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This site provides a history and background to the use of bindrunes in Icelandic texts, manuscripts and artifacts, and endeavours to rectify the inbalance of Anglosaxon runes being used to create bindrunes by providing examples of truely Norse bindrunes.
The word bindrune means the binding of two or more runes. They occur intermittently throughout runic writings, however it was mostly prevelent in Norse writings and rarely so in Anglo-Saxon ones. The usual purpose was to abbreviate writing but in some cases it was used to hide what was written.
Initially used during the Viking age on Norse gravestones it gradually faded out of use along with all other runic writing, except in Iceland where the tradition continued. Not only were they used there for the purpose of writing in general but they were also used in magic, including charms, spells and their Galdrastafir - magic symbols.
Ole Worm made an extensive study of runes and wrote in Latin Runir Seu Danica a section regarding bindrunes which he calls
This demonstrates clearly how bindrunes are of two types. One being a string of several runes to be read either top to bottom or bottom to top along a single stem. The other is a more simple case of two runes using their main stem to go back to back. Not unexpectedly, the A-rune ᛆ, O-rune ᚮ and U-rune ᚢ were the most common to be used.
IS IR;153 (I) - Gravestone from Stórholt, Skagafjarðar County, 1600s
Dated to the 1600s, this runic gravestone has a few characters using Latin letters (the
Also noteworthy is the odd looking
IS IR;145 (I) - Gravestone fragment, 1600s
Also from the 1600s, this is one of two pieces found near the Holt parish church door in the Ísafjarðar county of Iceland. Past drawings show the second piece had the name of Bjarn also written with a bindrune.
ÍBR 64 8vo Samtíningur, II. hluti, Ísland 1813
JS 149 fol - 19th century:
It is not surprising that bindrunes have found a place in modern culture for charms, words of meaning in tattoos and other symbology. However it is perplexing that currently the runic characters used are Anglo-Saxon and not Norse or Icelandic, and meanings attributed to runes are derived from Anglo-Saxon origines rather than well documented Norse rune poems.
Justin Foster, Norse Graphics © 2014 – 2023.