Bergen rune-charm

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The Bergen rune-charm is a runic inscription on a piece of wood found among the medieval rune-staves of Bergen. It is noted for its similarities to the Eddaic poem Skírnismál (particularly stanza 36);[1] as a rare example of a poetic rune-stave inscription; and of runes being used in love magic.

The inscription is number B 257 in the Bryggen inscriptions numbering and in the corresponding Rundata project, and P 6 in McKinnell, Simek and Düwel's collection.[2]

It is thought to date from the fourteenth century.[3]

Text[edit]

The stave is four-sided, with text on each side, but one end is missing, leaving the text of each side incomplete. As normalised and edited by McKinnell, Simek and Düwel, and 'somewhat tentatively' translated by Hall, the charm reads:[4]

Edited text

Side A:
Ríst ek bótrúnar,
ríst ek bjargrúnar,
einfalt við álfum,
tvífalt við tröllum,
þrífalt við þursum

...

Side B:
við inni skœðu
skag-valkyrju,
svá at ei megi
þó at æ vili
lævís kona
lífi þínu

...

Side C:
Ek sendi þér,
ek sé á þér
ylgjar ergi ok óþola.
Á þér renni óþoli
ok ‘ioluns’ móð.
Sittu aldri,
sof þu aldri

...

Side D:
ant mér sem sjalfri þér.

Possible translation


I carve remedy-runes,
I carve protection runes,
once over by álfar,
twice over by trõll (‘?magic-workers, trolls’)
thrice over by þursar (‘?magic-workers, giants’)
...
 
 
by the harmful
‘?skag’-valkyrja,
so that you may have no power of action
though you always want,
?crafty woman,
in your life
...


I send to you,
I chant on you
a she-wolf’s lust and restlessness.
May restlessness come over you
and a jǫtunn’s fury (reading iotuns).
Never sit,
never sleep.
...


love me as you love yourself.

In the view of McKinnell, Simek and Düwel,

it is by no means certain that the inscriptions on all four sides of this stick belong to the same charm. A and B look like part of a protective charm against demons, while C and D seem to be love-magic of the most forbidden kind. However, it remains possible that they represent two contrary aspects of the same spell – a blessing if the woman gives her love to the carver combined with a curse if she refuses it.

They point out that the addressee of side D is a woman, on account of the feminine form sjalfri.[5]

Images[edit]

There is a photograph of a detail of the stave in Aslak Liestøl, ‘Runer frå Bryggen’, Viking: Tidsskrift for norrøn arkeologi, 27 (1964), 5–53, reproduced in Stephen A. Mitchell, ‘Anaphrodisiac Charms in the Nordic Middle Ages: Impotence, Infertility and Magic’, Norveg, 41 (1998), 19-42 (p. 29).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Klaus von See, Beatrice la Farge, Eve Picard, Ilona Priebe and Katja Schulz, Kommentar zu den Liedern der Edda (Heidelberg: Winter, 1997–), II 136-37.
  2. ^ John McKinnell, Rudolf Simek and Klaus Duwel, Runes, Magic and Religion: A Sourcebook, Studia Medievalia Septentrionalia, 10 (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2004), pp. 131-32 [P 6].
  3. ^ 1380×90 according to John McKinnell, Rudolf Simek and Klaus Duwel, Runes, Magic and Religion: A Sourcebook, Studia Medievalia Septentrionalia, 10 (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2004), p. 131; but an earlier fourteenth-century date was proposed by the chief excavator: Lorenzo Lozzi Gallo, 'On the Interpretation of ialuns in the Norwegian Runic Text B257', Arkiv för nordisk filologi, 116 (2001), 135-51 (p. 135), http://journals.lub.lu.se/index.php/anf/article/view/11627.
  4. ^ John McKinnell, Rudolf Simek and Klaus Duwel, Runes, Magic and Religion: A Sourcebook, Studia Medievalia Septentrionalia, 10 (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2004), pp. 131-32 [P 6]; Alaric Hall, Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity, Anglo-Saxon Studies, 8 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), p. 134.
  5. ^ John McKinnell, Rudolf Simek and Klaus Duwel, Runes, Magic and Religion: A Sourcebook, Studia Medievalia Septentrionalia, 10 (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2004), p. 132.