Infants, "Mylings" and "The wee folk"
publ. in Gotländskt Arkiv 2005 (vol. 77).
In Scandinavian folklore, "mylings" were the souls of unbaptized or murdered children. This article discusses the Medieval attitude to infants and infant funerals, based on the discovery ofan infant skeleton in a cesspit in one of the Medieval stone houses at Visby. The article takes up the question of the burial rights of unbaptized children, the problems incurred by lack of Medieval infant remains, Medieval infant mortality, and conceptions regarding stillborn children, illegkimate children and infanticide.
The discussion deals with the Christian society's attitude to and treatment of illegitimate children, and also touches on common conceptions of infants and infant funerals. The necessity of baptism for the right to a grave las been taken up, and the significance of the different sacramems of extreme unction as an assurance that the deceased would not return as a myling has been discussed, based on Medieval law and archaeological material.
Ethnological material has also been studied, and links made with the enormous cornplexity of conceptions of the wee folk underground - a common occuirence in tales about pregnancy, childbirth and baptism. "The wee folk" live under a large stone, an old tree or a cairn. Some Bronze Age cairns have actually contained infants - those in the cairn at Hau have been I4C-dated t to High Medieval Peiod.