”The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing…”
It has all been written or sung before, of course, and by last year’s Nobel Prize Laureate in Litterature, no less. Then again, Mr Dylan might have declared himself ”way too cool” to even care about the prize or our little piffling country, for what is another million USD worth to him? He can just send over the US Ambassador or someone as a mere errand girl to fetch all his money for him. In the era of Trump – and Anglo-American Trumping and dumping on other cultures, other countries – even common politeness is going out of style, it seems. He insults us all to our faces, and our entire Government and the Nobel Prize Committee to boot, but he’s not the only one to have done it during the last thousand years, so we can afford to be magnanimous and forgive him, although we won’t forget the songs he gave us. Or a few other things. His own patented brand of anger with the World could well be one of them, I guess.
On the subject of curses, and runes that linger on and on forever, I found out something interesting tonite. It’s about Veddesta, a very dull, uninteresting industrial area and shopping mall not very far from here. No one goes there anymore than used car dealers, their even shabbier customers or visitors to the local municipal sewage works, or people who have to pass through this dismal neighbourhood as they need to commute to and from work. Things used to be very different, once. Before the 1970’s the place was still left intact and used as farmland, with a huge iron age grave field stretching across the fields, as far as the eye could see. But so-called progress and – later – the Reinfeldt years – changed all that…
Most lots in the area are still vacant, since businesses there have all closed and failed. Right about where this picture was taken, there used to stand a runestone, undisturbed for a millennium of recorded time, but in the name of progress, they removed it. In 2014 I saw the stone removed and wrote to the Swedish National Heritage Board about it, but they told me that inscription U 84, as it’s generally known, had already been taken care of. They put it in storage for two years and wrote it off as another supposedly ”Christian” stone, from around 1030 AD, although opinions differ about the sun-cross emblazoned on it. It says nothing about ”Kudh hialpi and hans” or anything obviously Christian like that, but instead tells of a family and a blood line, an Aett, just like all the other stones from Uppland province, nearly none of which even mention religion (of any kind) at all. Here is how it used to look, up until three scant years ago.
And here is how the dilapidated, vandalized and cut stone looks today, three years later, with new bits and pieces taken from it, in its new sordid location, near yet another half-empty industrial shed.
All is not lost to us, however, and this was very clearly demonstrated to me by a man who really can be called ”runsk” at that, the runologist Magnus Källström, of Runverket, a branch of the Swedish National Heritage Board. He told me of a ”loose find” I previously never have heard about, a very small runic copper amulet, found in a grave which by now has been destroyed forever, and lies buried beneath yet another drab asphalt surface. It all happened at a lecture, in a local library somewhere for an audience of 60 or so people, but when I heard the story, I could see how it all connects to my own blog and other little musings.I’m not very surprised, for if you begin to work with runes, such things happen with almost disturbing regularity.
Anyhow, close nearby, a part of the old iron age site called ”Fruns Backe” survives unmolested – at least for now – come spring, it will still look like this:
The finds from the graves there are nothing special, the usual assortment of coins from King Ethelred of England (AD 979 – 1016), bear claws, elegant combs, rusted hilts of swords, chess pieces and other paraphernalia of the same kind, showing that without doubt, the men who were buried there were professional warriors, who had been abroad. By the way, no one knows how old the very name ”Fruns Backe” is, or where it comes from. They’re explaining it away as a very late colloquial name from the 19th century, although buildings exist from at least before 1485 AD, and the prehistoric village predates even that. And some of us do know that ”Frun” or ”The Lady” herself in ”the Lady’s Hill” could be Freyja, Freja, Freya ( yes shout her name out aloud, every Friday she does send!) and none but her, except of course – and maybe – Lady Hel herself, who always has the final word.
But then they found it, in the bottom layer of stones that formed the foundation for yet another burial mound. A very small leather pouch, with a small copper plate inside 47 x 24 mm’s.
Already in the 1960’s it was duly examined by the runologists, who made a very scolarly interpretation of it, and the inscrpition
ilfusun ibithrua which it still bears.
The copper plate has been badly corroded, as anyone can plainly see, but the inscription might not make very much sense, unless you are a qualified expert, with enough knowledge about grammar and spelling with runes – and runic amulets. Dozens more have been found in Denmark, Scania province and Iceland. From them, we can grasp the meaning of counting runes and numerological values, but the only interpretation of this little gem so far follows pure linguistics, and nothing else. You might be tempted into believing that Ilfus is a corruption of Vifil, a word often found on other amulets, and in the Heimskringla as well. Or that ”thrua” has some sort of connection with tru as in Asatru, but these connections are all wrong, and nothing but ”false etymology”
Instead, we have illfuss, meaning malevolent, of ill will, ill-a-foot, as in evil walking the land and going about.
We then have unni, or unna – to wish, or to grant somebody something. The 1960’s interpretation of Unni as the name of the carver, or the man with the amulet inside the grave might be correct, for all that we do know, but then there is bithi – which isn’t at all bidja as in to pray, but bidja as in command, to order – and ua – contemporary swedish ”ont” or unwell…
The full meaning then, according to the very best expert alive today, plus Helmer Gustavsson in 1969:
”You of ill will ! Unni summons you (lots of) evil and unwell !”
This, our man Unni had hanging from around his neck in a leather pouch, until the very day that he died.
His grave was destroyed. The findings placed in a museum warehouse. The industrial lots of Veddesta was built on top of it all, during the Reinfeldt years, just like I told you…
But do you know what, my friends ? Do you know what – ”Veten I än, eller Vad ?” – Vituð ér enn – eða hvat?
They never defeated him anyway. Unni’s words still live, and echoes through my heart and mind, the Hugr itself. He never died, he still lives on – and his words hit home from beyond the grave, even a thousand years past. This year, The National History Museum of Stockholm put on yet another World Tour, entitled ”We call them Vikings” – and despite the usual political correctness, the Christian propaganda and all the rest, Unni’s little bronze tablet, plus its original leather pouch, now goes on a great big World tour too.
Oh, to be sure, the very same exhibition – to tour Estonia, New York USA, Sydney Australia has much more grand works of art or great artifacts to look at, to be sure – you can see some of them reproduced on the link here – but even so – or common so – I for one feels rather strongly for old Unni, an upright man to the last, cursing at the World for what it had become, but still undefeated, still shouting for vengeance – and getting his own back, to live forever in spirit form, even if only on the Internet…
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark’d him for her own….
And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead… And I thought, my God… the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that!
Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.
And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that.
And if I had ten divisions of such men, our troubles here in this country would be over very quickly, I can promise you that. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because you see Willard, it’s judgment that defeats us…