Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Just some fun stuff from the archive. I found my rune files.

Here are the runes. I created these documents about 15 years ago when I discovered this nice drawing program. I also have fonts of the English/Saxon set that I made.

The first document is all sets - Gothic, English, Scandinavian, Danish pointed, Helsinge/Haelsinga, etc., showing variations. So, for example, Danish Pointed has a B for the sound B, and a B with two dots in it for the sound P, whereas Saxon/English has something like the letter Pi on its side (looks a bit like C). The central row is Gothic/Standard, all else are variations.

The second document is the standard Viking set (16 characters). Because it was shorter, they used the same letters for voiced and unvoiced sounds, so V/F, D/T/TH, P/B, S/Z, etc. So for example siklt in Old Norse Runes = seglode in Old English ("sailed", pronounced something like "sayloada").

The character -R is NOT the same as r. -R is the ending -uR seen in Old Norse and Icelandic, signifying a noun. I suspect the Gothic (east Germanic) pronunciation was closer to Z, or modern Swedish sj, since modern Icelandic has an R and Latin has an S (which by Grimm's law is related to Z, hence the R/Z confusion. Interestingly, the same confusion occurs in Arabic: the letter for R and Z in Arabic are both a kind of j, but one has a dot and one doesn't.).

Obviously, many of the letters derive from Latin, hence R, T, B, S, F, U, C, A, H, I, M. But some derive from Greek, Hence OE (looks like Omega), L looks like Lambda, and NG, which is a double-G (runic G is an X, so runic NG is a double X), just like in Greek where they use a double-gamma for "ng", ie Angelos = aggelos in the Greek alphabet.

My understanding is that they have this angular appearance to make it easier to carve into wood, which is what the Germanic people preferred for their monuments etc., since they hung round in pine forests and liked log cabins. Obviously the majority of the surviving examples are on stone memorials.

The Helsinge set appears, as I understand it, in one particular place in Scandinavia, and it represents a shorthand or simplified version of the scandinavian set. Probably the first shorthand script ever, other than Demotic Egyptian.

Interestingly, the modern-day Asatru cult still uses the runes, and many adherents of Wicca do as well, however, they consider them to have magical properties. Presumably, in ancient times, writing would have seemed magical because it would convey thoughts over distances. It's not a coincidence that in English, a "spell" is magic, and "spelling" is writing.

Apparently the word "rune" comes from an old Germanic word meaning whisper or magic. "Raunen" is German for "murmur".

I hope you enjoyed this little essay. Here are the tables:

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