Peter Johnsson's ‘Reflections’

Peter Johnsson's ‘Reflections’

When imagination is taken seriously, it can lead to breath-taking results. This is proven by the latest project of Swedish sword smith Peter Johnsson. It is called ‘Reflections – Dedication to the Goddess’ and presents eleven magnificent swords, worthy of the Greek goddesses in whose honour they were made.
Text: Bas Martens and Peter Johnsson
Pictures: Peter Johnsson and Paul Mutino
Left: Peter Johnsson, sword smith. Right: In the course of the project, hundreds of sketches were made,
which alone took several months. These are some of the drawings for the sword of Athena.
If the Greek goddesses had swords, what would these have looked like? It seems like a hypothetical question. After all, the Greek goddesses never existed, did they? But that is irrelevant. Greek mythology, with its colourful collection of characters, is an inseparable part of Western culture. It has left its traces in language, art and science and is therefore real enough. So what would the swords of the goddesses
have looked like?
An answer to that question may have many different aspects. There is of course the historical side: how were swords made in Greek Antiquity, which style was popular? But there is also a psychological side. The Greek goddesses were outspoken personalities. Their temperament must have played a role in their choice of a sword. And as the goddesses possessed immense powers, there were hardly any limits to the design or the materials used.
That, in short, is the challenge that the Swedish swordsmith Peter Johnsson (55) set himself with his project ‘Reflections - Dedication to the Goddess’. Johnsson not only tried to imagine what the swords of the goddesses looked like, but he actually made them. That is to say: he chose eleven goddesses and designed and made a sword he thought befitting for each one.
Peter Johnsson in his workshop.
Peter Johnson has been making swords for over twenty years. He started his professional career as a graphic designer and illustrator, and trained in blacksmithing and decorative ironwork. That, combined with a lifelong fascination for mythology, history and archaeology, eventually melted together in his great passion: the making of swords, based on extensive research. Over the past 30 years, Peter Johnsson made dozens of trips to European museums and private collections and studied thousands of original swords, which led, among other things, to his research into the geometry
of medieval swords - but that's a different story.
Many of Peters' swords are historically correct. Occasionally he plays with the force field between free imagination and formal construction. In the project ‘Reflections - Dedications to the Goddess’ he went one step further.
The idea for the project arose gradually. At the beginning of 2017 Peter came into contact with Brett Holster, of Holster Fine Art in New York. This gallery specialises in 19th and 20th century art, but also offers a range of exclusive kitchen knives. Holster offered Peter a solo exhibition, with a theme of his choice. Peter took the opportunity with both hands, but then he still had a problem: what should that theme be?
The choice for Greek mythology, and in particular the Greek goddesses, had a number of reasons. Peter once started his career as a graphic designer and illustrator, among other things of children's books. He has always been interested in stories. With his medieval swords that aspect often remained underexposed. The sword itself was already known enough. From a mythological point of view it was quite different. Greek mythology offered a unique opportunity to combine physical reality and imagination.
The theme offered a great deal of artistic freedom. It gave the possibility, as Johnssson says, "to explore the sword as a vehicle to express ideas". If Peter would have chosen Norse mythology as the starting point, everyone would have expected Viking swords. Swords inspired by the Greek goddesses, and made in homage of them, posed far fewer limitations. Yet there had to be a uniform starting point. "A group of objects is something very different from one
single object. It had to be a coherent body of work," says Peter Johnsson. And of course there were the demands of the sword itself. "A sword has to have the potential of being used as a weapon. Otherwise it is just a symbol".
In the end Peter made eleven swords. For the purists: six are named after goddesses (Athena, Artemis, Demeter, Persephone, Hecate and Lethe), two after Titans, the pre-Olympian gods (Mnemosyne and Asteria) and three after the Furies (Alecto, Tisiphone and Megaera). Greek mythology of course knows many more goddesses, but Peter
intuitively chose those with whom he could imagine a sword.
Left: It is difficult to imagine how many hours of contemplating were needed to reach a final design,
and then still have to make it.
Right: Some of the sketches for the three Furies.
Thus arose, in two years, a series of unique swords, products of twenty years of study and craftsmanship, combined with a rich imagination. They are, as the title of the project says, 'Reflections'; not intended to be swords as imagined to be actually worn by the goddesses, but made to embody something of the divine in the human nature.
With each of these swords Peter wrote a kind of account, a personal story about the goddess and her sword.
The project's swords are the product of Peter’s imagination, but they are emphatically not 'Fantasy Swords'. Apart from the difference in quality and craftsmanship, according to Johnsson, Fantasy Swords are often the opposite of
what they claim. "Fantasy has to relate to myth, to storytelling. But what is normally labelled as fantasy is the contrary - a lack of fantasy. It is predictable, un-inspiring, boring, and often ugly. A sword must be made with integrity; if not, is not a sword anymore".
Making swords involves a multitude of complex techniques. If done well, the result seems effortless.
The eleven swords of 'Reflections' were to be exhibited as planned in the Holster Fine Art gallery in New York, from 20 February to 20 March this year. The exhibition was officially opened, but had to be closed shortly afterwards because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The following pages show all eleven swords of the project, with the texts Peter Johnsson wrote with each sword. The pictures are by Paul Mutino.
For more information see the makers personal website ( or the exhibition website of Holster Fine Art (


The titan Mnemosyne is the daughter of the sky god Ouranos and Gaia the Earth. She is the goddess of memory and the one who named all things and invented language. She is the mother of the Muses and is also considered to be the first philosopher. Her gift is the power of reason. Zeus understood her importance and allowed her domain to continue after the war between Olympians and Titans.
The use of language is what sets us humans apart from the other animals in our world. If it was not for Mnemosyne’s gifts we could not transmit knowledge and experiences from one generation to the next; her gifts allow us to keep myth and science alive and thus in a way they are our own collective consciousness.
A sword dedicated to Mnemosyne is therefore a weapon that brings light to a dark mind. Its purpose is to defeat the creatures that thrive in those shadows. Knowledge, language and shared wisdom give us power and means to fight the trolls, monstrosities and dragons that embody lies, bigotry and greed.
Created: 2019
Total length: 1400 mm
Blade length: 1033 mm
Blade width: 49 mm
Weight: 1442 g
Point of Balance: 92 mm from guard
The blade is forged in 580 layers of 1084 and 15N20 with subtle manipulation for discreet undulations in the topography and chatoyance (cat’s eye) effect. The cross section is hollow ground for a stout midrib and thin edges. A pair of undulating grooves are cut in the forte of the blade on each side. 
The pommel and guard are forged in iron that is carved and given highlights of fused gold. The grip is covered in ray skin with cast sterling silver ferrules that are carved and highlighted with gold overlay.


Athena sprang fully formed and fully armoured from the head of Zeus after Hephaistos cured his persistent migraine by cleaving his skull with an axe. Athena had gestated inside Zeus after he devoured his pregnant first wife Metis, the goddess of good counsel, wisdom and magical cunning. Athena inherited the best aspects of both parents. Hers is the power to defend cities through strategic warfare and courage. Tellingly, she is also the goddess of inspiration, civilization, law and justice as well as mathematics, and the arts and crafts (especially weaving).
The war god Ares fears Athena as she, through her virtues of justice and skill, represents the intellectual and civilized side of warfare while he represents mere martial bloodlust on the battlefield.
The form and proportions of the Athena sword are based on a geometry that defines the hilt to blade ratio as 2:9. The blade width is 1/4 of the basic circle with a profile taper that is defined by an ad quadratum construction (one square set diagonally inside another square). The diameter of the pommel and the width of the guard are 1/3 of the hilt length. The decorative figures of the hilt and the scabbard mounts show different geometric constructions derived from the dimensions of the parts.
Created: 2019
Total length: 979 mm
Blade length: 798 mm
Blade width: 45 mm
Weight: 1055 g
Point of balance: 91 mm from guard
The blade is forged in 540 layers of 1084 and 15N20 steel in random thickness showing chatoyance (cat’s eye) effects. Pommel and guard forged in iron with details of 24k gold and fine silver overlaid and inlayed. The grip is wrapped with silver wire and mounted with cast sterling silver ferrules. The scabbard is felt lined and covered in linen with linen thread applications. The outer layer is schellack with details in leaf gold. Scabbard mounts are fabricated in iron and silver, with inlays and overlay of 24k gold and fine silver. The suspension rings are cast in sterling silver.


The crescent bow Artemis wields is an emblem of the moon. Her archery is intuitive, but precise. The arrow travels swiftly, striking with the uncanny accuracy and the sting of the painfully revealed truth. She is the fierce maiden of steadfast integrity and shining beauty, with a dark and impenetrable heart. She defends her chosen and attacks her foes with equal ferocity. Her hunting dogs will track and flush any hidden prey and will savage the arrogant or unwary visitor to her realm. Her home is in the wilderness and she is both the protector and huntress of its denizens. This way she represents the wild and untamed aspects of the human soul: the raw power of the primeval that lives inside us, but also the clear vision that is unencumbered by social norms and prejudice. Like other goddesses associated with the moon, her nature is cyclic with the nurturing and taking of life as a central theme. She is a figure of contradictions and paradox, being a virgin and also a goddess of fertility. Young women and women in child birth are under her primal influence and protection, but they are sometimes also taken by her arrows.
Created: 2017
Total length: 950 mm
Blade length: 790 mm
Blade width: 56 mm
Weight: 1117 g
Point of balance: 121 mm from guard
The blade is forged in 660 layers of 1070 and 15N20  steel in random thickness showing shimmering chatoyance (cat’s eye) effects. The pommel and guard are forged in wrought iron with inlayed stars of fine silver. The grip is covered with ray skin and has end ferrules of wrought iron and silver.  The felt lined scabbard is lacquered in layers with fine leaf silver decoration.



Asteria is the titan goddess of prophetic dreams and falling stars. After the defeat of the titans Zeus chased her, but she found swiftness to escape by transforming herself into a quail and then achieved unassailable strength by becoming the sacred Island of Delos. Asteria gave insights to those who gazed at the stars and she granted visions through dreams. Hers is a story of intuition and change, a story about the power to transform yourself when faced with crisis.
This sword is about universal conflict: about the collision between the heavens and the earth. The iron in the blade was created in a dying star that scattered its material in a supernova. After an unimaginable distance in time the iron later became part of our world. 800 000 years ago, the 4.5 billion year old Mounionalusta meteorite impacted northern Sweden, a slice of which is set in the pommel of the sword. The scabbard is embellished with Moldavite: a mineral formed 15 million years ago when a meteorite impacted Southern Germany.
The materials chosen for this sword are intended to reflect how intuition often collides forcibly with reality, yielding an understanding that empowers us to act and transcend our limitations.
Created: 2018
Total length: 895 mm
Blade length: 720 mm
Blade width: 74 mm
Weight: 1164 g
Point of balance: 60 mm from guard
The blade is forged from 600 layers of 1084 and 15N20 steel in in random thickness, manipulated for dramatic chatoyance effects. A twin set of fullers are carved to be reminiscent of REM-sleep curves. The hilt is forged of 1050 steel that is embossed for structure and overlaid in 24 k gold with keum boo technique. Meteorite is set with 24 k gold into the pommel and scabbard. The grip is carved from a semi mineralised rib bone of the Steller Sea cow. The felt lined scabbard is covered with textured leather. It has a scabbard slide (for belt attachment) with a shield shaped device of iron, gilded with 24 k gold in keum boo technique and a triangular Moldavite stone set in 24 k gold.


Ever since humans began clearing forests and tilling the earth to harvest its fecund gifts, we have talked about the Mother who gives and takes life. Demeter is her name in the ancient Greek mythology, where she was goddess of agriculture and the bearer of the unwritten law of divine order. When Demeter learned that her daughter Persephone had been abducted, her sorrow and wrath left the earth barren and dry with all of humanity facing extinction from starvation.
Last year´s decaying plants nourishing the seeds that will grow next spring is the coming and going of generations through the centuries. “You reap what you sow” is a dire reminder that the immutable rhythm of this sacred law of cyclic transformation is disrupted at our own peril. The sword and the plow are two sides of the same reality. Both demand awareness and responsibility of their wielders.
Created: 2018
Total length: 656 mm
Blade length: 525 mm
Blade width: 82 mm
Weight: 834 g
Point of balance: 44 mm from guard
The blade is forged in 700 layers of 1070 & 15N20 steel hammered and etched for strong chatoyance effects. The hilt is sculpted and cast in bronze, one side showing growing vegetation-like forms while the other shows bone- or skull-like forms. The felt lined scabbard is covered in leather with leaf gold decorations on the front in the form of planted seeds or fertility cup marks. The bronze mounts of the scabbard reflect the same duality as the hilt components.


Persephone, fruit of the dark earth, also named Kore, is the daughter of Demeter. The fruit contains the essence of life, but the act of harvesting it involves a form of death when it is severed from the plant where it grew. The abduction of the maiden Kore who ascends to the throne in the underworld to become the queen Persephone is a dark and harrowing tale, but it is also one of the most interesting of the Greek myths about power and transformation.
The sombre and dark Hades of the land of the dead is the antithesis to the youthful and vibrant Kore of fruits and flowery meadows. Her abduction can be understood as a violation but also as the union of opposites. The myth is not always clear about her thoughts and feelings in the matter. Kore/Persephone is certainly more than a helpless victim of circumstance, however. When Hades eventually offers Persephone her freedom, his other hand holds a simple gift of pomegranate seeds that would bind her to the underworld if eaten. Persephone accepts the gift and in so doing forever changes the cosmic order. Where there once was a lone and austere monarch ruling with uncompromising severity, the land of shadow comes also to be under the influence of a queen of light and life that welcomes the spirits of the dead. In her act of transformation she also wrests a degree of independence from her all powerful mother Demeter as well as her husband Hades, as she is free to stay in the realms of both the living and the dead, in the passing of the seasons.
Persephone emerges as someone who has found a way to integrate their own light and darkness into a power of profound change.

Created: 2019
Total length: 704 mm
Blade length: 528 mm
Blade width: 58 mm
Weight: 839 g
Point of balance: 40 mm from guard
The blade is forged from 540 layers of 1084 and 15N20 steel in random thickness for strong chatoyance effects. The sculpted hilt is cast in bronze that is embossed and patinated, with garnet cabouchons in gold settings. A lacquer work scabbard with 24k leaf gold decoration, mounted in bronze fittings with garnet cabouchons.


Hecate can be found at the crossroads, showing us the third way forward. She grants hidden knowledge and carries a flaming torch to illuminate the darkness of unknown paths. She possesses powers to affect change in places far beyond the here and now. When we are haunted by confusion and doubt, Hecate is the one that mediates wisdom from those that have passed before us. As the daughter of Asteria the Falling Star and Perses the Destroyer, she was granted power over heaven, earth and the sea.
When Demeter was wracked by grief over the abduction of her daughter, Hecate aided her in her search all the way to the court of Hades. After this Hecate became Persephone´s close confidant and a minister in the underworld. She was allowed to go freely through the gate between the world of the living and the land of the dead. As a goddess of night and darkness she has a special connection to the waxing and waning moon and its reflected light that marks the rhythm and cyclic nature of all things under the heavens. If you happen to meet her face to face, it might be as a bright young girl, a compelling and radiant woman or a wise and ancient crone: she is three in one.
Her magic breaks the laws of normal reality, making her wisdom sometimes hew dangerously close to insanity. Thus, for all her gifts of power, knowledge and insight, her influence can also inspire vengeful rage and uncompromising righteousness, with only desolation at the end of the path.

Created: 2019
Total length: 1040 mm
Blade length: 890 mm
Blade width: 87 mm
Weight: 988 g
Point of balance: 127 mm from guard

The blade is forged with 550 layers of 1084 and 15N20 steel in random thickness layers, manipulated for an undulating topography that is etched deeply to show a strong chatoyance. The iron of the hilt is carved with triskeles and triads. The grip is covered with bluish black sting ray hide. The ends of the guard have fangs of flames of textured sterling silver.


When all has failed and everything is over, the only thing that remains to do is to swallow the bitter taste of frustrated hopes and start completely anew. Lethe is the goddess of oblivion and guardian of the underworld river of the same name. Its waters flow around Hypnos´ cave of dreams and form the border to Elysium: the realm where heroic souls may enjoy a happy version of their mortal life. Those who prefer to drink from the river Lethe will be washed clean of golden joy and dark sorrow and thus freed from all memories their souls are permitted to be born again to the world of the living.
In one way, to forget is to lose one’s mind, to lose one’s self. It can be a slow and wrenching farewell to those people and ideals that we have dedicated ourselves to. Lethe represents this trauma, but she also harbours the freedom of letting go. That which defines us can also dominate us; it can be terrifying and perilous to cast these definitions adrift, but it can also be an act of courage from which to build ourselves anew.
Created: 2018
Total length: 555 mm
Blade length: 416 mm
Blade width: 111 mm
Weight: 679 g
Point of balance: 58 mm from guard
The blade is forged in 500 layers of 1084 and 15N20 steel in random thickness that is manipulated to form water-like swirls. On both faces of the blade several undulating grooves are carved. The hilt is forged of 18th century wrought iron with fused 24 k gold. The sting ray wrapped grip has ferrules of blackened sterling silver with gold overlay.


The three Furies were created when Cronus castrated Ouranos, taking form from the blood that saturated the ground. Feared for their implacable and merciless demeanour, they are called forth from their dwelling in Tartarus to deliver swift and cruel retribution upon evildoers in the form of madness and wasting disease. Alecto is the Fury who punishes crimes of transgressions against our moral duties. Among these duties, honouring one´s family and hospitality towards strangers were regarded as paramount. The gods could send Alecto to stir the passion of rage in kings and heroes when war and bloodshed were part of the divine plan. Fittingly, the meaning of Alecto is “unceasing.”
Apart from their role as traveling agents of righteous revenge they are also responsible for meting out punishment to the dead in the afterlife. When souls arrive in Hades, they must first appear before three judges. These were the once mortal kings Rhadamanthys, Minos and Aiakos, who were appointed to this duty because of their dedication to law and order during their mortal lives. After the judgment the souls of the dead were handed over to the Furies, who purified the good of their sins and let them pass, but dragged those who are beyond redemption to the pits of damnation in Tartarus.

Created: 2019
Total length: 450 mm
Blade length: 316 mm
Blade width: 40 mm
Weight: 321 g

The guard and pommel are sculpted using a technique invented by the artist’s father and cast in bronze. The grip is bound with fine silver wire and mounted with ferrules of cast sterling


The ancient Greeks gave life to the immutable forces of fate and consequence in the form of the goddess Ananke, the personification of inevitability. The Furies are the vengeful agents of her immutable will. Tisiphone is the Fury who brings down retribution upon murderers, her name consisting of the Greek, “tisis,” meaning vengeance, and “phone,” meaning to murder. She reserved special cruelty for those who murdered a family member, an act that bore a unique abhorrence to the ancient Greek. “Dark, dark!” cries Sophocles’ Oedipus, “The horror of darkness, like a shroud, wraps me and bears me on through mist and cloud.”
Often depicted in blood-soaked robes, Tisiphone was regarded as the divine order’s minister of revenge. Tales of the Furies also portray them as the motivation for the very acts of perverse transgression that are theirs to avenge. Some poor soul might murder a family member under her influence, only to be driven to insanity and slow, withering death by her vengeance.
Curiously, legend also maintains that after the Athenian trial of Orestes, who killed his mother in retribution for murdering his father, Athena herself offered the Furies a home in the city and the position of guardians of childbirth and weather. In this way the Athenians came to regard the Furies as the manifestation of natural forces that were outside the control of mortals, a reminder that humans are limited and imperfect. Through the wisdom of Athena, the Furies, who once provoked fear and unrelenting guilt, also became known as the Eumenides (the Kindly Ones) who provided a means to channel fury and anger into the ability to act according to righteous understanding, which lies at the heart of justice in any civilized society.

    Total length: 450 mm
    Blade length: 300 mm
    Blade width: 43 mm
    The blade is forged from 1084 and 15N20 steel in 550 layers
    of variable thickness. The guard and pommel are sculpted using
    a technique invented by the artist’s father and cast in bronze.
    The grip is bound with fine silver wire and is mounted with cast
    sterling silver ferrules.



Megaera is “she who holds grudges,” and she is the Fury of jealousy and envy. The Furies would sing a harrowing and overwhelming song to paralyze their victims with feelings of intense guilt and remorse. In this manner, criminals and wrongdoers were castigated by exposure to their own guilt and fear. Seneca gives a vivid picture of this in his tragedy Medea: “Whither hastes that headlong horde of Furiae? Whom seek they? Against whom are they preparing their flaming blows? Whom does the hellish host threaten with its bloody brands? A huge snake hisses, whirled with the writhing lash. Whom does Megaera seek with her deadly torch?”
To the ancient Greek, the Furies were the personification of guilt, and they stood in this capacity as the last defence against the tyranny of corruption and unscrupulous abandon. Their existence manifested our need to reflect on responsibility and fallibility. If humans lacked the ability to realise wrongdoings, they would not recognize their transgressions and thus have no reason for remorse or restraint. The furies, who represented our ability to reckon with some of the darker aspects of human nature, serve as an important counterpart to the goddesses, who empower us to reach towards our better selves.
Total length: 525 mm
Blade length: 323 mm
Blade width: 87 mm
The guard and pommel are sculpted using a technique invented by the artist’s father and then cast in bronze. The grip is bound with fine silver and set with fabricated sterling silver ferrules. The blade is 550 layers, comprising 1075 and 15N20 steels of varying thicknesses. It is carved with undulating grooves and pierced with holes. It is etched deeply to reveal the topography of the layered steel.