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Short Stories by Peter Dabbene

“The Riddle-Language of the Goddess IKEA”





Good evening. As you have no doubt been informed, our research team has made what can only be called a monumental archeological discovery during our recent excavations of the ice fields near the east coast of North America.

It is now generally accepted within the archeological community that the area in question was once heavily populated, later abandoned due to the inhospitable combination of natural disasters, a rising sea level, and a turn toward an extremely cold climate, which brought about a brief but disruptive ice age. Our direct knowledge of this period is extremely limited, due to the Great Digital Cataclysm of 2051 C.E. which destroyed virtually all recorded information up to that point. Of course, our own ancestors, the Old Amish, were best prepared for a world without technology, and they shepherded the continuation of the human race.

By combing through the oral tradition – the Ordnung – and Old Amish folktales dating back to before the cataclysm (among them the universally known and loved classic What Happened to Lummicks John and Butter Rachel When They Strayed From the Flock) we were able to ascertain the approximate locations of what were called “cities,” and concentrate our dig sites within their confines. Although weather and the elements proved more challenging than expected, we were correct in our assumption that any archeological finds would be well preserved.

Today, year 531 of the New Amish Era, we live in a very different world than that of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. English is now the world standard, for example, whereas in the past even our own ancestors still naively clutched to their superfluous native languages as a sort of cultural touchstone. I am perhaps uniquely qualified to comment on our findings, since in all modesty, I am the foremost (perhaps the only) anthropaleotheographer to have investigated the history of cultures other than our own immediate ancestors.

                The artifacts our team discovered consisted of twelve perfectly preserved containers of corrugated card-board, each bearing the name “IKEA.” The boxes were buried under layers of ice and permafrost in conditions that brought the normal pattern of decomposition nearly to a standstill. Inside each box was a cache of parts, along with a pamphlet relating to those parts.

                Now I will share with you our analysis of the find.


Hypothesis ‑ The Goddess IKEA


The name IKEA was found on every artifact we discovered, always with each letter capitalized. Since the rules of punctuation have changed little in the 500 years post-cataclysm, we can assume that pre-cataclysm punctuation followed largely similar rules. The capitalization of the first letter, “I,” indicates that IKEA is a proper name, while the “A” ending implies a feminine, rather than masculine name. But what of those middle capitals? Whose name could be important enough to warrant all capitals?

                Capitalization, and the enclosure of the letters within an oval shape (representing the womb) have led us to conclude that IKEA was a benevolent female deity worshipped during the 20th and 21st centuries. As we will demonstrate, this observation dovetails nicely with our other findings, as well as our conceptions of primitive and pre-cataclysm cultural ideas about “earth mother” gods and their associated cults. My colleagues and I humbly suggest that IKEA must be one of the long-speculated mystery cults of pre-cataclysm days. I ask you to bear with us through what may seem to be tedious and unnecessary explanation, as, for the sake of completeness, I detail some of the rather elementary deductions we have made. Along with these justifications, we have offered our own conjectures as to how the cult may have functioned, based on our findings and what seem to be the most likely explanations of the artifacts and their meanings.


The IKEAN Pilgrimage


Our findings were located amid large concentrations of human remains, from which we can infer that these sites were heavy population centers. Because we have not encountered any mention of the Goddess IKEA in our extensive and meticulous excavations in central North America, it seems that the cult may have been most widespread in urban coastal areas. Human remains around the IKEA sites are usually found bunched in pairs, which in combination with oral tradition sources, allows us to postulate that these may have been mating pairs. 

We have theorized that these young urban dwellers, upon pairing up and cohabitating, would often embark on a pilgrimage to a temple of the Goddess IKEA. We further theorize that there may have been several IKEAN temples, each geographically positioned in such a way as to offer convenient pilgrimages to the maximum number of urbanites, giving the cult of IKEA a distinct advantage over other cults in its efforts to recruit new members.

Upon arrival at the temple, they were probably escorted into a “showroom,” in which we can assume some display, or “show” of IKEA’s power was made. This showroom is clearly referred to only once in the documents we uncovered, but this one mention makes the showroom’s importance to the cult indisputable: it suggests that any question which might arise in the pilgrim’s mind be directed to a local showroom, in which, we presume, the pilgrim could personally request a suitable answer from the Goddess IKEA or her representatives.

After visiting the showroom, the pilgrims would be tested by the Goddess, evaluated on their ability to solve puzzles which usually involved calculation of the optimal setup for placement of items within a particular amount of residential space; we can assume that the IKEANS were a mathematically advanced people in comparison to the general populace of the time. If they were successful in passing these tests and found worthy, they were bestowed with puzzle-gifts by representatives of IKEA. These gifts were packed in what were called “easy to ship flat boxes.” At this point, the pilgrims would offer some form of tribute, take the gifts and return to their own domicile.

Continuing the ordeal/scourge motif, the pilgrims would then face the second challenge of constructing the gifts using only the parts provided.  If they succeeded, the pilgrims were permitted to keep the gifts as part of a home temple to IKEA, possibly to be called upon for additional pilgrimages in the future. If they failed this second challenge, they were forced to return to IKEA in shame within 45 days, surrendering the gifts and begging for the return of their tribute.

From our thorough investigation of the twelve IKEAN gifts, we can see that in some boxes, essential parts were not included. This may have been intended as an additional, exceedingly stringent test of the pilgrim’s faith. Would the pilgrims return faithfully to the temple to request the missing part? Or would they abandon the wisdom of the Goddess and use their own outside knowledge to formulate another solution to the puzzle? It is apparent that IKEA would have expected the former.


IKEA as Mother-Goddess


This form of gift-giving and the exercise of matriarchal power in society mark the Goddess IKEA as a prototypical Mother-Goddess deity. It has been suggested by members of our team that the act of transforming a flat, inert two-dimensional object into existence as a fully functional three-dimensional IKEAN item may have been intended as a reenactment of the birth process.

The IKEAN gifts themselves bore names, which were printed on or inside each box. The names of the gifts our team uncovered are: LYCKSELE, EKTORP, KROK, GRUVA, GULLKRAGE, SLÖINGE, PÖSIG, and KLACKBO. Since these names are also fully capitalized, they may constitute a pantheon of demigods, subservient to the Goddess IKEA. These demigods may have been mates of IKEA; the copulation of the Goddess and the respective demigod would logically result in the birth of the gift bearing both of their names.


Use of Tools


Despite their primitive religious leanings, the cult of IKEA was in many ways quite advanced, making the most of their brain pans’ limited capacity. For example, the construction of the IKEAN gifts seems to have required specialized tools, the names and functions of which are now almost completely lost to history. The use of tools is a trait highly correlated with intelligence, and although most of the IKEAN gifts did not supply the necessary tools, boxes #3, 4, and 12 did include a single multipurpose tool which seems to have been known as “Allen’s Key” or alternatively, “Allen’s Wrench.”

The identity of Allen is unknown to us, but the key may have had an important place in the IKEAN society, as it “unlocked” the secrets of IKEA for the novitiate even as it locked the metal fasteners of the IKEAN gifts into place.

Allen’s Key is nothing more than a short, thin length of hexagonal metal bent at a 90 degree angle, but the IKEANS ingeniously and successfully applied it to the construction of their gifts. This innovative use of a simple, perhaps accidentally created object is an excellent demonstration of commandment #6 (listed below), and draws favorable comparison with our chimpanzee cousins, whose use of ordinary sticks to retrieve nutritious termites from their mounds has been well documented. The simple but useful termite stick has enabled many a chimp to fatten himself on otherwise unreachable termites; in much the same way, many IKEAN pilgrims may have used Allen’s Key to fatten themselves on the spiritual nourishment of IKEA.


The Nine Commandments


Box # 8 contained an invaluable surprise for us: a concise history of the IKEAN cult in plain English-language text. This pamphlet may have been intentionally included in box # 8, meant to secretly inform a particularly loyal and ambitious acolyte that he or she had been accepted into the inner circle and was now privy to the secrets of IKEA. Or its presence may have been an error (from our perspective, a fortunate one.) 

                According to the document, the cult of IKEA traces its origins back to at least 1972 C.E., when a person called Ingvar Kamprad made IKEA’s nine commandments public. No mention is made as to whether this revelation came from IKEA in dramatic fashion perhaps engraved by lightning bolts onto stone? or in a more subdued manner, as in a dream.

Aside from providing the name of a central figure in the cult of IKEA, this document also forces us to see IKEA and the IKEANS in a new way: not just as a religion, but as the creators of a viable philosophy of life. Kamprad, probably a sort of philosopher-priest, writes:


IKEA’s philosophy is:

1. “Product Range – Our Identity” Large range of designed and functional products with low prices.


(The cult of IKEA offered much in comparison with other cults, while asking for comparatively little in tribute.) 


2. “The IKEA Way” Enthusiasm, renewal, economy, responsibility, humbleness and simplicity.


(These seem to be the preeminent virtues espoused by the Goddess IKEA and valued in IKEAN society.)


3. “Profit Gives Us Resources” Profit by using low prices, good quality, economize the product development, buy in better and cut all costs.


(Encouraging a communal atmosphere – all IKEANS benefit from sharing the workload and utilizing economies of scale.)


4. “Reach Good Results with Limited Resources” “Waste is a mortal sin.”


(First mention of implied punishment for disobeying the IKEAN commandments.)


5. “Simplicity Is a Virtue” Complex rules paralyze. Simplicity is strength. Unnecessary

luxury should not exist.


(Again, emphasizing community among IKEANS and encouraging a simplistic, monastic life.)


6. “A Different Approach” Think innovative!


(Seemingly in contradiction with the previous commandment, IKEANS are asked to abandon their simple, monastic lives and create new and improved systems for society. This innovative thinking may have occurred during a specific time designated for innovative thinking during the IKEAN’S day, after which he or she would return to a comparatively non-innovative monastic life.)


7. “Mustering of Strength – Important to Our Success” One can not do everything,

everywhere at the same time.


(Aside from again emphasizing the importance of cooperation within the IKEAN community, this also implicitly suggests that while the typical IKEAN cannot do everything or be everywhere, the Goddess IKEA is omniscient and omnipotent.)


8. “To Take Responsibility – A Benefit” “Use --- your right and obligation to make



(A warning to the IKEANS not to shirk their community responsibilities.)


9. “Most Things are Still Undone. Wonderful Future!” “Let us remain a bunch of positive

fanatics who make the impossible possible.


(Kamprad admits his own mental instability, hints at his dream of IKEAN domination, and suggests that through worship of the Goddess IKEA, superhuman abilities can be attained.)


The Riddle-Language of the Goddess IKEA


The most intriguing element of the theory of the Goddess IKEA is the mysterious “riddle-language” in which the pilgrims’ puzzles were described on paper. Some aspects of the language are clear, such as the ordinal numbering of each step, and the few decipherable words we have pulled from our examinations (“showroom” and “Allen’s Key,” for example.) However, still a mystery is the inexplicable form of pictorial allegory in which IKEA instructed her acolytes.

Consisting entirely of illustrations, at first glance this allegorical language seems intended to represent the contents of the gift box exactly. Upon further examination, however, it is revealed that not only do the illustrations not represent the contents of the gift box exactly, they often bear little resemblance to its contents at all.

                We can theorize that perhaps this pictorial method of communication was intended to confuse the unenlightened, to filter the truly dedicated worshippers of IKEA from the less devoted. Another possibility suggested is that the language works as a code, perhaps necessary due to persecution from other cults. Whatever the reasons for its creation, this pictorial riddle-language is without a doubt the most perplexing, impenetrable language I have ever encountered in my studies.




Despite the wealth of knowledge made available by our team’s discovery, many unanswered questions about the IKEANS still remain, questions like: “Who or what was Smäland?” and “What did lingonberries taste like?” Unfortunately, it may fall to future generations to make sense of the IKEAN riddle-language and discover the truth.

A final note of defeat: our team, to our great frustration and in spite of our tireless efforts and analysis, has thus far been unable to successfully construct one of the ancient gifts we discovered. We suspect that the answers we seek lie hidden in the confusing images of the IKEAN riddle-language. It is with both amusement and a touch of sadness that we must conclude that if we had lived during the age of IKEA, our residences would have remained quite bare.




Publication details:
Dabbene, Peter. (2009). "The Riddle-Language of the Goddess IKEA." peterdabbene.com (accessed ).

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