, they stole foodstuffs and fruit, especially from the manors (Kungsör, Julita). The last king was shot in a fruit tree during a raid to Julita farm. The booty was consumed on an old ring wall, "Vishällen" or on Konungsö, a fortress in Västermo parish.

Öja bus
The Öja-bus, the symbol of the Öja-Västermo Hembygdsförening. Photo: Eric Kling

So it didn't work out so well for the buses in the end. At least not for the king. But the tradition of lifting heavy stones lived on, and it's a tradition that has existed throughout the Nordic countries, in the Faroe Islands and Iceland, and is most reminiscent of the many power plays of ancient times. In some places, you weren't considered a real man until you could lift a "mandom stone" to waist height.

There were three lifting stones and the smallest one could be brought up to knee height by the new bus. A slightly larger stone could be lifted by most, but the largest, described as being almost spherical and a stiff alder in cross-section, could only be lifted by a few. The leader of the team, the most excellent and strongest in every way, was called king. His test of strength was to lift the largest biggest stone, called the king stone, and no one became king without this proof of strength.

In Iceland heavy stones were used as a test of strength to qualify men for jobs on fishing boats. The stones were categorised into four groups, where idiot was the smallest stone a man must manage to lift up to hip level to qualify:

  • fullsterkur ("full strength") 155 kg
  • idiot ("half strength") 104 kg
  • idiot ("weakling") 49 kg
  • amlóði ("worthless") 23 kg

The largest stone on Öja tray, the "king stone", according to Sörmlands museum to have been nearly spherical and one cubit in diameter, and also states that "with a dense weight of 2.6, the weight of this stone should have been about 290 kg." That statement should be taken with a grain of salt, given that the world record for stone lifting today is a 254 kg stone held by American Brian Shaw. But the people of Sörmlän are strong men, so it's not impossible!

Unfortunately, the documentation says that the lifting stones on Öja tray were removed and bricked into the new church when it was built in 1850. But you know what that means, don't you? Öja tray and the unmarried young men of the village must get new lifting stones! Any local patriot who feels compelled to take on this honourable task?

Getting there

Coordinates: Latitude 59.285588570084386 | Longitude 16.15052429193497

Discover more interesting places to visit at History map.

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