Dalecarlian runes

We usually associate runes with the Vikings, although these symbols have been an early form of writing spread all over Europe since the late Bronze Age (possibly even before that). Our ancestors started to produce geometrical symbols; they perfected them, simplify them, until we start to see in archaeological context the early forms of what would be the runes. This form of writing soon came to an end when Romans started to conquer Europe and the latin alphabet replaced the old forms of written language. But far in the north the runes remained till late, due to the fact that romans had little influence, if any, in those regions. However, christianity eventually reached Scandinavia during the middle ages, and it was thought that the Vikings might have been the last people to use the runes in a daily basis, and that the runes continue to be used only for magical purposes. But in the hidden deapths of Scandinavia, people still used the runes as far as 100 years ago.

The runic alphabet was the dominant written language in Northern Europe until the advent of Christianity in the 9th and 10th centuries introduced the Latin alphabet. By the 15th century the Latin alphabet had almost wiped out the use of runes. But here, in Älvdalen, the runes remained very much in use.

In Älvdalen, near Dalarna, in western Sweden, the local population continued to use the runes for centuries after the ancient written language had been abandoned by the rest of Scandinavia. Until the early 20th century the runes were still used there. The inhabitants of this region retained their very special language – Elfdalian – which is an other completely different language apart modern swedish (an unique old Norse tongue).

Here is an example of the runes used till modern days:

Illustration from: [Arakun/Wikimedia Commons]

As you can see, the runes of Älvdalen – dalrunerne – are reminiscent of those used on runes stones in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, etc., but there are a number of differences. Dalrunerne developed over time, influenced partially by the Latin alphabet. The use of runes in Scandinavia gradually ceased during the 15th century. Although there were some areas of Gotland, in Sweden, and in Iceland, where the rune tradition survived until the 17th century, but in Älvdalen     their use was widespread until the early 20th century.

The runes in Älvdalen were most commonly found on houses and inscribed in furniture, and were also engraved into “message blades” which were sticks of wood that were circulated among the farms in the area. It’s really interesting to see that the people who herded the cattle up in the mountains would write messages to each other in runes.
This wonderful linguistic and traditional treasure remained till late due to the isolation of this region. A place deep in the Swedish forests and mountain ranges, hard to get into. While the rest of Scandinavia, and Europe, the Latin alphabet and Germanic dialects spread and gave way to the modern languages of the European linguistic-branch, in Älvdalen a little bit of the past remained frozen in time.
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