...The word Runa
is derived by Wormius: from Ryn or Ren, both almost of the
same signification; Ren is as much as a Cutt, or Channel of
water, Ryn signifies a Furrow in the Earth, drawn by a
Plough. Now as the Greeks called their …xxx xx xxxx xxxx…
from their being drawn in Lines, and the Latins their
Letters or liter as quasi lineaturas, so the Ancient Getes
or Saxons: nam'd their Characters Runes from Ryn, a Furrow,
because they were plowed-out, as it were, with the Pen, and
drawn into long Lines, and the figure of the Character it
self, besides the analogy of this derivation found in other
Languages, highly favours this opinion, so that at first
Rune among the Getes signified no more than a bare Letter or
Sir Henry Spelman, in his Epistle to
Wormius concerning this matter, derives in from the Saxon
ryne, which signifieth a Mystery or hidden thing, and of
this opinion is Mr. Sheringham also, who endeavours with new
Additions to strengthen it, to which end he cites Johannes
Magnus, who, in speaking of FILEMAR, hath these words;
Making inquiry, saith he, into the Customes of his Country,
he found among his People a certain sort of cunning Women,
called Adelruna, for in the Gothick Tongue Runa signifies an
Art, sometime: particularly the Art Magick, from whence at
this day there are many Stones in Gothland in Gothick
Characters, called Runasten, hence we may see, saith Mr.
Sheringham, that the Gothick Characters took name from the
signification of the word, not the figure of the letter.
But, by the leave of so Worthy a
Person, I cannot receed from the former derivation of
Wormius, for Wornius was not ignorant of the word pyne,
signifying a Mystery, and how the Saxons and Goths pretended
to do miraculous things by the operation of their
Characters; But I believe the word ryne, signifying a
Mystery, is not the primitive, but derived from Ryn, a
Furrow, by which words the Ancient Getes called their
Letters, and because by the power of those Letters their
Priests and Wizzards pretended to do miraculous things,
therefore it came to pass that the Letters themselves,
called Ryns, were used to signifie a Mystery, and Runa, Art
Magick, so that Adelruna is nothing properly, but a Learned
or literate Woman, Runasten, a Learned piece of work, Runer,
a Learned copy of Verses, all which words in succeeding
time, from the deceit of such who imposed upon the People,
were taken in an ill sence, so that Adelruna came to express
a Witch, Runasten, a Charm or Talismanical figure, Runer, an
Neither doth the
Law, made by Woden, and cited by Mr. Sheringham, to confirm
Sr. Henry Spelman's Opinion, in the least destroy Wormius:
his derivation, it is this:
Woden enacted a Law, that the Dead
should he burnt with all their Moveables, especially their
Mony, deeming that they would he more welcome to the Gods,
with whose Corps: the fire consumed most Goods. As likewise
he ordained, that over the Graves of Kings and Great Men,
they should raise huge heaps of Earth for an everlasting
remembrance, and over the Sepulchres of such who had
performed great Achievements, they should erect high staves
inscribed with Runick Characters.
This was the only primitive use of
the Runick Writing, as well as all others, namely, to
preserve the Memories of Great Persons, and so deliver their
Deeds to Posterity. But when the People were once perswaded,
that such Stones set up had power to keep off the Enemy,
meerly by the virtue and force of the Characters engraven on
them, as likewise the Songs composed in the Honour of their
Ancestours, and the praise of their Vertues, had not only
force to stir up Vertue in the Hearers, but by meerly
wearing them in Battle, would render a Man fortunate in
fight, and invulnerable. Then it was, the word Runa
(signifying before nothing but the Getick Character) came
to imply Charm and Incantation, and the words Runasten and
Adelrunæ, to have evil significations.
This change of the use of the
Characters, from plainly writing the sence of things to form
mysterious Incantations, is, by some, attributed to WODEN,
wherefore they call him in this sence Runhofdi, that is,
the lnventer of the Run; But the Runick character was long
before his time, if we may believe the Edda, cited by
Wormius, which attributes the invention of it to the Gods,
the delivery to one Fimbul, and the manner of Ingraving,
that is, the use of it in Magick, to Woden. The ancient
Verses in the Edda run thus:
Thou knowest the Runs and loose
The great Characters, the strong
Which the Gods DIASTRI made,
Old FIMBUL Illustrated,
And WODEN Ingraved
Other places there are which
attribute the first delivery of these Letters to FIMBIL;
what he was is scarce guessed at, and is beyond my purpose
to examine, it is sufficient to know that the word Runa in
its proper sense, signifying Letter, is of great Antiquity
and higher than Woden, and is derived in all probability
from Ryn, a Furrow, but the abusive acceptation of it for
Magick, is more modern, begun in the time of Woden, or
thereabouts, when the People were perswaded by their Priests
and Imposters, that the Characters themselves had a secret
power and operation in them to work Miracles.
Thus we read of the Ancient Danes, in
Saxo Grammaticus, what strange belief they had in the power
of their Runes. Whosoever (saith he) devoted himself to the
ruine of his Enemy, or would preserve his Fortunes from
Hostile force, made himself first a Pole or long spear of
Hazle, or other kind of Wood, on the top of which he fixed
the head of a Horse, which before, in solemn manner, he had
sacrificed to the lnfernal Gods, placing it so upon the
Spear, that with open Jaws, and grinning Visage, it might
terrifie the Enemy; This done there were Runick Characters
engraven upon it, and then it was set up, with many direful
forms of Imprecation, in such place: where the approach of
the Enemy was suspected.
These Runes our Ancestours set up
against the Enemies, others they had otherwise prepared,
which had vertue to stop the course of Rivers and Tides, to
raise, and then allay Tempests, to give winds, to cause
Rain, to cure Diseases, to charm Agues, Head-ach and
Tooth-ach, to force Love, and such like, the invention of
all which Delusions (too frequently yet used) is attributed
to WODEN, who is said, by these Arts, to have deprived one
Rinda, a young Girl, of all her reason and senses.
But the chief
virtues of the Runa, take, as they are mustered up together
in the Edda, and there spoke in the person of one of Wodens
I know those verses which the Wife of
Thiodan knows, and Manski her son.
The chief Help it is called, which
will help thee in all cases of Griefs and Adversities.
That 2, I know, which the Sons of men
want who would live Physitians.
That 3, I know, if I have need to
quell my Enemies.
I dull the edges of my Adversaries,
that neither their force or frand can hurt me.
That 4, I know if men lay me in
I so sing that, I can walk, the
Shackles fall from my feet, and Manacles from my hand.
That 5, I know if I perceive a Spear
sent with Hostile force, flying in the Battle, I can provide
it shall not go with greater force than I please.
That 6, I know if a man wound me with
Incantations, or in anger Curse me, the evil shall fall on
him not me.
That 7, I know if I see a House all
on fire, the flame shall diffuse no further than it is in my
power to stop it, this Charm I know how to sing.
That 8, I know, which is necessary
for all to learn, who are looked on ad odious in the eyes of
men, them I can cure.
That 9, I know if I have occasion to
save a Ship, I still the Winds on the water, and clam the
That 10, I know if I see Witches
flying in the Air, I provide they shall miss their aim, and
lose their designs.
That 11, I know if I send my old
Acquaintances to War, I enchant their Armour, they go safe
to War, return safe, and go every where safe.
That 12, I know if I see on the top
of Wood a Ghost walking, so I cut it out and receive it in
the Run, that, that Man shall come and speak with me.
That 13, I know if I sprinkle a
young Boy with water he shall not die in War, although he
goes to Battle that man shall not fall by the Sword.
That 14, I know if I am to tell the
kinds of Families, I know all the distinctions of the Asi
and Fani, few of the vulgar know so much.
That 15, I know what Thiodreyer sung
before the Doors of Delling he sung strength to the Asi,
promotions to the Fani, and wisdom to Woden.
That 16, I know if I would enjoy the
love and society of a fair Virgin, I change the mind and
alter the affection.
That 17, I know (how he lives to
dwell on his comfortable knowledge) that the Maid will not
easily forsake me; These verses Loddfafnir are perhaps known
to you much good may they do you, they are useful if you
learn them and necessary if you get them.
That 18, I know I shall teach no
Virgin (still on the same key) or Women (every thing is best
that but one knows, that is the close of the Verses) but she
that holds me in her Arms, or at least she must be my
These Runes may be called the delight
and pleasure of our Ancestours with which they were so much
taken, that Wormius observes they gave themselves names from
them; Hence comes Guthrun or Gothick Runn, Sigtrun,
victorious Runn, Runulpher, helping Runn, Rungeir, warlike
Runn; So Womens names, Solruna, Sigruna, Ofruna, Auruna,
Fredruna, and such like; of different signification
according to the different opinions they had of the Runes.
WODEN, as I have intimated before,
was the lnventer of Poetry, and the Father of the Scaldri or
Scaldi, what they were and how esteemed you may read in
Although they (meaning the Northern
Nations) were not so well polished as now adaies in humane
literature, yet at their leisure, and oftentimes in the Camp
it self, they spent no little time in writing the Actions of
their Ancestours, and singing of them in Verse, by which
they gained great reputation to their Mother Tongue. This
was the business of the Scaldi, or as others call them
Scaldri, as the Poets of that Age in Verses now sung about,
are expressly called from the word Skal, as the Bards of the
Gauls and Britains.