Kalv’s Runestone

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Driving through Hagby parish in Uppland on a tiny road Friday, I was lucky enough to cross the bridge at Focksta right at the moment when the afternoon sun hit this lovely runestone straight on. I didn’t even have to get out of the car to take the photograph.

Dating from the early 11th century, the stone is an unsigned work of Åsmund KÃ¥resson (U 875). It’s unusual in that it has a couple of Bronze Age cupmarks too. The inscription reads, “Tyrvi and Ingegärd and Tjälve had this stone erected after Kalv, Tyrvi’s husband. May God and God’s mother help his spirit.”

Note the cross and the prayer. Did you know that a huge majority of the runic inscriptions date from after the Christianisation of Scandinavia? The neo-Pagans should do their scrying in Roman capitals instead.

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Hogganvik Runestone Re-erected

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The recently found Norwegian 5th century runestone of Hogganvik carries a memorial inscription and so might be expected to have stood on or near a grave. My buddy Frans-Arne Stylegar has excavated the site and sadly found no preserved burial, but he did find the original stone setting of the monument. This is a rare kind of knowledge, as many runestones have been moved around through the centuries. Now the runestone stands again, the site has been cleaned up, and the public is free to come see the most important early runic document to surface in many decades.

Photograph by Frans-Arne Stylegar. I have written here about Hogganvik twice before.

Runological Report on the Hogganvik Rune Stone

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Runologist James E. Knirk has published a report on the recently found Hogganvik rune stone. His transliteration is

[?]kelbaþewas:s(t)^ainaR:aaasrpkf
aarpaa:inanana(l/b/w)oR
eknaudigastiR
ekerafaR

His translation is

Skelba-þewaR’s [“Shaking-servant’s”] stone. (Alphabet magic: aaasrpkf aarpaa). ?Within/From within the ?wheel-nave/?cabin-corner. I NaudigastiR [=”Need-guest”]. I, the Wolverine.

So there isn’t actually an explicit lord-retainer relationship in the text, just a guy whose name includes the word for servant, thewar. It also occurs in two names inscribed on weaponry from Danish war booty finds.

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5th Century Rune Stone Found

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Most rune stones are written with the late 16-character futhark and date from the 11th century when the Scandies had largely been Christianised. Their inscriptions tend to be formulaic: “Joe erected the stone after Jim his father who was a very good man”. But by that time, runic writing was already 900 years old. It’s just that inscriptions in the early 24-character futhark are much less common. And when you find them, their messages are usually far less straight-forward.

My buddy Frans Arne Stylegar reports in a series of blog entries [12345] on the discovery, less than two weeks ago, of a 5th century rune stone at Hogganvik in Mandal municipality, Vest-Agder county, Norway. Nothing similar has been found in Norway since WW2. And it’s an exceptionally long inscription — 63 runes!

The message hasn’t received detailed philological treatment yet, but so much is clear that the stone was erected by one Naudigastir in memory of a man who may have been his proto-feudal lord (or was it the other way around?). It is thus the same genre of memorial text as the 11th century rune stones that are so common in the Stockholm and Uppsala area. And it’s going to give the runologists a lot to think about.

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Runic Aerobics Disliked by Nazis

i-1db5fd8074923e2f4d25a5565ca957f2-marbysw.jpgIn Nazi Germany and its occupied territories there were many ways to get thrown into an extermination camp. But Friedrich Marby broke some kind of record: he was sent to Dachau for publishing too silly ideas about runes. He survived.

The Nazis themselves were no strangers to occultism, particularly Heinrich Himmler, whose neo-Pagan religious movement I’ve touched upon before. Movements similar to today’s New Age, neo-paganism and occultism flourished in the early 20th century. But Marby was too much even for Himmler: he invented runic aerobics.

Marby’s ideas took off from the cosmic and psychedelic writings of Guido von List and Siegfried Kummer*, and possibly inspired those of Swedish mad professor Sigurd Agrell. His runic gymnastics incorporated astrological ideas. “In Marby’s opinion, the Universe was awash with cosmic rays, which could be both received and transmitted by human beings. In addition, the beneficial influences of these rays could be increased by adopting certain physical postures in imitation of rune-forms (a practice with an obvious similarity to yoga).” (A. Baker, Invisible Eagle, 2000). It didn’t help either that Marby was unimpressed by his country’s anti-semitism.

As Kellgren said so drily, being insane doesn’t mean you’re a genius. And just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. But to my mind, Marby’s fate calls to mind the Falun Gong controversy. Just because you’re persecuted by a totalitarian regime, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t nuts.

* Kummer invented runic yodeling, as pointed out to me by Peter Olausson. Nobody seems to know if Kummer survived the war.

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Medieval Church Demolished, Rune Stones Found

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Högby near Mjölby in Östergötland is a magical place because of a serious lack of historical sensitivity. In 1876 (which is really late as these things go in Sweden) the locals demolished their little 12th century church and built a new bigger one a mile to the south. This meant that the parish centre of a millennium or so became a backwater and has not been built over later. It’s completely rural, abutting a farm’s back yard, very quiet. All that remains of the church is the churchyard wall and one of Östergötland’s finest rune stones that was taken out of the sacristy wall. Some fine portal stonework and a 13th century door is in the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. Two more carved stones were found and re-erected nearby.

i-c785590f83dcb262c25433185bc1d215-Hogbystenen.jpgOn the big rune stone, dating from about AD 1010-1050, Torgärd’s poetic commemoration of her maternal uncles can be read.

Torgärd erected this stone after Assur, her mother’s brother. He met his end in the East in Greece.

The good farmer Gulle
had five sons:
Fell at Föret [Uppsala?]
did the brave fighter Åsmund.
Assur met his end
to the East in Greece.
Halvdan was
on the island killed. [Bornholm?]
KÃ¥re died at the Cape. [Zealand?]
Dead is also Boe.
Torkel carved the runes.

In all likelihood, the inscription is intended to legitimise Torgärd’s claim to Gulle’s inheritance. Since all her maternal uncles are dead, Torgärd argues, their unnamed sister becomes the heir, and Torgärd inherits her mother.

By the time her descendants decided to add a sacristy to the church, Torgärd’s claim was no longer controversial, but she was probably remembered as a matron of the lineage, possibly its first Christian member. And so her rune stone was made part of the structure.

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A Runic Farewell

i-bf86e66eed5b22f0ecd68f9a5bbd0c61-farvael.jpgFrom about 1845 to 1930, Sweden saw massive emigration to the United States. According to one estimate, about a third of the country’s population left. In 1900, more Swedes lived in Chicago than in Gothenburg. Many factors conspired to send people on their way: population expansion, a lack of agricultural land, failed crops, economic recession, and the simple pull of the virtual population vacuum beyond the American frontier, the pull of enormous opportunity, as industrialised Europeans encountered the Stone Age societies of the native Americans.

The emigration left its share of archaeological sites, mainly abandoned torp buildings in poor districts. But by Fullersta mill pond in Huddinge parish south of Stockholm is an unusual kind of emigration site. On a flat ice-polished rock outcrop (registered site Raä Huddinge 176:1) is an inscription in longhand and runes (and I translate).

Farewell
thou beloved
Fatherland
1872
August

The inscription was made by the miller’s hand Johan August Andersson, who left for the U.S. in 1872. I don’t know what became of him there.

Thanks to Roger Wikell for telling me about the inscription.

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Swedish Study of the Kensington Runestone

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i-99e17a64e823299d6c7b23c48f713e2b-KensingtonRunestone-225.jpgThe Kensington runestone is a 19th century fake from Minnesota. It purports to be a monument left behind by a Scandinavian expedition in the 14th century, but uses anachronistic turns of phrase and runic characters typical of 19th century popular culture. The runestone is nevertheless touted as authentic by enthusiastic local amateur scholars.

“8 Geats and 22 Norwegians on acquisition venture from Vinland far to the west We had traps by 2 shelters one day’s travel to the north from this stone We were fishing one day. After we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead AVM (Ave Maria) Deliver from evils.

I have 10 men at the inland lake to look after our ship 14 days travel from this wealth Year of our Lord 1362”

In 2004, the stone was exhibited at the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. The exhibition did not take sides in the debate over the thing: it centered on the idea that people use remains from the past to construct their identities. Myself and many colleagues felt that this exhibition was a disgraceful exponent of the post-modernist leanings of the museum’s non-archaeologist director, who has since been replaced. At the time, however, the runestone also underwent some scientific examination in Sweden that has not been reported on in print.

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