Bülach fibula

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Rendition of the runic inscription from the Bülach fibula. (cf. Martin, 1997)

The Bülach fibula is a silver disk-type fibula with almandine inlay found in Bülach, Canton Zürich in 1927. The Alemannic grave in which it was found (no. 249) dates to the 6th century and contained the remains of an adult woman. The fibula, dated to between the 3rd and 6th centuries, bears an Elder Futhark runic inscription, the only one found in Switzerland to date.


The inscription begins

frifridil du aftm[...

with the first and the third f runes as well as the a rune mirrored.

Frifridil is a pet name for a male friend or lover (OHG fridil, MHG friedel). du is the second person singular pronoun, already differentiated from the common West Germanic þu, lending the inscription an early Old High German or Alemannic German character.

The remaining part of the inscription is read differently by various authors. Also, the mirrored runes have suggested change of reading direction to some. Krause and Jankuhn (1966) read

fri[d]fridil du fat mik l l

with only two l runes, translating "you, my lover, embrace me, leek! leek!", interpreting the l runes as abbreviating "leek" (*laukaz), symbolizing fertility or prosperity (leek is strongly associated with nubile women in Old Norse skaldic poetry).

Klingenberg (1976) has

frifridil [lid] du [fud] f[a]t[o] mik. (l)[au]k (l)[i]d l l

reading the first lid as implied by mirroring the dil and the fud as implied by mirroring the du f in conscious obscuring of the obscene content, lid meaning "penis" and fud meaning "vulva", and interpreting the l runes as phallic symbols, again abbreviating lid, resulting in a translation of "[I, your] lover with the penis, you with the vulva: receive me; leek! penis! leek! penis!"

Opitz (1977) similarly has

fri[d]fridil [lid] du [fud] f[a]t[.] mik (l[id]) l[id] l[id]
"lover - penis; you - vulva; receive me; (penis) penis penis"

dismissing Klingenberg's k and d at the end of the inscription as

  • H. Klingenberg, Die Runeninschrift aus Bülach. In: Helvetia archaeologica, 7, 1976, 116-121.
  • S. Opitz, Südgermanische Runeninschriften im älteren Futhark aus der Merowingerzeit. Freiburg i.Br. 1977.
  • W. Krause, H. Jankuhn, Die Runeninschriften im älteren Futhark. Göttingen 1966.
  • J. H. Looijenga, Runes around the North Sea and on the Continent AD 150-700, dissertation, Groningen University (1997).
  • M. Martin, Schrift aud dem Norden: Runen in der Alamannia - Archäologisch Betrachtet in Die Alemannen Stuttgart: Theiss, 1997; pp. 499–502.

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