The Elder Futhark

The Golden Gallehus Runic Horns were made around the year 400 AD and were decorated with both Nordic and Roman motifs. The combined weight of the horns was nearly 7 kg. The long horn was found in 1639 at Gallehus, near Møgeltønder, in Southern Jutland. A few metres away the short horn was found in 1734. This bore the runic inscription ekhlewagastiR : holtijaR : horna : tawido, in English “I Lægæst, son of Holt (or “from Holt”) made the horn”. Both horns were stolen and melted down in 1802. The appearance of the horns is known solely from drawings dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. Therefore many details are uncertain. The long gold horn was discovered in 1639 by Kristen Svendsdatter, a poor orphan girl. The second, shorter horn was found in 1734 by Erich Lassen, a farmer. The two instruments were unearthed at locations only 15–20 meters apart despite being found almost a century apart. They were interpreted as musical instruments at the time, but were converted into drinking horns by the Danish King Christian

ᛖᚲᚺᛚᛖᚹᚨᚷᚨᛊᛏᛁᛉ᛬ ᚺᛟᛚᛏᛁᛃᚨᛉ᛬ ᚺᛟᚱᚾᚨ᛬ ᛏᚨᚹᛁᛞᛟ

ekhlewagastiz ˈ holtijaz ˈ horna ˈ tawido

I, Hlewagastiʀ Holtijaʀ made the horn

Rune Origins

This volatile area of discussion amongst runologist has and will always be a hotly debated subject area. Amongst rune scholars the origins of runes will continue to remain a mystery due to the scant availability of evidence both in archaeology or the written text. However it must be said that similarities exists of runes being like the Latin and Greek alphabets systems and therefore given rise to theories that the runes must have come from these alphabets. More information is coming to pass to suggest that the age of the runes must have been older then previously believed. At this point they are being connected to some of the earliest writing systems. I must point out that the following information is not new and actually already known but ignored for some time by academics. This begs the question of why? I shall therefore attempt only to stimulate the reader with some qualifying recent although not new thoughts on the subject. I leave it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions. It really depends on whose theories you choose to believe. The Golden horns of Gallehus were two golden horns, one shorter than the other, discovered in North Slesvig, or Schleswig, in Denmark. The horns were believed to date to the fifth century (Germanic Iron Age). The horns were made of solid gold and constructed from rings, each covered with figures soldered onto the rings, with yet more figures carved into the rings between the larger figures. These figures probably depict some actual events or Norse saga which is now unknown to us. The most probable theory is that the illustrations comes from Celtic mythology rather than Norse: the horns portray a man with horns and a necklace, very similar in appearance to the Celtic god Cernunnos (especially compared to the Cernunnos portrait on the Gundestrup cauldron, also found in Denmark), and several iconographic elements such as a he-goat, snakes and deer, commonly associated with Cernunnos. Several other archaeological findings from southern Scandinavia also show influence from Celtic religion.

This inscription dates from as far back as the 4th century, yet we can still see four major stressed syllables, connected by alliteration. The half-lines appear to be both of type A, the most common. Clearly, by the time the first lines of verse in English, German, and Norse arrive on the scene, the Germanic poetic tradition was already ancient.

The first horn (the long, intact one) was 75,8 centimeter measured on the outer perimeter, the opening diameter was 10,4 centimeter, and weighed 3,2 kg. This horn was discovered on July 20 1639 by a peasant girl named Kirsten Svendsdatter in the village of Gallehus, near Møgeltønder when she saw it protrude above the ground. She wrote a letter to the Danish king Christian IV of Denmark who retrieved it and in turn gave it to the Danish prince (also named Christian), who refurbished it into a drinking horn. The Danish antiquarian Olaus Wormius wrote a treatise named De aureo cornu on the first Golden horn in 1641. The first preserved sketch of the horn comes from this treatise. In 1678 it was described in the scientific journal Journal de Savants.

Odenstedt argues for a theory based on A. Baeksted's book "Målruner > og troldruner, 1952. He writes: "It has been claimed that the reason why none of the supposed runic letters, list of customers, etc., have been preserved is that they were written on wood and have all rotted away. But against this it may be objected (as Baeksted did) that it is not feasible to postulate that what has been lost had an entirely different character from what has been preserved. Germanic spiritual culture was traditionally oral. The art of writing was a luxury which Germanic people had seen Romans practice and which they no doubt envied and tried to imitate, with very limited success."

Ref: Odenstedt, Bengt. On the Origin and Early History of the Runic Script. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1990

The Futhark or rather a grouping of futharks dependant on which time line you are referring to were used extensively by the early Northern European Germanic peoples (the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish) around the 3rd through to the 17th centuries A.D. Approximately 3500 runic stone monuments, mostly in the Younger Futhark exists in Europe, concentrated mostly in Sweden and Norway. Some of the more recent theories about the origins of the runes are:

1) The Elder Futhark is of the same origin as the ancient Turkish inscriptions of the Gokturk alphabet.

2) The runes were introduced to Scandinavia during the same period that spiral ornaments were introduced to Crete-somewhere between 1800 and 400 B.C.E. Evidence shows that the Goths were already familiar with the art of runes before they left Scandinavia, between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E.

3) The Norwegian runes are identical with runes used in Semitic-language areas, such as Trojan Asia Minor and Canaan (Palestine) as far back in history as 2000 B.C.E. To this conclusion, some scholars postulate that the runes were not inspired by the Greek and Latin alphabets, but that they all developed from the same original, Oriental writing systems. Some of the first Norwegian runic inscriptions were written in a Semitic language. New archaeological finds suggests that people from the Mediterranean Sea area often travelled north on trading tours.runes were a primary means of passing down information through the generations. Historical evidence indicates that initially they were a series of sounds and postures related to natural and divine forces, which later evolved into the letters of the alphabet used by the earliest Germanic tribes of Northern Europe. Prior to 200 B.C.E., tribes all the way from Romania to the British Isles, France, and northernmost Scandinavia had all developed the use of runes.

To my mind, there is an elementary misunderstanding in many (perhaps most) of the books on runes currently available, outside the specialist academic works. This is the treatment of “the runes” as if there were a fixed set of signs with some immutable core of “meaning” assigned to them, some changeless essence which can be captured and reduced to a key-word or two. Runes, being the product of human intellectual effort, have been subject to the same evolutionary processes as any other aspect of material or ideological culture: they have changed and grown, just as the societies which used them changed and grew. This fundamental fact appears to have been overlooked in a great deal of the popular literature.
Ref: Runes: Literacy in the Germanic Iron Age by Stephen Pollington 2016

A photograph of "Odin" (1825-1827) by H. E. Freund, housed at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark.

138. Veit ek at ek hekk Oδinn, I know that I was hanging
vindga meiði á on a windswept tree
nætr allar níu nine whole nights
geiri undaðr gashed with a spear
ok gefinn Óðni and given to Oδinn
sjálfr sjálfum mér ---myself to myself---
á þeim meiði on that tree
er manngi veit of which no one knows
hvers hann af rótum renn from roots of what it originates

139. Við hleifi mik sældu Oδinn, They did not hearten me with a loaf
né við hornigi or a horn of ale
nýsta ek niðr I peered down --- prying
nam ek upp rúnar I caught up runes
œpandi nam crying out in triumph I caught them
fell ek aptr þaðan Back I fell from beyond

140. Fimbulljóð níuOδinn, Nine powerful lays
nam ek af inum frægja syni I learned from the famous son
Bölþórs Bestlu föður of BolÞorn, Bestla’s father,

ok ek drykk of gat and a drink I procured
ins dýra mjaðar of the priceless mead
ausinn Óðreri ---I, irrigated with Oδrerir!

141. Þá nam ek frævask Oδinn, Then I began to be fertile
ok fróðr vera and fruitfully wise
ok vaxa ok vel hafask and to grow and feel good
orð mér af orði Word from word
orðs leitaði sought a word from me
verk mér af verki deed from deed
verks leitaði sought a deed for me

142. Rúnar munt þú finna You will find runes,
ok ráðna stafi and staves full of meaning
mjök stóra stafi very tall staves
mjök stinna stafi very stiff staves ---
er fáði fimbulþulr which the powerful sage painted
ok gørðu ginnregin and the vast gods devised
ok reist Hroptr rögna and Hroptr of the ruling gods engraved

143. Óðinn með ásum Oδinn, among the Ǽsir,

en fyr álfum Dáinn and for the elves Dàinn,
ok Dvalinn dvergum fyrir Dvalinn for the dwarfs
Ásviðr jötnum fyrir Ásviðr for the giants
ek reist sjálfr sumar I carved some myself

144. Veiztu hvé rísta skal? Do you know how one must carve them?
Veiztu hvé ráða skal? Do you know how one must construe them?
Veiztu hvé fá skal?  Do you know how one must tint them?
Veiztu hvé freista skal? Do you know how one must test them?        
Veiztu hvé biðja skal? Do you know how one must supplicate?

Veiztu hvé blóta skal? Do you know how one must sacrifice?
Veiztu hvé senda skal? Do you know how one must send off the soul?
Veiztu hvé sóa skal? Do you know how one must stop up the breath?

Hàvamàl The Poetic Edda Volume III Mythological Poems II 2001 pgs 30-31 Ursula Dronke    

Her name was Sigrdrifa, meaning Victory-Granter, and she was a Valkyrie. She said that two kings had fought. One was named Helm Gunnar; he had grown old but was still the greatest warriors, and to him Oδinn had decreed victory. The other Agnar, Hauda's brother, who never had hopes of being favoured. Victory-Granter felled Helm Gunnar in battle. In revenge Oδinn pricked her with a sleep thorn and said that she should never there-after fight for victory but should be married. But, she said him, I in my turn bind myself by a vow to marry no man except one who knows no fear. Sigurd asked her to make her wisdom known to him, since she had knowledge of all the worlds, Sigrdrifa said :

Bjór færi ek þér, With ale I offer you

brynþings apaldr, you warrior's apple tree

magni blandinn filled with force

ok megintíri, and powerful glory

fullr er hann ljóða galδr songs

ok líknstafa, and consoling words

góðra galdra good galδr

ok gamanrúna and pleasure runes

Sigrúnar skaltu kunna, Victory Runes should you know

ef þú vilt sigr hafa, If you want to have victory

ok rista á hjalti hjörs, carve them on the sword's hilt

sumar á véttrinum, some on the sheath

sumar á valböstum, some on the blade

ok nefna tysvar ᛏ ᛏ Tý. name then Tiwaz twice

Ölrúnar skaltu kunna, Ale Runes should you know

ef þú vill annars kvæn to prevent another man's wife

véli-t þik í tryggð, ef þú trúir; from betraying your confident beliefs

á horni skal þær rista on the horn you shall write

ok á handarbaki and on the back of the hand

ok merkja á nagli ᚾ Nauð. and mark on your finger nail Nauþiz

Full skal signa Bless your cup

ok við fári sjá against deception and strategy

ok verpa lauki í lög; and then place the onion in the drink;

þá ek þat veit, Then I know

at þér verðr aldri that you never will drink

meinblandinn mjöðr a poisoners mead

Bjargrúnar skaltu kunna, Aid Runes should you know

ef þú bjarga vilt If you will save lives

ok leysa kind frá konum; the foetus from child bearing woman;

á lófum þær skal rista write them in the palm of the hand

ok of liðu spenna take hold at the wrist

ok biðja þá dísir duga. and invoke the aid of the Alfars

Brimrúnar skaltu rista, Sea Runes shall you write

ef þú vilt borgit hafa if you will salvage

á sundi seglmörum, ships at the sea;

á stafni skal rista write them on the stem

ok á stjórnarblaði and on the lead oar

ok leggja eld í ár, Etch them in the oar with fire;

er-a svá brattr breki if the brakers are rising

né svá bláar unnir, and waves turn black

þó kemstu heill af hafi. then you will come alive from the sea

Limrúnar skaltu kunna, Limb Runes should you know

af þú vilt læknir vera, if you will be a healer

ok kunna sár at sjá; and know about wounds;

á berki skal þær rista carve them on the bark

ok á baðmi viðar, and carve them on twigs

þeim er lúta austr limar. where the twigs are pointing to east

Málrúnar skaltu kunna Speech Runes should you know

ef þú vilt, at manngi þér if the man you violated

heiftum gjaldi harm:should be prevented in his revenge;

þær of vindr, they will be wrap up

þær of vefr, They will be woven

þær of setr allar saman, they will be compounded

á því þingi, at the Thing where people

er þjóðir skulu in crowds go

í fulla dóma fara. and fully law courts are judges

Hugrúnar skaltu kunna, Thought Runes should you know

ef þú vilt hverjum vera if you will be wiser

geðsvinnari guma; than all other men;

þær of réð, they were recommended

þær of reist, they were carved

þær of hugði Hroptr they were devised by Hroptr (Oðinn)

af þeim legi, from the secrets

er lekit hafði which trickle out

ór hausi Heiðdraupnis of Heiddraupne's head

ok ór horni Hoddrofnis. and from Hoddrovne's horn

Þat eru bókrúnar, There are Book Runes

þat eru bjargrúnar There are Birth Runes

ok allar ölrúnar and all Ale Runes

ok mætar meginrúnar, and special Power Runes

hveim er þær kná óvilltar if they remain unspoiled

ok óspilltar and unsoiled (original form)

sér at heillum hafa; you may have them for your luck

njóttu, ef þú namst, enjoy them now if you can

unz rjúfask regin. until the Tivar are no more