Fulfilled by the
second year student of Rostov State
Pedagogical University Translation Department Neustroev Cyril
From ancient times mankind was
appealed by unknown writings: half-forgotten antique languages, Egypt
hieroglyphs, Indian inscriptions… The fate of runes was much happy – their
sense wasn’t lost in the course of time, even when Latin alphabet became dominating
one in Europe. For instance, runes were used in calendars till the end of the
Modern linguists think that runes
posses another kind of meaning, which we cannot find in ideograms, hieroglyphs
or in modern exotic alphabets – this meaning exists in subconsciousness level.
Runes were the personification of the surrounding world, essence of outlook.
With the help of special links between runes a man could express nearly
everything, compiling them (so called combined runes). In different times runes
could change their meaning, so we can say this adjusting system created dozens
of meanings of one and the same symbol. (Linguists find confirmation of this
theory in the following example – every rune in different languages had
separate and original meaning, which didn’t fully coincide with another one in
the second language.
Like all others components of
language, runes endured numerous changes: in form, style of writing, system of
sounds and letters, which expressed them. We can say, that these alphabets took
wide spreading not only among Scandinavian and German tribes, but we can also
trace its penetration in Celtic and Slavonic languages. Now runes keep their
main original meaning - in the beginning they were the symbols of
fortunetelling lore with sacred sense and mystic signs (The general matter why
they didn’t get wide diffusion before AD). Even the word “rune” corresponds as
“secret” (compare old Celtic “run”, middle welsh “rown”, modern German
“raunen”). The last 1000 years in Iceland runes have been used for divination.
In Anglo-Saxon England the hours of king council were called “runes”.
The most important sources about
runic history are ancient texts of Scandinavian pagan religion – Old Edda by
Brynolf Swesson and Lesser Edda by Snorri Sturlusson. They were two
missionaries who discovered these manuscripts in the time of Christian
expansion. Another documents containing the information about runes origin are
Northern king sagas “Red leather” and Icelandic kin chronicles. Tombstones,
altars, pagan pillars called “runic stones” played quite catholic role in
scientific researches - usually they are found dappled with miscellaneous
writings (Gothland, Upland, Norway). The most famous is Cilwer stone, which
dates from the 5-th c. So we can find a lot of writings on jewels and weapon,
for barbarians believed things had to posses their own names (breakteats).
German and Slavonic runic writing
was the letter system of peculiar look, accounted by the writing technique on
bone, wood and metal. Nowadays we have the main runic alphabet, consisting of
24 signs, may be more, but another ones are regarded as variants or combined
runes. Letters of any language can have several sources of origin, for a taste
Greek language, which gave the birth to North Italian writing, had a good many
of meaning for every sign. This tradition was inherited by Etruscan alphabet
and later by runic one. However, Christian chronicles of 9-12c, known as
«songs», revealed information about rune names and their meanings. Every rune
in it conforms to one strophe, which begins with this rune and its name. In its
turn, the name begins with its sound. The whole system is divided into 2 parts
– futarks (arises from the first symbols – F, U, Th, A, R, K: Old futark (runes
of Old German origin – o.f.) and Late futark (modifications of o.f. in
Northumbrian, Frisian and Anglo-Saxon alphabets). 24 signs traditionally
gradate into 3 groups of 8 symbols called atts (“part of land “ or “kin”
compare Scot. "airt”, Ireland “aird).
futark old Norway German runes
Comparing scheme of different
futarks and their development
The origin of futark remains the
matter of severe debates between historians, linguists and philologists. There
are two main theories: 1) Runic writing appeared on the basis of Latin
alphabet; 2) cradles of these signs are in transalpine and North Italian
scripts. Scientists have a lot of historical facts, approving that Etruscan
merchants used this system. Probably they brought it to the North (6-th c.
B.C.). However some researchers think that runes cropped up in German tribes
from ancient Rome Latin writing. Comparing 3 letter types we have: 10 runic
letters in Etruscan language, which absolutely coincide each other; 5
coinciding runic letters and 8 resembling ones in Latin. Latin, Etruscan and
some symbols from Greek originate from Akhiram alphabet (10c. B.C.). But the
construction of runic alphabet (RA) different from others – for example, order
of the first letters. The main period of development is one, when occult signs,
used in Alpine region and in the North, became combine sole system. Many runic
symbols were used as icons, showing various things and animals. Some
runologists suppose that even in the most developed variant they are close to
pictures: rune “Fehu” f symbolizes cattle, Thurisaz q l, – thorn, Wunjo w –
weathercock, Algiz z – elk, Zin xxs– lightning, Yr u – bow, Edhwaz m – horse.
The top of development and complete
formation of RA system was in 1-2 c. AD.
The number of runes in alphabet
varied in the course of time. 28 sings appeared in the middle of the 6-th c. In
Britain where German runes penetrated in the 5-th c. with Anglo-Saxon invasion,
Frisian futark was improved by the some additions and changes (mostly combined
runes) and numbered 29 units. In Northumberland 33 rune system existed already,
with the mixture of Celtic runes. Whilst on the Continent o.f. went through the
number of another changes. In the middle of the 7-th c. the tendency to
simplification appeared – some runes changed in inscription, some were lost. To
the middle of the 10-th c. the number of runes decreased to 16 units and late
futark formed. It was purely writing system, which wasn’t used for fortune
telling. It got wide spreading not only on the territory of German Empire, but
in the North too, for example in Denmark and Swiss. The difference between them
was in writing technology – Swiss ones were simpler, with short branches.
Apparently it can be explained that it gained everyday using. This system, if
not take notice of its disadvantages, was in circulation till 12-th c.
The next step in development of RA
took place in the middle of the 12-th c. by adding dots to 16 sign system
(dotted alphabet). It was used along with Latin one till the 16-th c. We can
find its variants in Slavonic manuscripts. Hipped and branchy RA weren’t alike
to dotted one.
Combined (constrained) runes. They
attract attention by their unusual form – it is too difficult to regard it as
ordinary symbol. Their use is quite miscellaneous: in amulets, braketeats, and
everywhere when difficult magic formulas were necessary. Runes are bind on the
strength of common line .
We cannot leave unnoticed such
important stage of RA development as Ulfila`s Gothic alphabet. It has got
nothing in common with “gothic” variants of Romanticism period. The real Gothic
writing system was used by the Goths on Gothland Island and later on the
territory of Poland, Lithuania and even North Black Sea coast. In the 6-th c.
gothic bishop Ulfila invented parallel variant of gothic alphabet. Creating it,
Ulfila took the range of common Greek letters and perfected some runic sings,
which existed already, with the aim to paint them with brush. During 5
following centuries it was used by west Goths in Spain and in the South of
France. But in 1018 Toledian counsel decreed to prohibit all runic alphabets as
vane and pagan ones. It is clear from letter names and their order that UA is
younger than other RA. So we can trace Greek and Latin influence in the system.
For example, futark structure was changed by adding 2 symbols to the first att.
So UA contains 12 signs, which do not have analogs in Old Gothic: Q, D, A, B,
G, E, X, K, L, N, P, T.
Comparing scheme of Gothic alphabet
(upper rows) and Gothic runes (lower rows).
But, knowing all these peculiarities,
we still can’t answer to the question, from where runes came. So, a few
scientists suppose that German and Slavonic RA had the same roots and
originated from a same proto-language, for Etruscan theory is rather imperfect
– Scandinavians couldn’t borrow it, because Etruscan writings were used too far
away from the North and in quite small territory. The following theory is
closely connected with national migrations and mythology. One of the legendary
Scandinavian tribes – vanes or veneds – came to the North from the East, where
they set up Slavonic tribe – Vyatichi. We haven’t got any historical
confirmations, that Slavonic people didn’t have writing systems before Cyril
and Mefodius coming, so hypothetically we can believe that such system existed.
Moreover, archeological researches showed that there were some traces of RA on
the territory of ancient Russia. It differs from Scandinavian ones and looks
like as Latin and Greek letters:
but in common it coincides
with o.f. So we can say that when Slavonic tribes divided into non-relative
kins, RA went through changes of different kind. In the end of the 1-st
millennium BC veneds were vanished by Germanic barbarian hordes and proto runic
system spread rapidly on the territory from the Black sea to Gaul. As it is
follow from archeological discoveries RA can be found on the Slavonic jewels
dated from 10-th c. AD, but it is difficult to say if they were originally
Russian or Scandinavian ones – perhaps, runes on the jewelries were regarded as
the part of design and in was copied blindly.