Svingerud interpretation – part 2

I have had a lot of positive reactions, from both friends and followers, on my previous post where I interpreted the Svingerudstone. People seem to appreciate my perspective and the fact that I try to put the rune carving into context. Many also seems to share my perspective about the interpretation given so far by the scholars, they are just too indolent when they settle for a name, especially considering there is a rune in there never seen before!

But there have also been a few critic voices towards my ideas, some has been founded, and it could perhaps have been avoided if I would have addressed these things in my initial post. But I must be humble, I wrote it in the middle of the night after a few weeks of intensive work. This fact is apparent in the text, and my wife commented that the text is not as elegantly formulated as I usually write. This is the downside to actually having a career, everything I read or write is done on my spare time. I am perhaps one of the few in the field of “runosophy” that have something that can be defined as a career with a demanding job.

I must also stress that I am humble over the fact that I am not a linguist, the less you know, the easier it is to make conclusions that is not reasonable when you know more. But again, this stone was carved during a period where there are huge gaps for everyone. Only a fool would claim mastery of proto-Norse and interpretations of the elder futhark. If anyone claims at this point that they have the correct and absolute interpretation, or that they are one of the few that masters the proto-Norse language, then run as fast as you can! The person is either a liar or delusional.

The elder futhark

Let´s start with the factual circumstances regarding the elder futhark, I believe this can be valuable to a lot of people. But again, this is not an academic paper- I will not go into details, I simply do not have the time.

All we know about the sound values of the elder futhark derives from secondary sources. The runic names are collected from the Scandinavian medieval runic poems, which were basically mnemonic poems used to learn the runes, with some sort of esoteric underlaying meanings of the nature of the different runes encoded in them.

The names of the runes that is not present in the younger futhark was sourced from the British Anglo-Saxon runic poem. The British poem is extremely problematic as a source material, the original was lost in a fire and it is highly probable that the version available today has been influenced by Scandinavian 17th century scholars. For instance, the grandson of Ole Worm, Christian; was in England at the time, and involved with the circle of the British academics who had their fingers deep in the pot of jam that is the version of the poem available today. These 17th century scholars had lots of exchanges with Scandinavia. Scholars who have analyzed this poem and its history and the people involved around it has found multiple concerns.

Another source has been the gothic alphabet, which has several obvious similarities with the elder futhark. When it comes to the order of the runes, one important source is the Kylverstone of Gotland which has all the 24 runes carved in a row on it. There are also the migration period Scandinavian bracteates (I.E medallions), some has runic texts carved on them and a couple has all the runes carved in a row on them.

Some of these source’s conflict each other, for instance the exact order of the runes varies between the Kylverstone the bracteates.

So, when it comes to the sound values, we can simply state that there are no firsthand sources for the elder futhark available, absolutely none! Zit, Zero, Null! We used secondhand sources to decode the scarce written sources available. There are basically about 20 runestones in Sweden and a few in Denmark and Norway, on top of that there are a small number of artifacts that contain inscriptions with the elder futhark. The limited amount of source material available, does not give a clear picture regarding the uniformity of the elder futhark and perhaps the existence of variations. But we know this much, there are variations between different stones.

Based on the material available, we can simply not project our understanding of the modern uniformed Latin alphabet back on the elder futhark. Also keep in mind, the Latin alphabet are not identical between Sweden and Norway today, and Scandinavia differs from the German variety as well as the English variety. The variations comes from the fact that we all need some adaptations to fit our own languages, time and regional differences may play an effect when it comes to the elder futhark as well.

Simply put, we cannot assume that the variant used on the Kylverstone or the bracteates was the same variant used when carving the Svingerudstone even though the later contains elements present in these inscriptions.

The replica of the Kylverstone placed on site in Gotland, the original is now in the Historical Museum of Stockholm. Picture 2017 by me – Roland Zerpe

Let me also put a side note in here, the same problem with the source material also applies for those who works esoterically with the elder futhark! Everything they do stem from the same secondary sources; we have no idea if the names of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem and the younger futhark runes where the same names used on the runes of the elder futhark! And the names are the backbone of all the modern esoteric work with the elder futhark! On top of that we have all the modern influences on the contemporary esoteric work of the elder futhark! I am not saying it is bad, if it works it works!

But to this day I still get annoyed when some people keep claiming that “elder futhark was used for magic, while the younger was not”! Again, if you hear such stupid claims run as fast as you can. These people would be hopelessly out in the bushes without the medieval sources of the younger futhark, the fact that they are so uneducated that they are not even aware of this is another source of irritation for me. Anyway, it would be appropriate if they were humble to the fact that they owe a lot to the younger futhark.

To summarize this chapter, what we know about the sound values of the elder futhark was decoded in the 19th century, up to that point we knew nothing about it- it was forgotten for over a thousand years, dead and buried! All the esoteric practices in relation to the elder futhark are 20th century creations that started with the ideas of the Swedish linguist Sigurd Agrell. Up to that point we had living runic esoteric practices in Scandinavia that all were based on the younger futhark.

The A-rune

A reoccurring criticism of my interpretation is that it is built upon the À rune, which according to the criticism was “not a part of the elder futhark”.

One of my friends who is actually way more educated regarding runes and linguistics than I am was the first one to point this out to me. My first reaction was that I perhaps had done a real serious blunder since I was tired. But that did not really sound like me.

So, I started to browse my internal memory, and realized that just a few years ago I stood in front of Björketorp runestone in Blekinge in southeastern Sweden, that is carved with the elder futhark; and noticed the fact that both the A and the N rune were present on the carving. Which I thought was odd, since the A rune only should be available in the younger futhark.

The Björketorp stone pictured with the two menhirs, picture 2020 by me – Roland Zerpe

The unique thing is that there are several runestones with the elder futhark in Blekinge, and they are often regarded as a family since they share some odd traits. For instance, the use of the variation of the H rune found in the younger futhark, even though it in these cases seems to be transliterated as an a. These common features that show some sort of relationship to the younger futhark, has led to that these stones are often considered to have been carved close to the shift from the elder to the younger runes.

Stentoftenstenen in Blekinge- pictured 2020 by me – Roland Zerpe

There have also been a few different takes on these runes throughout history. George Stephens, the English philologist who did a lot of research regarding the runes and that were active in Scandinavia throughout much of his adult life; treats the A runes at Björketorp-stone as an A. The Norwegian runologist Sophus Bugge, who has been credited for decoding the elder futhark, regarded the A and N runes on the stone as just variations of the N rune.

I am not qualified to go into a debate if the A rune in this case should be regarded as A or an N. All I can conclude is that both graphical variations are present on these rune stones, and I doubt they would use variations of the same rune on different positions in the same row? For me this would indicate different sound values attributed to the symbol. Let´s just settle with the fact, that from an iconographical point of view; both the symbols that represent N and A in the younger futhark are present on the same stone that for the rest consists of elder Futhark runes!


I am still not convinced that my word-analysis of the Svingerud stone is correct, as said I have never studied linguistics. The fact that my interpretation feels good and “correct” in the context, on the contrary makes me doubt it even more. If something feels too good, let´s assume that it simply is too good. But I am still fairly confident in my decoding of the bindrune as well as the reading order, and that we actually have three words in the text!

However, my interpretation really mismatches the carbon dating done on the material found close to the stone. I have used Old Norse, as well as defined runes that are usually only found on runestones that is much younger than this stone is claimed to be. But on the other hand, I am not totally convinced about the dating of those stones either, based on the facts about the elder futhark that I described in this text. I am not sure that there is enough source material to really create a sturdy timeline of the evolution of the elder futhark, any day new material could be found that puts everything that we thought we knew upside down.

Finally, as I wrote in my last post, there are also reason to doubt the carbon dating of the Svingerud stone based on the material found close to it! There are several examples of when the generational use of ancient graves in Scandinavia has caused problems in relation to carbon dating.



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