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Bergen rune charm

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The Bergen rune-charm is a runic inscription on a piece of wood found among the medieval rune-staves of Bergen. It is noted for its similarities to the Eddaic poem Skírnismál (particularly stanza 36); as a rare example of a poetic rune-stave inscription; and of runes being used in love magic.


The inscription is number B 257 in the Bryggen inscriptions numbering and in the corresponding Rundata project, and P 6 in McKinnell, Simek and Düwel's collection.

It is thought to date from the fourteenth century.


The stave is four-sided, with text on each side, but one end is missing, leaving the text of each side incomplete. As normalised and edited by McKinnell, Simek and Düwel, and 'somewhat tentatively' translated by Hall, the charm reads:

In the view of McKinnell, Simek and Düwel,

it is by no means certain that the inscriptions on all four sides of this stick belong to the same charm. A and B look like part of a protective charm against demons, while C and D seem to be love-magic of the most forbidden kind. However, it remains possible that they represent two contrary aspects of the same spell – a blessing if the woman gives her love to the carver combined with a curse if she refuses it.

They point out that the addressee of side D is a woman, on account of the feminine form sjalfri.


There is a photograph of a detail of the stave in Aslak Liestøl, ‘Runer frå Bryggen’, Viking: Tidsskrift for norrøn arkeologi, 27 (1964), 5–53, reproduced in Stephen A. Mitchell, ‘Anaphrodisiac Charms in the Nordic Middle Ages: Impotence, Infertility and Magic’, Norveg, 41 (1998), 19-42 (p. 29).


Bergen rune-charm Wikipedia