Anglo-Saxon runic rings

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Drawing of the Bramham Moor Ring inscription as published in 1736 in Drake's Eboracum.

There are seven known rings of the Anglo-Saxon period (9th or 10th century) bearing runic inscriptions.

The most notable of these are the Bramham Moor Ring, found in the 18th century, and the Kingmoor Ring, found 1817, inscribed with a nearly identical magical formula read as


A third ring, found before 1824 (perhaps identical with a ring found in 1773 at Linstock castle in Carlisle), has a magical inscription of a similar type, ery.ri.uf.dol.yri.þol.wles.te.pote.nol.

The remaining four rings have much shorter inscriptions.

  • Wheatley Hill, Durham, found 1993, now in the British Museum. Late 8th century. Inscription: [h]ring ic hatt[æ], "I am called a ring".
  • Coquet Island, Northumberland, found before 1866, now lost. Inscription: + þis is - "this is…".
  • Cramond, Edinburgh, found 1869-70, now in the National Museum of Scotland. 9th-10th century. Inscription: [.]ewor[.]el[.]u.
  • Thames Exchange, London, found 1989, now in the Museum of London. Inscription: [.]fuþni ine.

Bramham Moor Ring[edit]

The Bramham Moor Ring, dated to the ninth century, was found in Bramham cum Oglethorpe, West Yorkshire in or before 1732 (now in the Danish National Museum, no. 8545). It is made from electrum (gold with niello), with a diameter of c. 29 mm. and weighs 40.22 g. The inscription reads[1]

ærkriuflt | kriuriþon | glæstæpon͡tol

Where k is the late Futhorc calc rune of the same shape as Younger Futhark Yr and the n͡t is written as a bindrune.

Kingmoor Ring[edit]

Kingmoor gold runic ring

The Kingmoor Ring (also Greymoor Hill Ring) dates to the 9th or 10th century. It is of gold, with a diameter ca. 27 mm.

It was discovered in June 1817 at Greymoor Hill, Kingmoor, near Carlisle (54°55′0″N 2°58′30″W / 54.91667°N 2.97500°W / 54.91667; -2.97500). By 1859, the ring was in the possession of the British Museum (ring catalogue no. 184) who has received it from the Earl of Aberdeen. A replica is on exhibit in the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle.

The inscription reads[1]

᛭ᚨᚱᛦᚱᛁᚢᚠᛚᛏᛦᚱᛁᚢᚱᛁᚦᚩᚾᚷᛚᚨᚴᛏᚨᛈᚩᚾ / ᛏᚨᚿ

The final ᛏᚨᚿ tol is written on the inside of the ring. The inscription amounts to a total of 30 signs.

Where k is the late Futhorc calc rune of the same shape as Younger Futhark Yr, and the s is the so-called "bookhand s" looking similar to a Younger Futhark k, ᚴ.

Linstock Castle Ring[edit]

A ring made of agate, perhaps dating to the 9th century, found before 1824. Now British Museum ring catalogue no. 186. The inscription reads


Page (1999) takes this to be a corrupt version of the inscription of the Kingmoor and Bramham Moor rings.

The location where this ring was found is unrecorded, but Page (1999) suggests that it is identical to a ring found at Linstock Castle in 1773. A note found among Thorkelin's archive documenting his travels to England between 1785 and 1791. The paper records an obscure inscription, "ERY.RI.VF.MOL / YRI.VRI.NOL / GLES.TE.SOTE.THOL", identified as "found in 1773 at Lynstock Castle near Carlisle, & not far from the Picts Wall in Cumberland". Page adduces a note from a sale catalogue of 1778 which lists "An antient Runic ring, found near the Picts Well, 1773".[2]

Interpretation of the ærkriu charm[edit]

The sequence ærkriu found on both the Kingmoor and Bramham Moor Rings is interpreted as a spell for staunching blood, based on comparison with a charm containing the sequence ærcrio found in Bald's Leechbook (i.vii, fol. 20v). For this reason, the entire inscription is likely a protective or healing charm or spell with the ring serving as an amulet.[1][3]

The charm in Leechbook is also found in Bodley MS:

Leechbook i.vii[4] Bodley MS [5]
æȝryn. thon. struth. fola

arȝrenn. tart. struth. on. tria
enn. piath. hathu. morfana. on hæl
+ara. carn. leou. ȝroth. weorn .lll.
ffil. crondi. ƿ. |X|. mro cron.
ærcrio. ermio. aeR. leNO.

ær grim struht fola.

ær grenn tart strut onntria
enn piathu Morfona onnhel.
ara carn leow gruth ueron .lll.
fil cron diw .X. inro cron
aer crio ær mio aær leno.

The Leech book has the instruction: "to stop blood, poke into the ear with a whole ear of barley, in such a way that he [the patient] be unaware of it. Some write this:", followed by "either for horse or men, a blood-stauncher".

While the charm is "magical gibberish", there are a number of elements that can clearly be identified as Irish: struth fola corresponds to Old Irish sruth fola "stream of blood". arȝrenn, ær grim etc. may be for ær greann "for irritation". Other parts sound clearly Anglo-Saxon such as onnhel, on hæl for unhæl "unhealthy". The .lll. has been taken as a corruption of the ogham letter ᚃ (w) "alder", the ffil. crondi. ƿ. following it as the gloss fil crand .i. w[eorn] "it is a tree, i.e. 'alder'" In the interpretation of Meroney (1945), the original text gave a list of ingredients for staunching blood, alder (weorn), curds (ȝroth), etc., with a gloss explaining one of them having slipped into the text. cron aer crio is taken as Irish for "prohibition against bleeding", ær leno as "against afflictions" (Old Irish ar léunu).[6]

Fake rings[edit]

A number of fake rings, dating from the 18th century exist. They are generally bronze, do not have niello letters but rather some kind of lacquer, and show signs of machining.


  1. ^ a b c Page (1999), 112-114.
  2. ^ Page (1999), 291f.
  3. ^ Bruce Dickins, Runic Rings and Old English Charms ASNSL 167 (1935), 252.
  4. ^ ed. Thomas Oswald Cockayne (1865, reprint 1965), II:54; Felix Grendon, The Anglo-Saxon Charms The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 22, No. 84 (1909), 105-237 (201f.).
  5. ^ ed. Arthur Napier, Herrig's Archiv 74 (1890), 323.
  6. ^ Howard Meroney, Irish in the Old English Charms Speculum, Vol. 20, No. 2 (1945), 172-182

See also[edit]


  • Page, Raymond I. (1999). An Introduction to English Runes (2nd ed.). Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-768-8.
  • Page, Raymond I. 'The Inscriptions,' Appendix A in Wilson, D. M. Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork 700-1100 in the British Museum. London:Trustees of the British Museum. pp. 67–90.
  • Page, Raymond I. (1999), "Two Runic Notes," Anglo-Saxon England, Volume 27, ISBN 978-0-521-62243-1.
  • Okasha, Elisabeth (2003). "Anglo-Saxon Inscribed Rings." Leeds Studies in English, n.s. 34, pp. 29–45.
  • McLeod, Mindy (2002). "Bind-Runes in Numerological Rune-Magic". In Vennemann, Theo. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur Älteren Germanistik. 56. Rodopi. pp. 27–40. ISBN 90-420-1579-9. p. 32.

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