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 Ancient Runes Lesson 3

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Gwen Britefyre

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Join date : 2012-08-09

PostSubject: Ancient Runes Lesson 3   10/25/2012, 3:35 am

Early inscriptions

Runic inscriptions from the 400 year period of c. AD 150 to 550 are referred to as "Period I" inscriptions. These inscriptions are generally in Elder Futhark, but the set of letter shapes and bindrunes employed is far from standardized. Notably the j, s, and ŋ runes undergo considerable modifications, while others, such as p and ï, remain unattested altogether prior the first full futhark row on the Kylver Stone (c. AD 400).
Artifacts such as spear-mounts or shield-heads have been found that bear runic marking may be dated to 200 A.D., as evidenced by artifacts found across northern Europe in Schleswig (North Germany), Fyn, Sjaeland, Jylland (Denmark), and Skåne (Sweden). Earlier, but less reliable, artifacts have been found in Meldorf, Süderithmarschen, North Germany; these include brooches and combs found in graves, and are supposed to have the earliest markings resembling runic inscriptions.
Theories of the existence of separate Gothic runes have been advanced, even identifying them as the original alphabet from which the Futhark were derived, but these have little support in findings (mainly the spearhead of Kovel, with its right-to-left inscription, its T-shaped tiwaz, and its rectangulardagaz). If there ever were genuinely Gothic runes, they were soon replaced by the Gothic alphabet. The letters of the Gothic alphabet, however, as given by the Alcuin manuscript (ninth century), are obviously related to the names of the Futhark. The names are clearly Gothic, but it is impossible to say whether they are as old as, or even older than, the letters themselves. A handful of Elder Futhark inscriptions were found in Gothic territory, such as the third to fifth century Ring of Pietroassa.
The Encyclopædia Britannica even suggests the original development of the runes may have been due to the Goths

Attendance: please post one thing you remember from last class.

Runic magic

Nevertheless, it has proven difficult to find unambiguous traces of runic "oracles": Although Norse literature is full of references to runes, it nowhere contains specific instructions on divination. There are at least three sources on divination with rather vague descriptions that may, or may not, refer to runes: Tacitus's first century Germania, Snorri Sturluson's thirteenth century Ynglinga saga, and Rimbert's ninth century Vita Ansgari.
The first source, Tacitus's Germania, describes "signs" chosen in groups of three and cut from "a nut-bearing tree," although the runes do not seem to have been in use at the time of Tacitus' writings. A second source is the Ynglinga saga, where Granmar, the king of Södermanland, goes to Uppsala for the blót. There, the "chips" fell in a way that said that he would not live long (Féll honum þá svo spánn sem hann mundi eigi lengi lifa). These "chips," however, are easily explainable as a blótspánn (sacrificial chip), which was "marked, possibly with sacrificial blood, shaken, and thrown down like dice, and their positive or negative significance then decided."[17]
The third source is Rimbert's Vita Ansgari, where there are three accounts of what some believe to be the use of runes for divination, but Rimbert calls it "drawing lots". One of these accounts is the description of how a renegade Swedish king, Anund Uppsale, first brings a Danish fleet to Birka, but then changes his mind and asks the Danes to "draw lots". According to the story, this "drawing of lots" was quite informative, telling them that attackingBirka would bring bad luck and that they should attack a Slavic town instead. The tool in the "drawing of lots," however, is easily explainable as ahlautlein (lot-twig), which according to Foote and Wilson [17] would be used in the same manner as a blótspánn


Homework: (due before next class)

1. What are “Period I" inscriptions?
2. What are the three sources on runic divination?
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Ancient Runes Lesson 3
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