The Info List - Anglo-Saxon Runes

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ANGLO-SAXON RUNES are runes used by the early Anglo-Saxons as an alphabet in their writing . The characters are known collectively as the FUTHORC (or _fuþorc_), from the Old English sound values of the first six runes. The futhorc was a development from the 24-character Elder Futhark . Since the futhorc runes are thought to have first been used in Frisia before the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain , they have also been called ANGLO-FRISIAN RUNES. They were likely used from the 5th century onward, recording Old English and Old Frisian .

After the 9th century, they were gradually supplanted in Anglo-Saxon England by the Old English Latin alphabets introduced by Irish missionaries . Runes were no longer in common use by the year 1000 and were banned under Cnut the Great (r. 1016–1036).


* 1 History * 2 Letters * 3 Inscription corpus

* 4 Inscriptions

* 4.1 Frisian * 4.2 English * 4.3 Related manuscript texts

* 5 See also * 6 Notes * 7 References * 8 Further reading * 9 External links


There are competing theories about the origins of the Anglo-Saxon futhorc. One theory proposes that it was developed in Frisia and from there spread later to England . Another holds that runes were first introduced to England from Scandinavia where the futhorc was modified and then exported to Frisia. Both theories have their inherent weaknesses, and a definitive answer may come from further archaeological evidence.

The early futhorc was identical to the Elder Futhark, except for the split of ᚨ _a_ into three variants ᚪ _āc_, ᚫ _æsc_ and ᚩ _ōs_, resulting in 26 runes. This was necessary to account for the new phoneme produced by the Ingvaeonic split of allophones of long and short _a_. The earliest ᚩ _ōs_ rune is found on the 5th-century Undley bracteate . ᚪ _āc_ was introduced later, in the 6th century. The double-barred ᚻ _hægl _ characteristic of continental inscriptions is first attested as late as 698, on St Cuthbert\'s coffin ; before that, the single-barred Scandinavian variant was used.

In England, the futhorc was further extended to 28 and finally to 33 runes, and runic writing in England became closely associated with the Latin scriptoria from the time of Anglo-Saxon Christianization in the 7th century. The futhorc started to be replaced by the Latin alphabet from around the 7th century, but it was still sometimes used up until the 10th or 11th century. In some cases, texts would be written in the Latin alphabet, but runes would be used logographically in place of the word it represented, and þorn and wynn came to be used as extensions of the Latin alphabet. By the Norman Conquest of 1066, it was very rare and disappeared altogether shortly thereafter. From at least five centuries of use, fewer than 200 artefacts bearing futhorc inscriptions have survived.

Several famous English examples mix runes and Roman script, or Old English and Latin, on the same object, including the Franks Casket and St Cuthbert\'s coffin ; in the latter, three of the names of the Four Evangelists are given in Latin written in runes, but "LUKAS" (Saint Luke ) is in Roman script. The coffin is also an example of an object created at the heart of the Anglo-Saxon church that uses runes. A leading expert, Raymond Ian Page , rejects the assumption often made in non-scholarly literature that runes were especially associated in post-conversion Anglo-Saxon England with Anglo-Saxon paganism or magic.


The Anglo-Saxon rune poem ( Cotton Otho B.x.165) has the following runes, listed with their Unicode glyphs, their names, their transliterations, and their approximate phonetic values in IPA notation:


_ ᚠ feoh "wealth" f_ ,

_ ᚢ ūr "aurochs " u_ ,

_ ᚦ þorn "thorn" þ_, _ð_ ,

_ ᚩ ōs " god", also "mouth" following the Latin o_ ,

_ ᚱ rād "ride" r_

_ ᚳ cēn "torch" c_ , ,

_ ᚷ gyfu "gift" g_ , , , ()?, ()?

_ ᚹ wynn "mirth" w_

_ ᚻ hægl "hail (precipitation)" h_ , ,

_ ᚾ nȳd "need, angst" n_

_ ᛁ īs "ice" i_ ,

_ ᛄ gēr "year, harvest" j_

_ ᛇ ēoh "yew" eo_ , ()?

_ ᛈ peorð (unknown) p_

_ ᛉ eolh "elk-sedge " x_ , ()?

_ ᛋ sigel "sun" s_ ,

_ ᛏ Tīr "glory" t_

_ ᛒ beorc "birch" b_

_ ᛖ eh "horse" e_ ,

_ ᛗ mann "man" m_

_ ᛚ lagu "lake" l_

_ ᛝ Ing "Ing (a hero)" ŋ_ ,

_ ᛟ ēðel "ethel (estate)" œ_ ()

_ ᛞ dæg "day" d_

_ ᚪ āc "oak" a_ ,

_ ᚫ æsc "ash-tree" æ_ ,

_ ᚣ ȳr "bow" y_ ,

_ ᛡ īor "eel" ia_, _io_ (, )?

_ ᛠ ēar "grave" ea_ ,

The first 24 of these directly continue the Elder Futhark letters, extended by five additional runes, representing additional vowels (_á, æ, ý, ia, ea_), comparable to the five forfeda of the ogham alphabet.

Thorn and wynn were introduced into the English version of the Latin alphabet to represent /θ / and /w /, but they were replaced with _th_ and _w_ in the Middle English period.

The letter sequence, and indeed the letter inventory is not fixed. Compared to the letters of the rune poem given above, _f u þ o r c ȝ w h n i j eo p x s t b e m l ŋ œ d a æ y io ea_

the Thames scramasax has 28 letters, with a slightly different order, and _eðel_ missing: _f u þ o r c ȝ w h n i io eo p x s t b e ŋ d l m j a æ y ea_

The Vienna Codex also has 28 letters; the Ruthwell Cross inscription has 31 letters; Cotton Domitian A.ix (11th century) has 33 letters, with the four following additional runes: 30. _ ᛢ cweorð kw_, a modification of peorð 31. _ ᛣ calc "chalice" k_ (when doubled appearing as _ ᛤ kk_) 32. _ ᛥ stan "stone" st_ 33. _ ᚸ gar "spear" g_ (as opposed to palatalized _ ᚷ ȝ_)

Of these four additional letters, only the _cweorð_ rune fails to appear epigraphically. The _stan_ shape is found on the Westeremden yew-stick , but likely as a _ Spiegelrune _. The _calc_ rune is found on the Bramham Moor Ring , Kingmoor Ring , the Ruthwell Cross , and Bewcastle Cross inscriptions. The _gar_ rune is found on the Bewcastle Cross inscription, along with the doubled _calc_ rune in select locations.

Cotton Domitian A.ix reaches thus a total of 33 letters, according to the transliteration introduced above arranged in the order _f u þ o r c ȝ w h n i j eo p x s t b e m l ŋ d œ a æ y ea io cw k st g_

In the manuscript, the runes are arranged in three rows, glossed with Latin equivalents below (in the third row above) and with their names above (in the third row below). The manuscript has traces of corrections by a 16th-century hand, inverting the position of _m_ and _d_. Eolh is mistakenly labelled as _sigel_, and in place of sigel, there is a kaun -like letter ᚴ, corrected to proper sigel ᛋ above it. Eoh is mislabelled as eþel. Apart from _ing_ and _ear_, all rune names are due to the later scribe, identified as Robert Talbot (died 1558).

feoh ur þorn os rað cen gifu wen hegel neað inc geu{a}r sigel peorð

ᛋ sig

ᚠ ᚢ ᚦ ᚩ ᚱ ᚳ ᚷ ᚹ ᚻ ᚾ ᛁ ᛄ ᛇ ᛈ ᛉ ᚴ

f u ð o r c g uu h n i ge eo p x s

tir berc eþel deg lagu mann

ᛙ pro ac ælc yr

ᛏ ᛒ ᛖ ᛗ ᛚ ᛝ ᛞ ᛟ ᚪ ᚫ ᚣ ᛡ

t b e m{d} l ing ð{m} œ a æ y ear

{orent.} io {cur.} q {iolx} k {z} sc{st} {">_ The Anglo-Saxon futhorc (abecedarium anguliscum_) as presented in Codex Sangallensis 878 (9th century).

The 9th-century Codex Sangallensis 878 (attributed to Walahfrid Strabo ) records an _abecedarium anguliscum_ in three lines. The first two lines list the standard 29 runes, i.e. the 24 derived from Elder Futhark, and the five standard additional ones (_á, æ, ý, io, ea_). The listing order of the final two of the "elder" 24 runes is _dæg, éðel_. A peculiarity is the "asterisk" shape of _eolh _. The third line lists _gar_ and _kalc_(?) before a doodling repetition of other runes.


_ Futhorc series on the Seax of Beagnoth (9th century). The series has 28 runes, omitting io_. The shapes of _j_, _s_, _d_, _œ_ and _y_ deviate from the standard forms shown above; _eo_ appears mirrored.

The Old English and Old Frisian Runic Inscriptions database project at the Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt , Germany aims at collecting the genuine corpus of Old English inscriptions containing more than two runes in its paper edition, while the electronic edition aims at including both genuine and doubtful inscriptions down to single-rune inscriptions.

The corpus of the paper edition encompasses about one hundred objects (including stone slabs, stone crosses, bones, rings, brooches, weapons, urns, a writing tablet, tweezers, a sun-dial, comb, bracteates , caskets, a font, dishes, and graffiti). The database includes, in addition, 16 inscriptions containing a single rune, several runic coins, and 8 cases of dubious runic characters (runelike signs, possible Latin characters, weathered characters). Comprising fewer than 200 inscriptions, the corpus is slightly larger than that of Continental Elder Futhark (about 80 inscriptions, c. 400–700), but slightly smaller than that of the Scandinavian Elder Futhark (about 260 inscriptions, c. 200–800).

Runic finds in England cluster along the east coast with a few finds scattered further inland in Southern England. Frisian finds cluster in West Frisia . Looijenga (1997) lists 23 English (including two 7th-century Christian inscriptions) and 21 Frisian inscriptions predating the 9th century.


The Thames zoomorphic silver-gilt (knife?) mount (late 8th century)

Currently known inscriptions in Anglo-Frisian runes include:


* Ferwerd combcase, 6th century; _me uræ_ * Amay comb, c. 600; _eda_ * Oostyn comb, 8th century; _aib kabu / deda habuku_ (with a triple-barred _h_) * Toornwerd comb, 8th century; _kabu_ * Skanomody solidus , 575–610; _skanomodu_ * Harlingen solidus, 575–625, _hada_ (two _ac_ runes, double-barred _h_) * Schweindorf solidus, 575–625, _weladu_ "Weyland" (or _þeladu_; running right to left) * Folkestone tremissis , c. 650; _æniwulufu_ * Midlum sceat , c. 750; _æpa_ * Rasquert swordhandle (whalebone handle of a symbolic sword), late 8th century; _ek mædit oka_, "I, Oka, not made mad" (compare _ek unwodz_ from the Danish corpus) * Arum sword, a yew-wood miniature sword, late 8th century; _edæboda_ * Westeremden A, a yew weaving-slay; _adujislumejisuhidu_ * Westeremden B, a yew-stick , 8th century; _oph?nmuji?adaamluþ / :wimœ?ahþu?? / iwio?u?du?ale_ * Britsum yew-stick; _þkniaberetdud / ]n:bsrsdnu_; the _k_ has Younger Futhark shape and probably represents a vowel. * Hantum whalebone plate; _:aha:knlu / ded_ * Wijnaldum A antler piece; _zwfuwizw_


* Ash Gilton (Kent) gilt silver sword pommel, 6th century; _emsigimer_ * Chessel Down I (Isle of Wight), 6th century; _bwseeekkkaaa_ * Chessel Down II (Isle of Wight) silver plate (attached to the scabbard mouthpiece of a ring-sword), early 6th century; _æko:?ori_ * Boarley (Kent) copper disc-brooch, c. 600; _ærsil_ * Harford (Norfolk) brooch, c. 650; _luda:gibœtæsigilæ_ "Luda repaired the brooch" * West Heslerton (North Yorkshire) copper cruciform brooch, early 6th century; _neim_ * Loveden Hill (Lincolnshire) urn; 5th to 6th century; reading uncertain, maybe _sïþæbæd þiuw hlaw_ "the grave of Siþæbæd the maid" * Spong Hill (Norfolk), three cremation urns, 5th century; decorated with identical runic stamps, reading _alu _ (in Spiegelrunen ). * Kent II coins (some 30 items), 7th century; reading _pada_ * Kent III, IV silver sceattas , c. 600; reading _æpa_ and _epa_ * Suffolk gold shillings (three items), c. 660; stamped with _desaiona_ * Caistor-by-Norwich astragalus , 5th century; possibly a Scandinavian import, in Elder Futhark transliteration reading _raïhan_ "roe" * Watchfield (Oxfordshire) copper fittings, 6th century; Elder Futhark reading _hariboki:wusa_ (with _a_ probably already fronted to _æ_) * Wakerley (Northamptonshire) copper brooch, 6th century; _buhui_ * Dover (Kent) brooch, c. 600; _þd bli / bkk_ * Upper Thames Valley gold coins (four items), 620s; _benu:tigoii_; _benu:+:tidi_ * Willoughby-on-the-Wolds (Nottinghamshire) copper bowl, c. 600; _a_ * Cleatham (South Humbershire) copper bowl, c. 600; _edih_ * Sandwich /Richborough (Kent) stone, 650 or earlier; _ahabui_, perhaps _*ræhæbul_ "stag" * Whitby I (Yorkshire) jet spindle whorl; _ueu_ * Selsey (West Sussex) gold plates, 6th to 8th centuries; _brnrn_ / _anmu_ * St. Cuthbert\'s coffin (Durham), dated to 698 * Whitby II (Yorkshire) bone comb, 7th century; _us mæus godaluwalu dohelipæ cy * the Ruthwell Cross ; 8th century, the inscription may be partly a modern reconstruction * the Brandon antler piece, _wohs wildum deoræ an_ " grew on a wild animal"; 9th century. * Kingmoor Ring * the Seax of Beagnoth ; 9th century (also known as the Thames scramasax); the only complete alphabet


* Codex Vindobonensis 795 (9th century) * the Anglo-Saxon rune poem ( Cotton Otho B.x.165) * _ Solomon and Saturn _ ( Nowell Codex )


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* ^ "THE ANGLO-SAXON RUNES". _arild-hauge.com_. * ^ Page, Raymond Ian (1989), "Roman and Runic on St Cuthbert's Coffin", in Bonner, Gerald; Rollason, David; Stancliffe, Clare, _St. Cuthbert, his Cult and his Community to AD 1200_, Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, pp. 257–63, ISBN 978-0-85115-610-1 . * ^ "Texts and Contexts of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions". _google.be_. * ^ _Flickr_ (photograms), Yahoo! * ^ "Silver knife mount with runic inscription", _British Museum_ . * ^ Page, Raymond Ian (1999), _An introduction to English runes_ (2nd ed.), Woodbridge: Boydell, p. 182 . * ^ Bammesberger, Alfred (2002), "The Brandon Antler Runic Inscription", _Neophilologus_, Ingenta connect, 86: 129–31 .


* Bammesberger, A, ed. (1991), " Old English Runes and their Continental Background", _Anglistische Forschungen_, Heidelberg, 217 . * ——— (2006), "Das Futhark und seine Weiterentwicklung in der anglo-friesischen Überlieferung", in Bammesberger, A; Waxenberger, _Das_ fuþark _und seine einzelsprachlichen Weiterentwicklungen_, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 171–87, ISBN 3-11-019008-7 . * Hines, J (1990), "The Runic Inscriptions of Early Anglo-Saxon England", in Bammesberger, A, _Britain 400–600: Language and History_, Heidelberg, pp. 437–56 . * J. H. Looijenga, _ Runes around the North Sea and on the Continent AD 150–700_, dissertation, Groningen University (1997). * Odenstedt, Bengt, _On the Origin and Early History of the Runic Script_, Uppsala (1990), ISBN 91-85352-20-9 ; chapter 20: 'The position of continental and Anglo-Frisian runic forms in the history of the older _futhark_ ' * Page, Raymond Ian (1999). _An Introduction to English Runes_. Woodbridge: Boydell Press . ISBN 0-85115-768-8 . * Robinson, Orrin W (1992). _ Old English and its Closest Relatives: A Survey of the Earliest Germanic Languages_. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047