Ship-mast coinsSailing vessels would often be provided with one or more lucky coins when they were built to ensure favourable winds for swift sailing and good profits.. The coins were usually placed under the boat's mast. The following description of the procedure comes from Storfjord in Troms: When they made a new boat they placed a coin in the garboard seam. They made a hole the size of the coin in the seam and wound a piece of burlap around the coin before inserting it into the hole. This was done to ensure large profits from the new boat and for good fortune in general. When they later started building housing on board the boats, they placed a coin in the housing structure. The owner of the boat was supposed to insert the coin, and it was to be done in secret.
Many people believed that foreign coins had a more powerful effect than domestic coins.
Placing a coin under the ship's mast is a tradition that dates back to the Roman times and perhaps even further back.
Votive findsAccording to the Old Norse epic, Ynglingatal, the Nordic god Odin introduced a law bidding that all the dead be burned along with their possessions. Each person would enter Valhalla with the riches that accompanied him on the funeral pyre, he said. He would also enjoy the benefit of whatever riches he had personally buried in the ground.
When only a single coin was provided for a dead person, it was presumably in consideration of the passage to the realm of the dead. The journey involved crossing rivers and lakes, where the dead would have to pay for help with the crossing. The ferryman in the afterlife of the ancient Greeks, Charon, demanded an obol, or halfpenny for the passage. The fare for the ferry to the realm of the dead has been named Charon's obol in several civilisations other than the Greek.
Offerings for buildingsThe tradition of embedding coins in the cornerstones of buildings dates back to ancient Greece. In Norway, archaeological excavations of stave churches from the 1100s have revealed coins at the bottom of holes in which pillars were raised. The tradition can be traced through history up to the present.
The cornerstone for the Norwegian Storting, or parliament building,
was laid down in 1861. Samples of coins from that year were, according
to tradition, embedded in the stone. However, the mint at Kongsberg
was having trouble producing the coins. This was the first year of coins
bearing the name of the new king, Carl
XV. The sculptor Brynjulf Bergslien had made models for the obverse
that included a portrait of the king. The dies, which were made in Copenhagen,
proved practically useless according to Mint-master
Langberg. With great difficulty, 11 coins of each monetary unit
were struck for the finance department, and some of these were embedded
in the cornerstone of Stortinget. As a result, the building harbours some
exceptionally rare and valuable coins.