Posts filed under ‘Runology’

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I don’t remember having much of a good answer to this one when I was a kid, I probably said I didn’t know. I think I might have said author sometimes, as I always loved writing stories.

I think if I’d known what a runologist was, I’d have wanted to be one 🙂

Not that I am exactly much of a runologist at the moment, given that I am off sick this year and need to seriously consider whether I really want to do a PhD or not. So I find myself pondering this question once again.

When you’re a child, there are so many things you could be. Some of them might not be possible really, like being a horse (unless you specialise in panto…) or a medieval knight (except for a hobby and a few professional re-enactors) or a tree 😀

When you’re an adult, the choices you have made affect the options you have.

Arthritis is my main limiting factor, both in terms of physical abilities and energy levels. It pretty much affects anything. Although I could still be an author… And I could still do the PhD, but at what cost? I just can’t work at the rate required even for part-time. They can offer me extra time, which is good, but the stress is getting to me and deadlines are all part of it.

I just don’t know if I still want it like I used to. And you have to really really want it to find the motivation to get one finished.

Part of me is sick of the whole thing; that’s the stressed part that can’t even cope with sending out birthday cards on time.

But part of me knows that if I give it up, in a year or two when I have recovered I might seriously regret it. I have had a cycle with academia. Love it, get sick, recover a bit, want to study again, study again, love it, get sick, take time off, and repeat. Only so far I have managed to complete my courses (apart from the first one when I got sick first, because then I didn’t expect to recover enough) before having to recover.

So I did my undergrad in Medieval Studies full time, 3 years, and needed 2 years to recover. Had to take an extra year out before getting back for other reasons. Then MA, 3 years (the dissertation had to be handed in in September, so I was given the choice of writing it in 3 months or 15 months. Guess which I picked?) Then a year off but I was busy getting married and other challenging tasks! Then started the PhD and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that after 3 years of it I need a break?

I’m not going to make my decision just yet, that would be foolish. I need to wait for the counselling and see how I am after that, in 2 or 3 months.

But I could do some thinking about what I would do if I didn’t finish my PhD.

I could still be an author. I’m not writing at the moment, except this blog, because of the stress and anxiety thing. I can’t face such a large project as a novel. I have done a couple of poems and a very short story. But we shall see, it might be an option.

I could be a crochet designer 🙂 I love crochet and I am inventive and like to make up my own stuff. I still have a lot to learn, but it might be possible. Although the maths could be an issue…

I could do video editing. I like doing that, though I haven’t done any for a while. No reason not to start doing a bit more now I have the rest of the year off. But not as a proper job though,. Can’t do anything as a proper job. No energy, I can’t even manage part time hours, and it fluctuates week to week so I’d be hideously unreliable.

No, I’m looking at things to occupy me which might provide a bit of pin money or at least provide interaction with the world, doing something which someone somewhere might appreciate. After all, more people read this blog than would ever be likely to read my thesis!

Although a popular version of my thesis would be very desirable, it is a cool subject. Who wouldn’t want a book about medieval graffiti? Words written by ordinary people from the past, the kind of people who don’t usually get to leave us their words. And with lovely photos of beautiful stavechurches in scenic Norway.

Yeah, I do still love my subject… I do want to finish it. I just need to get back on an even keel.

And also decide between a PhD and an MPhil…

But for now, it’s back to the crochet 🙂

Oh, that was a long one! 800 words! Thanks for sticking with it, if you did, and if you just scrolled down to see how long this wretched post is and if it’s worth reading, hi 🙂


May 7, 2011 at 8:50 PM 2 comments

Runic Banana

As one of my topics is what I do as a runologist, here is a photo to illustrate one tiny aspect of my vocation:

Runic banana skin

Yes, I wrote runes on my banana. And took a photo of it. Actually I took several photos, but this was the best.

The runes say ‘runic banana skin’.

Both times ‘an’ occurs in ‘banana’ I have used bind-runes, a ligature where two runes are combined into one. The style of runes used are those used in medieval Norway, the kind I study most at the moment. Although none of them are dotted, this can be seen by the combination of the long-branch form of ‘b’ with the short twig forms of ‘n’ and ‘s’.

Perhaps this kind of runic play shows me to be as much a runatic as a runologist.

The term ‘runacy’ was coined by Terje Spurkland to mean runic literacy as opposed to other kinds of literacy, ie in the Roman script. Obviously one who practices runacy must be a runatic.

Terje has written an excellent book about Norwegian runes, which I wholeheartedly recommend.

I did write ‘banana’ on the banana in other forms of runic script, but they didn’t come out so well, so no photos there. I can read and write six forms of the futhark: Elder; Long-Branch; Short-Twig; Anglo-Saxon; Medieval Dotted and also tree runes, the runic code. I have not yet learned Staveless runes, they are tricky.

This type of self-referential inscription is a common sort of content for a runic text, especially on a casual throw-away object. We have for example, bones with ‘this is a bone’ scratched on them. The sort of bones which are food leftovers. So it may seem runacy, but I merely continue a grand runic tradition.

I did my MA dissertation on self-referential runic inscriptions. I made it into a book, which I probably ought to offer for sale, but I am running out of time to do all the links and still have this post count for Saturday. That is an excuse. If you really want to buy my book, say so in the comments and I will set it up. It’s with a PoD company, Blurb, so you could buy it from anywhere in the world!

Blurb are very good and it is a lot of fun to make a book. I will make a blog post about them one day.

Well, that’s enough runacy for now!

February 12, 2011 at 11:43 PM 3 comments

Some Medieval Graffiti in Gol Stavechurch

Gol stavechurch now lives at the Folk Museum in Oslo. It is great, go there if you can. If you can’t, click here to see the outside and here to see the inside. (Warning, do not click the links if prone to travel sickness! But it is worth it!)

It has cool medieval graffiti, 12 runic inscriptions and some cute drawings, mostly in the chancel, which is roped off, so even if you went you’d not get a great view of it. Never mind, I have photos.

Gol chancel graffiti

The runic inscription is in the middle, to be read vertically, bottom to top. This one is quite fun, it is a puzzle. If it was English, it would read:


Can anyone guess what that might mean? Answers in the comments below! I’ll give the answer there after I’ve given puzzle fans a go at guessing!

The reason the graffiti is white lines is that it was painted over to highlight it by Martin Blindheim when he studied the graffiti a few decades ago.

I love some of the drawings here. This little horseman and his dog are one of my favourites:

Medieval knight from Gol

And this man could have been drawn yesterday!

Medieval cartoon guy!

The runic inscription by his head is Latin: ‘non sit’ but spelt with the runic ‘th’ rather than ‘t’ which may have reflected how they pronounced Latin in those days, as they had a ‘t’ rune as well. It means ‘be not’ and was presumably the beginning of a longer quote.

The other chancel inscriptions include a woman’s name, the beginning of the Lord’s prayer in Latin and a long unsolved puzzle.

On the other side of the chancel is the door the priest used to get in:

Gol chancel door

The torches are pointing to another runic inscription:

Don't hurry

This one hasn’t been painted white – it’s much harder to see.

It is hard to be sure what it says, but one possibility is ‘don’t hurry’. As it’s on the inside, maybe it is a warning to a young priest by his older mentor not to rush off in an undignified manner after the sermon!

That’s not all there is, but the rest is another story, to be told another day.

Is that the sort of graffiti you would expect in a medieval church? Especially bearing in mind that only priests were allowed in the chancel – did priests write and draw graffiti on their own church?!

January 27, 2011 at 11:18 PM 1 comment

Runological Time Travel

I want to watch medieval people make runic graffiti on a stavechurch!!!

I haven’t been following the PostADay suggestions, although if I like one I make a note of it as it’s always useful to keep a list of ideas.

But I couldn’t resist this one!

As a medievalist, time travel is a subject which tends to crop up from time to time in chat. But this was a different take on it, having a machine that would only give you an hour at a time.

If the machine had to be programmed with a specific date and time, rather than an event (such as the invention of runes… *drool*…) then I would have to pick the end of a Sunday service in one of the most inscribed stavechurches in Norway, a year after it had been built.

Obviously if you get several goes, I could visit them all. It would be really hard having only one go, as I very much doubt they scratched graffiti every time they went to church.

In case you are wondering about my very specific and obscure choice, this is the subject of my thesis.

The reason for choosing a year after it was built would be to test my theory that the graffiti wasn’t all made by builders. If it was all there already I might be wrong. If I had extra goes I could then go a year earlier and meet the builders.

If I went to Torpo in 1192 I could ask Master Builder Thorolf if he had made Ål too. Unless that was to be in his future…

I might pick Borgund, the most inscribed stavechurch, probably built around 1180. You never know, I could see my knotrune being made! 😀

I could try to catch a specific inscription being written. It would be supercool to visit Vinje stavechurch on the Saturday after Botolf’s mass in 1194 to see if that was indeed the year that Sigurd Jarlsson wrote on the doorframe that he refused to reconcile with king Sverri, who killed his father and brothers in Norway’s civil war.

I think I’d need to take my supervisor, or a friend who was better than me at Old Norse, if I wanted to ask questions though. Our reconstruction of pronunciation is probably wildly wrong so communication could be tricky.

Unless Google have perfected their real time spoken language translator by the time our time machine is invented, which seems likely as that tech is a tad more advanced that time travel, which most scientists believe is impossible, especially backwards.

Oh it would be great!

Another thing I’d like to do if it was a tardis sort of machine where you can bring stuff back is to go to the Cotton library just before the terrible fire on the 23rd of October 1731 and steal rescue all the priceless medieval manuscripts that got destroyed 😦

It would also be good to just go and listen to authentic medieval music.

But I’d be glad not to have the risk of getting stuck there. See, in the discussion on whether you’d go back to live, I wouldn’t. But to visit, a big fat YES PLEASE!

It would be great to have this tool for my research, but until such a time, I shall just have to content myself with ordinary research methods.

It seems strange to me that most people whose posts on this topic that I read would either go forward, or back to something that happened in their own life. And if they went back further, it was to change history. I just want to observe 🙂

As far as PhDs go, it doesn’t just help to be obsessed with one’s research topic, it’s actually compulsory…

January 20, 2011 at 4:20 PM 7 comments

Becoming A Runologist

I am a runologist.

I love saying that 🙂 or writing it. It gives me a warm fuzzy glow inside.

If you’d told me as a child that this would be my future role, I would not have known what it even was. But if you’d have explained it to me, I would have been really excited that I would be one.

When I was doing my Medieval Studies degree I would have been even more thrilled to know this would be my fate as I assumed it was an unattainable dream. Mostly because there are very few runologists in the world, in the region of a hundred, give or take an unknown number.

Also because of my disability, which had stopped me considering any career goals. It was a huge achievement going to uni at all, let alone thinking of a life beyond it. But that is a subject for another day (I think it was Tuesdays, health?).

But that all changed one day, months, maybe a year or two, after graduating with a high 2:1 in Medieval Studies. I was reading a book, of all things about horse riding, not remotely related to runology. It was about how to achieve your dream, a riding dream was assumed, but being a runologist was the first thing that came into my mind.

Then it outlined a series of steps for how to achieve that dream, which I had still considered impossible.

I can’t remember them exactly, but it was something like to write down what the goal was, then define the goal – what would it take to be able to call myself a runologist in this case. Then to outline a series of steps to achieve it.

When I saw it all written down like that, it actually looked possible!

It blew my mind that it could be something that could actually happen!

The steps I wrote down were something like:

1. find out more about the MA in Viking and Anglo-Saxon Studies at Nottingham Uni, where there were actually runologists and runology was included in the course of study. I went to an open day and spoke to Prof Judith Jesch about becoming a runologist (she is now my main supervisor has a cool blog too!).

2. do the MA. Luckily for me, I could study part-time, which made all the difference with my medical problems. An unexpected bonus was to be able to study runology at Oslo Uni for 6 months on exchange.

2. go to the 6th Runic Symposium.

3. do a PhD in runology.

4. present a paper at the 7th Runic Symposium.

5. write a runological article and have it published.

6. as a bonus, as not all runologists manage this, discover a new runic inscription (see the Why Knotrune? tab above).

I have achieved 1, 2, 4 and 6 plus 5 if you count web publication, which I would in this case as it had to go through a process of being accepted. And I’m over half way through 3, although technically it’s still an MPhil as I am in the process of upgrading.

So I can confidently say that I have achieved the goal of becoming a runologist!

Just got to finish the thesis and get a book published now…

So, what do I do as a runologist? Find out next Thursday!

January 13, 2011 at 11:10 PM 2 comments

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