Archive for the ‘Sweden2017’ Category

The Seby Runestone

August 2, 2017

A thousand-year-old runestone stands at the village of Seby, at the south-eastern corner of the Swedish island of Oland. It might be more correct to say that the village stands at the runestone. But see how things decay as time passes. Me, for example.




Notice that the runestone has IMPROVED in quality and tidiness over the years, whereas the little chap beside it has definitely weathered, and now has a sort of despairing expression instead of the youthful confidence of 1974. It’s a sort of Runestone of Dorian Gray.

A helpful sign lists the text; it is a typical example – in modern English it would be “Ingald and Nosey and Sven raised this stone after Rodmar, their father” and the sign helpfully goes on to explain “The name ‘Nosey’ is a nickname, usually applied to a person with a big or characteristic nose.

The names of Nosey’s brothers and father have stood here for ten centuries! Few other memorials to men have lasted as long. But whereas in the 1974 picture the scenery behind the stone was empty, now a house stands there and a small green modern runestone appears on Tuesdays, for example on 10/8/2010 and 25/7/2017:

The bin has had the same lid for 7 years, but in 2017 they are throwing out more rubbbish. Tut tut! The sky has also turned from blue to grey. Some anthropologist should re-visit the site in some future year, on another day of the week. If it’s not underwater …

Bjorketorp Rune Stone

July 29, 2017

Ah, Sweden, home of the Viking culture (ca 700-1000AD). There are thousands of rune-stones here, mostly around the Stockholm area and mostly standing in the fields or moved to stand near a church, having withstood the external Nordic winters for eleven centuries. But down here in the south of Sweden, there are still a few runestones standing around, and I love them all.

Runes of course belong to a 16-character alphabet called the Futhark, because it goes FUþARK HNIAS TBMLR –

Yes I know there are two A’s and two R’s (and no E or O) … but you would not argue with the Vikings. What you have there is the Younger Futhark; there is an Elder Futhark, of 24 characters, which allows a better mapping to our 26-letter alphabet and is therefore used (with invented additions) by modern rune fans such as Tolkien, and by the whole wacko culture around runes. It is quite hard to find a historically correct Internet page about runes, among all the woo-woo stuff.

Rune stones usually have a very simple message, which you can almost read today because modern English is derived from Old Norse. Here’s a basic one, DR317 (they are all catalogued) –

Tufa risþi stina þisi uftir kamal buta sin uk asur sun h(an)s
Tove raised stone this after Gamal husband hers and Assur son his

As you see, the layout of the lettering was very badly planned, and there’s no art work in the middle; we have a very cheapo runestone here … but today I visited the Bjorketorp Stones (DR360), which stand in a forest glade near Ronneby. These mighty monoliths were raised in about 700 AD – somewhat before most other runestones:

The main stone has a handy recess so if I were to turn sideways, my big belly would fit to it nicely. On the back a few runes say “See other side of stone” … well, actually they say “Prophecy of Doom”:

And on the front, in ancient runes of the Elder Futhark, reading left-to-right but from the bottom line upwards: “haidz runo ronu falahak haidera ginarunaz arageu(*) haeramalausz utiaz weladaude saz þat barutz”.

What, you want it translated? That’s hard, as these are ancient runes of the Elder Futhark, predating even Old Norse, but here goes. Please stand back, your monitor may catch fire:

In modern Swedish: “Mäktiga runors hemlighet dolde jag här, kraftfulla runor. Den som bryter detta minnesmärke skall ständigt plågas av arghet(*). Svekfull död skall träffa honom. Jag spår fördärv.”

In English: “Mighty runes’ secret hid I here, powerful runes. The man who desecrates this monument shall be plagued with abiding wrath(*). Terrible death shall come to him. I spell his ruin.”

(*) The word asterisked here, and ringed in my picture, has strong connotations of passive male homosexuality. (In Viking times the, er, active role was acceptable manly behavior; the passive role certainly not). We have a gay runestone here! It was legal to kill someone who spoke this word to you as an insult. See

Actually I took that photo of the runes in 1980. Today the runestone was standing in a weathered condition, with lichen starting to grow on it. Someone cleans the runestones every few decades, and the runes are re-painted in red – as accuracy is important, the painting is done by a university Professor or similar.

Noting what the inscription says, I hope the man who cleaned it in 1980 took due care not to desecrate it – not the wire brush and Brillo pad, please. Leave the angle grinder at home! I wonder what happened to him …

Another dire fate, although not as bad as being rogered by horny homosexual Vikings, awaits those who park nearby and fail to visit the runestone, because this little modern blue inscription says “Parking only for visitors to the runestone”.

Stora Raby church, Lund, Sweden

July 26, 2017

Behold, I have flown to Sweden; and it is time to fire up this blog again. Lufthansa gave me a turkey sandwich, with this contents declaration:

It does not need to include “Contains: Turkey” because the turkey is holding the sandwich. Anyway, after 28 hours of flying and eating airline food, I arrived OK and was soon taken on a tour of a little church just outside Lund, in Skane, south-western Sweden. The priest spoke to the masses about the general history of this 13th-century Lutheran church:

… presumably explaining (it was all in Swedish and I am not up to speed yet) how a 13th-century building can be Lutheran. The church is so old that its tower no longer stands up straight, or perhaps it never did.

And as you see, they leave a spirit level – a Holy Spirit level! – at the base of the tower, so people can see for themselves how much it leans.

The Leaning Tower of Stora Raby, no less. We moved inside this perilous structure for more history:

The middle section was restored in 1528 and given a new roof. As you see at the top left in that picture, the new roof stands in front of a major artwork depicting the Trinity, actually obscuring God’s face:

But they have left a sort of slot for God to fit into. No wonder he looks so glum. Probably not best pleased at his Son being crucified … the head of a dove representing the Holy Spirit pokes in at the left. Nearby is a sort of fish tail, with the date (1528):

But as you see, this is really the end of one of the ceiling beams. Outside again to tour the graveyard, where one grave is nicely air-conditioned:

And the sundial … it runs from 3am to 9pm! When I saw this, its side of the church was in the shade. But even in the shade, it still shows the correct time once a day, digitally, just after a quarter past six in the evening. 🙂