Svingerud runestone – an interpretation

I was made aware of the Svingerud runestone this Tuesday when a post appeared in my feed from Heimskringla.no, which is the best site available for those of us who have an interest in the old Norse texts in both modern Scandinavian translations as well as in their original text. Heimskringla linked to Verdensgang.no, one of the biggest tabloids newspapers in Norway. Today, Thursday the 19th of January 2023, I also noted that my favorite linguistic scholar Jackson Crawford posted a Youtube clip about the stone.

Verdensgang described the finding of what appears to be one of the oldest runestones that has been found to this date. The stone was found during an archeological excavation of a burial ground in Tyrifjorden in southeast of Norway. The runestone was written with the elder futhark, the script used before the Viking age, up around the time of 600-800 AD.

The use of the elder futhark was discontinued when the runes were reformed to the so called younger futhark, which was the scipt used in Scandinavia throughout the Viking age and into the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Everything indicates that the reformation of the script was coordinated, it seems to have happened around the same time throughout Scandinavia.

Apart from the use of the elder futhark, the runestone was dated through association with other materials found in the grave that was carbon dated, according to this dating it can be as old as year 1 AD and not younger than 250 AD. If the dating sticks this stone is at least a hundred years older than other comparable runestones in Norway, for instance the Tune stone.

I cannot really say much about this dating, and that is not my purpose of the text. But I remain slightly skeptical for the moment, a lot of the graves found on the old burial grounds consists of layers and have been used multiple times through generations. Carbon dating has previously proven to be a bit dodgy in similar cases. What I want to share in this text is mainly my take on the text and my interpretation of it.

Idiberug?

The initial interpretations given by scholars to the newspaper, says that the most visible part of the carving consists of the name Idiberug. This could either be a female name or a family name.

This Tuesday when the find was published I had a lot of online meetings during the day, and between the meetings or when my attention was not needed, I returned to the pictures multiple times and studied them in detail. The more I watched the pictures the more skeptical I felt about the initial interpretation.

Objection to the transliteration

First of all, I do not agree that the sketchy character in the middle must be a B-rune. As far as I am aware, there are no other examples of a runic B stacked twice in this fashion anywhere. It feels over complicated, and at the bottom of the rune the by-stave passes through the main stave, which is not characteristic of a B rune. Finally, if it is indeed one single character- why would it necessarily have to be a B? Just because it reminds the scholars of the character B? Or just because it fits with an interpretation that they feel comfortable with?

My second objection is the character in the end of the carving, which the scholars has interpreted as being a G rune. For me this rune does not have the distinct X shape that a G rune should have.

My transliteration of the text

When looking closely at the strange B- character, I started to ponder if it should not be regarded as a bindrune instead, IE several runes connected through a shared main stave. If this would be the case the most logical interpretation would be that it consists of three runes. B on top, R in the middle and the A rune in the bottom. This would logically explain why the bottom stave crosses the main stave. This would give us B R A or B R À.

My interpretation of the claimed B- rune as a bindrune of three

There are many esoteric reasons for stacking three runes together like this, and I also have ideas about the three specific runes used in this case. I will leave this for now, but I may return to it another time.

Regarding the rune at the end of the carving, as already said it does not really strike me as a G rune; this could just as well be another Á rune. Which felt instinctively better to me in relation to the geometric shape of the character. I believe this is one of the cases where the initial interpreters simply went with the character that would be most logical to have in the end of the word from a linguistic point of view. Well, I am not a linguist, so I do not need to stick to such considerations.

Á

I D I B R A E R U A

With my transliteration, read from left to right, and the bind rune in the middle read from top to bottom; the word IDIBRAERUA emerges. I went to the online dictionaries of Old Norse and unfortunately this word did not make much sense at all, but I was still convinced that the runes I identified is the proper transliteration of the carving.

The thing though, is that runes do not have to be read from left to right like the Latin script! On the contrary runes can be read in any direction that the carver felt he should write. This often complicates the interpretation for the runologists and sometimes they even dispute previous interpretations by suggesting to change the reading direction. As time progressed the runic script became more aligned with the Latin script, and it became more common to write from left to right. But there was never any strict rule on the carving direction.

Given that this is an elder furthark inscription, and however we date this inscription, it predates the Viking age, any reading direction is highly possible. There are examples of carvings even during the later Viking age (800-1100 AD) where the reading direction are reversed.

So, the natural thing for me was to try to reverse the reading order, and suddenly something happened!

A U R E A R B I D I – REVERSED READING DIRECTION

With this reading direction, even I with my relatively limited skillset of Old Norse, saw words appearing! But I went back to the dictionaries to see what we could make out of it.

Aurr could for instance refer to mud or clay, but even more interesting is the word áreyrar, which is very close to the characters on the runestone, at least according to my transliteration. We must of course keep in mind that the runic script was written as people talked or heard the words- not according to stipulated and sometimes outdates rules as we do in modern English.

The word áreyrar is very interesting, it could refer to the banks of a river or small tongues of land running into the sea. In Niðarós, modern day Trondheim in Norway, they even held Eyrarþing at the gravel banks of the river. The þing was the old communal court and parliament held regularly all over the Pre-Christian and medieval Scandinavia. Even today the Norweigian parliament is referred to as “Stortinget”, the big ting.

If áurear in the carving are interpreted as the same word as áreyrar it would make sense in the given context. If we go to Google maps, Svingerud is located on a peninsula in Tyrifjorden, and on the western side of the peninsula the river Storelva is connecting to Tyrifjorden. I am currently not aware of the exact location of the archeological excavation site, but still – anywhere on the peninsula would be a relatively short walk to find a beach or a riverbank.

B I D I

The remaining part Biði on the other hand is quite an easy word to interpret, it most likely means to wait or to pray. So, so far, we could interpret this inscription as waiting / praying on the riverbank. But wait, there is more.

The bind rune

The bindrune BRÀ

Why would there be a bind rune in the middle of the word? Either the carver was sloppy and initially missed a few characters and corrected it by forcing in a bind rune in the middle. Blaming a sloppy carver is often the standard procedure of runologists to explain things they cannot interpret. I believe this is a lazy and somewhat complacent approach.

I have the highest respect for the historical rune carvers! Regardless if they used runes to write words with, or if they had an esoteric purpose, or used runes for magical practices; I believe they knew what they were doing! At least most of the time, of course there has always been sloppy people, but many times it is just too convenient to claim that someone was sloppy. Personally, I cannot assume that one of the oldest rune carvings known to us was done by a bum, my instinct tells me it probably must have been a competent person doing it.

The word brá could have many meanings, for instance to move quickly or to braid or bind something, for instance it has been used in relation to wrestling in the sources. It could also mean to leave a place or to break promises. To be honest I am not competent enough to be sure exactly how the word should be interpreted here. But, just as the initial interpreters did, I got stuck on a meaning that I felt to be meaningful; “to give relief of intense pain, grief, illness”.

I am sure that if my transliteration sticks, the debate will go on for ever on how to interpret the specific words, and there are lots of people more suitable than me for the linguistic analysis of the carving! After all, I am basically just an esoteric practitioner and author working with runes. My biggest contribution is my perspective on how to transliterate the carving, which is based on many years studying both runes and Norse literature from that perspective. And as always, my insights into the Stav tradition gives me unique perspectives and insights regarding the runes that few shares.

The metaphorical interpretation – Riverbank, Relief, Pray

I could probably bombard you with references on how beaches and riverbanks were seen in pre-Christian Scandinavia. But this is a blog post, not an academical paper. No one pays me for delivering this analysis, I do it on my spare time because I am fascinated with runes and love to share this passion. I must work for my wage in an ordinary day job. Currently I am sitting here in the middle of the night on my spare time writing. So frankly I do not have the time to dig out all references I could find on the matter.

But shortly put, within the mythological sources beaches and rivers are seen as borders between here and somewhere else, for instance different realms of the cosmology. It is a place where several different elements meet, earth, water and wind and they are all warmed by the fire of the sun. The eddic poem Rígsþula describes how Heimdall comes walking by the beach, which should be understood as more than just a random depiction, but I will save my interpretation of Rígsþula for another time.

As mentioned, the communal things were arranged at beaches. But in Pre-Christian Scandinavia they also fought duels on the beaches. This recently posted Youtube video about a holy place on the Swedish island of Öland describes a place that seems to have a lot in common with the geographical location of the Svingerud runestone. They seem to have held both things and burials and conducted business at this location on the east coast of Sweden.

Personally, I have come to understand the beach as a place representing a middleground between life and death, and I will not elaborate more on that for now. But there is no doubt that a rune carving found on a burial site could contain esoteric thoughts and perspectives. The way that the Norse viewed the world stretches over many layers, and within the preserved myths dualistic wording is very common, for instance using a profane word that has a more important underlaying interpretation for those who are initiated. So, in this context both the geographical location of the carving and the metaphorical depiction of a beach could be relevant, separately as well as in conjunction with each other.

Then we have the wait/prayer and the relief from the pain. I envision someone who is ill, injured or hurting that has been waiting or praying to be relieved. Or perhaps the relatives are praying for their family member to be relieved of the pain or burden in the next life?

The weak spots of my interpretation

As I said I am not a linguistic, and honestly I have not that much interest in linguistics at all; it is my esoteric studies in relation to runes that are the key to my interpretation. There are many people that are more competent than me regarding the interpretations of the words in this carving.

But, when it comes to regarding the B rune as a bindrune consisting of 3 connected runes sharing the main stave, I am fairly confident that this is the proper transliteration. I am also confident that this bindrune should be regarded as both being a part of the two main words, as well as a separate word in it´s own right. Similar practices reoccurs in runic carving where one rune for instance could be used both as the ending of one word as well as the first rune of the next word. And as already stated, multilayered meanings are also reoccurring in the myths.

I am also convinced that the last rune should be interpreted as a A and not a G. And I am pretty sure this runic carving should be read from right to the left. But as said, I am not qualified to make a final statement on how to interpret the words the best way.

When it comes to the words, we must also realize that I have used Old Norse to interpret something written with elder futhark that normally would be used for writing proto – Norse. Which was the language used around half a millennia before the literary sources were written. I am not sure if there are a clear definition of when the transition from proto-Norse to Old Norse happened.

But, if my interpretations of the words and their similarities with Old Norse are fairly correct, I suppose it would indicate that the stone is actually a bit younger than the associated carbon dating that is used now to determine the age of the stone. But again, I leave those aspects to the linguistics and archeologists to debate.

Finally I hope you scholars save me!

I hope that the scholars within the field quickly debunk my thesis and clearly shows why the initial interpretation with B and G are better, and why the carving should be read from left to right.

If not, I am afraid I might never get out of this mess I have put myself in! And you will have to refer to me for long time to come. This would be an awkward situation for both me and the academical community. I am really looking forward to hearing your take on this fascinating rune carving!

Over and under and out!

Roland Zerpe

Annons

Kommentera

Fyll i dina uppgifter nedan eller klicka på en ikon för att logga in:

WordPress.com-logga

Du kommenterar med ditt WordPress.com-konto. Logga ut /  Ändra )

Twitter-bild

Du kommenterar med ditt Twitter-konto. Logga ut /  Ändra )

Facebook-foto

Du kommenterar med ditt Facebook-konto. Logga ut /  Ändra )

Ansluter till %s

%d bloggare gillar detta: