Ear (rune)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Name Old English
Shape Futhorc
Runic letter ear.svg
Transliteration ea
Transcription ea, æa
IPA [æ(ː)ɑ]
Position in
28 or 29

The Ear rune of the Anglo-Saxon futhorc is a late addition to the alphabet. It is, however, still attested from epigraphical evidence, notably the Thames scramasax, and its introduction thus cannot postdate the 9th century. It is transliterated as ea, and the Anglo-Saxon rune poem glosses it as

ᛠ [ear] byþ egle eorla gehwylcun, / ðonn[e] fæstlice flæsc onginneþ, / hraw colian, hrusan ceosan / blac to gebeddan; bleda gedreosaþ,/ wynna gewitaþ, wera geswicaþ.
" [ear] is horrible to every knight, / when the corpse quickly begins to cool / and is laid in the bosom of the dark earth. / Prosperity declines, happiness passes away / and covenants are broken."

Jacob Grimm in his 1835 Teutonic Mythology (ch. 9)attached a deeper significance to the name. He interprets the Old English poem as describing "death personified", connected to the death-bringing god of war, Ares. He notes that the ear rune is simply a Tyr rune with two barbs attached to it and suggests that Tir and Ear, Old High German Zio and Eor, were two names of the same god. He finds the name in the toponym of Eresburg (*Eresberc) in Westphalia, in Latin Mons martis. Grimm thus suggests that the Germans had adopted the name of Greek Ares as an epithet of their god of war, and Eresberc was literally an Areopagus. Grimm further notes that in the Bavarian (Marcomannic) area, Tuesday (dies Martis) was known as Ertag, Iertag, Irtag, Eritag, Erchtag, Erichtag as opposed to the Swabian and Swiss (Alemannic) region where the same day is Ziestag as in Anglo-Saxon. Grimm concludes that Ziu was known by the alternative name Eor, derived from Greek Ares, and also as Saxnot among the Saxons, identified as a god of the sword.[1]


  1. ^ Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie (1935), trans. Stallybrass (1888), chapter 9: "As Zio is identical with Zeus as directors of wars, we see at a glance that Eor, Er, Ear, is one withAres the son of Zeus; and as the Germans had given the rank of Zeus to their Wuotan, Týr and consequently Eor appears as the son of the highest god. [...] Ares itself is used abstractly by the Greeks for destruction, murder, pestilence, just as our Wuotan is for furor and belli impetus, and the Latin Mars for bellum, exitus pugnae, furor bellicus [...] we may fairly bring in the Goth. haírus, AS. heor, OS. heru, ON. hiörr sword, ensis, cardo, although the names of the rune and the day of the week always appear without the aspirate. For in Greek we already have the two unaspirated words Ares and Aor, sword, weapon, to compare with one another, and these point to a god of the sword. Then again the famous Abrenuntiatio names three heathen gods, Thunar, Wôden, Saxnôt, of whom the third can have been but little inferior to the other two in power and holiness. Sahsnôt is word for word gladii consors, ensifer [...] I think we may also bring in the Gallic war-god Hesus or Esus (Lucan 1, 440), and state, that the metal iron is indicated by the planetary sign of Mars, the AS. tîres tâcen, and consequently that the rune of Zio and Eor may be the picture of a sword with its handle , or of a spear. The Scythian and Alanic legends dwell still more emphatically on the god's sword, and their agreement with Teutonic ways of thinking may safely be assumed, as Mars was equally prominent in the faith of the Scythians and that of the Goths. The impressive personification of the sword matches well with that of the hammer, and to my thinking each confirms the other. Both idea and name of two of the greatest gods pass over into the instrument by which they display their might."

See also[edit]