[MUD-Dev] Scripting Languages and Magic

Sheela Caur'Lir dstgasey at webhiker.dk
Thu Oct 30 13:43:24 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "McDonald, Stephen"
> Marian Griffith said, regarding viking-era scandinavian runes:

>> However, it is uncertain if those runes were really used as an
>> alphabet. It may well be that they were more like the signs of
>> the zodiac.  Part of an extensive religious and magical system,
>> but not an alphabet.  (i.e. you can not write down arbitrary
>> messages in them)

> The Norse runes most certainly were used as an alphabet.  Their
> use as an alphabet dates to several centuries before the viking
> period.  Runic inscriptions are quite common throughout the
> Scandinavian countries, and the language has been translated.  Any
> decent book on medieval scandinavian culture will include pictures
> of inscriptions and their translations.  And it was definitely
> used for more than religious and magical inscriptions.  I recall
> reading about one archaeological find which included a tablet (I
> believe wood) with what was essentially a shopping
> list. Unfortunately, I can't recall a reference for that.

The runic Alphabet was called the "Elder Futhark" and was originally
from the northern germanic tribes, which spread troughout
Scandinavia and vice versa. The oldest Runic Stones actually used
that alphabet only a few centuries After Christ. Later on though,
the scandinavians simplified it into a 16 letter alphabet, simply
called the "Futhark".  You can see some of the changes in runes here
: http://www.arild-hauge.com/eindex.htm (there's also a short
compilation of the meanings of the runes) (Also, check the "secret"
runes he lists, very interesting)

Medieval Scandinavians didn't use woden Tablets as such, they used
Wooden Staves instead. Basically, you took a log, or a branch and
carved the runes into the log / branch with your everyday knife
(generally a Seax), some thing that this is the reason that many
wizards of old are depictured as carrying a very long walking staff
with runes all over it. Simply because many common folk didn't
understand what writing was (most was illiterate) and runes were
associated with magic.

Also, due to the nature of using staves, they often wrote top-down
when they did write on flat surfaces, much like the chinese /
japanese still do.

See this picture as reference:


And yes, that's a runic stone in the mongolian steppes, it seems the
nordic people got around quite a bit.

I believe the Celts also used staves for a while. Eventually though,
it became more normal to use birch bark to write on, it's very thin
and flimsy, but otherwise easy to get - You just go out and peel it
off the tree on a dry summer day.

As for the runic stones - Well - Most of them are the medieval
equivalent of "Killroy was Here" sort of thing. While often used as
markers for who owned the land and such. But most often used as
gravestones and the likes.  I grew up near a small vale filled with
them, basically a graveyard, viking style.

Which is rather unusual, since most Runic Stones stands alone, but
nevertheless, there are a few spots here and there ni scandinavia,
where they are bunched together for various reasons.

This site has a bit more info on the origin of runic stones:


(btw. when they say germanic, they probably mean north germanic,
since the south germanic people were ... not very happy ... with the
northern germanic people.)

And if you just want some pictures of runic stones, go here and take
a look:


Jens L. Nielsen
(aka. Sheela Caur'Lir)
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MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

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