Old Norse -> Runes -> Project 1 B Solutions

Project 1 B - Solutions (draft)

Introduction

In the mid-1950's a runic amulette was found in the soil of the farm Kvinneby in land. The amulette was a square copper thing measuring approximately 5 cm on each side. Near one edge there is a small hole presumably used for hanging it around a neck.
The inscription consists of some 143 runes supplemented by an engraving of a fish. Despite the fact that the inscription is one of the longest and best preserved for its time it seems to have received little attention. To my knowledge there have only been three serious attempts to decipher it. I will treat each in turn.

Bruce E. Nilsson 1976

Bruce E. Nilsson was the first to offer an interpretation of the amulette (discounting Lindquist's early attempt, based on a bad newspaper print of a photograph of the thing). His article is fairly short and very readable.
His reading of the runes:
[bind-runes] tiRiRbirk
bufimiRfultihu
riseRuisinbral
tilufranbufaorketih
ansmiRemhamrisamhuR
hafikamflufraniluit
feRekiafbufakuiRu
untiRhanumaukyfiRhan
um
His standardised Old Swedish (modified by me to standardised West Norse):
Tr r ber-k,
Bfi. Mr fullt! Hverr
er r vsari? En ber allt
illu fr Bfa. rr gti
hans me eim hamri sem r
hafi kom, fl fr illu. Vit
ferr eigi af Bfa. Gu eru
undir hnum ok yfir hnum.
His translation into English:
Glory to thee bear I,
Bove. Help me! Who
is wiser than thee? And bear all
in (the form of) evil from Bove. May Thor protect
him with that hammer which came from
the sea, (and which) fled from evil. Wit
fares not from Bove. The gods are
under him and over him.
His interpretation: "[T]he amulet is an invocation to the gods to protect Bove, especially while he is at sea." This he bases on the carving of the fish, the mention of the sea in the text and the place where the amulet was found.
Nilsson understands the mention of Thor and his hammer as a reference of the story of Thor's fishing; where he threw his hammer at the head of the Midgard Serpent. Since Thor's hammer always returns to its thrower it might in this case be said that it 'fled from evil' and 'came from the sea'.
Nilsson does not attempt to solve the first few runic symbols of the inscription. He ventures a guess that they might conceal the name or cognomen of a god. The fish looks more promising to Nilsson. He suggests that it might contain coded runes. The fins of the fish can, according to him, be represented graphically as
|| | ||
|| || |
This might represent the runes 'nbh' in some order. Nilsson suggests that the meaning is based on the names of the runes; thus the amulet should give a 'bjrg' fram 'hagl' and 'nau' or a 'deliverance' from 'hail' and 'need'. He adds that this is "not at all certain". I am inclined to agree.
Unfortunately Nilsson's interpretation is not treated critically by either Lindquist or Westlund.

Ivar Lindquist 1987 (a posthumous publication)

Ivar Lindquist took some 30 years to ponder the amulet - and it shows. He offers a plethora of interpretations - all within the same central theme, however. According to Lindquist the amulet contains a solemn prayer to the Earth Goddess, referred to as 'Erka', 'Fold' and 'Undirgo' (:the god beneath) and her 'single son' Thor.
Here's one example:
"Hr ek yrki vss em undirgo, v er berg ek Bfi mr.
Fold, hug er r vss! Einn burr haldi illu fr Bfa.
rr gti hans me eim hamri er m hyrr, hfuga m.
Fl, frn illvttr! Fr ekki af Bfa. Go eru undir hnum ok yfir hnum."
Translation:
"Here I, in poetry am familiar with the god(dess) beneath, for
me, Bfi, to save myself. Earth, I am known to thee! May the one
son keep evil away from Bfi. May rr protect him with the hammer
that smashes mr, the heavy mr.
Flee, foul ill-wight! Get nothing from Bfi. Gods are under him and over him."
And here's another:
"Ek hr Erku heims undirgo, v er berg ek Bfi mr.
Fold, hug er r vss! En br all ti illu fr Bfa.
rr gti hans me eim hamri er m hyrr. Haf g, m!
Fl, frn illvttr! Fr ekki af Bfa. Go eru undir hnum ok yfir hnum."
Translation:
"I here to Erka, the undergod of the world, for me, Bfi,
to save myself. Earth, I am known to thee! And may the
lightning raiser help evil from Bfi. May rr protect
him with the hammer that smashes mr. Go the sea, mr!
Flee, foul ill-wight! Get nothing from Bfi. Gods are under him and over him."
On etymological grounds Lindquist reasons that mr is a demon of sickness.

Brje Westlund 1989

According to Westlund, Lindquist's attempts at deciphering the "bind runes" at the beginning of the inscription are misguided. In Westlund's opinion these are not complicated bind runes but elaborate forms of normal runes. To support his claim he compares the runes with an inscription found near Novgorod in 1983 and treated by the Russion runologist Elena Melnikova in 1987. It is interesting to note that this is material that was not available to Lindquist and Nilsson.
Westlund reads the first runes "hiristikirbirkbufi" and takes them to mean (in standardized West Norse) "Hr rsti ek r bjrg Bfi." which would come out in English as "Here I carve protection for you, Bfi." This is a major change from Lindquist's interpretation. Instead of Bfi being the carver talking about himself we have a separate carver that addresses Bfi in the inscription.
Westlund goes on to refuse Lindquist's "prayer to Earth" in favor of a more magical interpretation. While he rejects Lindquist's interpretation of "meRfultihuis" ("with Earth in mind") and Nilsson's interpretation of "samhuRhafikam" ("that came from the sea") he does not offer alternative explanations. On the whole he suggests that Lindquist read too much into the inscription and tries to go for a more "mundane" solution to the problem. His transliteration and translation of the whole inscription follow:
x hiristik iR birk / bufi meR fultihu / is eR uis in bral / tilu fran bufa
or keti h / ans miR em hamri samhuR / hafikam fly fran iluit feR eki af
bufa ku iRu / untiR hanum auk yfiR han / um
(As before I change the Old Swedish into Old Icelandic for my readers' benefit:)
Hr rsti ek r bjrg, Bfi, ... r er vss. En br haldi illu fr Bfa.
rr gti hans mer eim hamri ... Fl fr illvttr! Fr ekki af Bfa. Gu
eru undir hnum ok yfir hnum.
(And his Swedish translation, translated to English:)
Hr I may carve (or: I carved) protection for you, Bfi, with ... is certain to you. And may the lightning keep evil (away) from Bfi. Thor Protect him with that hammer ... Flee from the evil being! It (?) gets nothing from Bfi. Gods are under him and over him.
In his final words Westlund rejects Lindquist's view of the amulette as a solemn heathen prayer. In his opinion the mention of Thor and 'the gods' reflect a post-conversion magical view of the heathen gods. He even goes as far as suggesting that the wearer of the amulette was probably a baptised christian.

Conclusion

To be written.

Bibliography

Apparently there's something new I haven't read about this:
Louis-Jensen, Jonna. "'Halt illu frn Bfa!' Til tolkningen af Kvinneby-amuletten fra land." In Northern Lights: Following Folklore in North-Western Europe: Essays in honor of Bo Almqvist, ed. Samas Cathin, 111-26. Dublin: University College Dublin, 2001.
Rest to be written.