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Functions of image, rune, number and value and their interrelationships

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FRANKS CASKET: FROM THEORY TO VERIFICATION
LE COFFRET DE FRANCS: DE LA THÉORIE À LA VÉRIFICATION
ALFRED BECKER
Functions of image, rune, number and value and their interrelationships
I.0 The Casket
Fig. 1 Franks Casket © British Museum (London, 2021)
The Auzon Runic Box (also Franks Casket) is a whalebone box decorated with images and
runes, made in the early 8th century in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, probably in a monastic
environment. The box is named after the place where it was found, Auzon, in the department
of Haute-Loire in France, or after its acquirer and donor, the curator of the British Museum
Sir Augustus W. Franks. It is now in the British Museum in London. The box is 23 cm long, 19
cm deep and 11 cm high. With its images of Christian and pagan traditions, as well as its runic
inscriptions, the early medieval work of art is an impressive product of a syncretic era.
The interpretations of some pictorial monuments are probably almost as numerous as the
number of their viewers; but also, the runic inscriptions are anything but uncontroversial,
especially when their originators are assumed to have magical intentions
1
. In order to
substantiate such theses, one must be able to point to parallels on other objects - preferably all
by one hand. This proof alone is extremely difficult, since hardly anything is "hand-signed".
It is different, however, if an object bears several inscriptions or images that can be assigned
to a single source.
1
For the history of research until 1965, I refer to my dissertation: Becker, Alfred, Franks Casket;
Zu den Bildern und Inschriften des Runenkästchens von Auzon; Regensburger Arbeiten zur
Anglistik und Amerikanistik, vol. 5 (1973).
2
This ideal case is given with the Franks Casket, but has rarely been used in the history of
interpretation. The monographs by Wadstein
2
(1900) and Vietor
3
(1901) should be mentioned
here. In addition, A. S. Napier's "Contributions" of (1901) should also be mentioned. This was
followed 70 years later by my thesis (1969/73). Ute Schwab's
4
"Studies" (2008) fill a volume,
but deal with individual aspects, and quite imaginatively. Leslie Webster, whom I had got to
know in 1968 during my studies at the British Museum, London, then as " Assistant keeper of
the Department of British and Medieval Antiquities", published later (2012)
5
her more art-
historically founded interpretation, with which she interprets the program qua "juxtaposition"
of the panels and positions it as a puzzle task in a learned, Christian environment. The most
recent publication
6
(2021) is the résumé of my studies of the last 55 years.
In addition, there are numerous essays that deal - without the context - with individual
inscriptions and/or images of the casket. As such, they appear coherent in themselves, but
mostly do not fit into any program. Max Stiller
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, for example, with his interpretation of the lid
picture, sketches a conclusive, scholarly interpretation, which, however, hardly fits into a
meaningful picture program. According to him, it shows the siege of Aquileia (361), where
the rebels against Emperor Julian had entrenched themselves. The central point is the name
of the magister peditum, Agilo, who defeated the rebels. There is no other evidence for this
interpretation than the similarity of the names of Agilo and Ægili, both involved in a battle.
It is similar with the interpretation of the Welund picture, which Sigmund Oehrl
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represents.
He understands the representation as a scene, which thematizes the cruel revenge of the
mythical smith and establishes thereby the connection to the picture of the Magi, which is to
be seen here before the background of the child murder ordered by Herod.
If one actually understands the images as scenes, then it is difficult to see them as parts of a
sequence subordinated to an overarching function. But if they are formulas or rather icons
that stand emblematically for what is meant, then they come together to form an independent
statement, similar to letters that can be formed into a word.
The images and runic inscriptions of the box - used in this way - constitute a spell of fate that
determines the life of a Æþeling (member of a royal family), accompanied by his fylgja, from
birth (front right) into prosperity (front, left), through adolescence to the protected ride to war
(left side) to victory (back) and finally to death in battle (right side), which is followed by
2
Wadstein, Elis, The Clermont Runic Casket (Upsala, 1900); Skrifter utg. af K. Hum.Vetenskap-
Samfundet i Upsala, VI,7
3
Napier, A.S. “Contributions to Old English Literature; 2: The Franks Casket”; An English
Miscellany presented to Dr. Furnivall in Honour of his 75th Birthday (1901) 362 381
4
Schwab, Ute, Franks Casket: Fünf Studien zum Runenkästchen von Auzon, hg. Hasso C. Heiland.
Studia Medievalia Septentrionalia 15, (Wien, 2008).
5
Webster, Leslie The Franks Casket; Objects in Focus, British Museum Press (2012)
6
Becker, Alfred Franks Casket: Das Runenkästchen von Auzon; Magie in Bildern, Runen und Zahlen (Berlin,
2021)
7
Stiller, Max „Germanische Heldensage und Historiographie, neue Deutungen“, in Filologica
Germanica, Supplemento 1 (2019), 233 - 252
8
Oehrl, Sigmund, „Wieland – Herodes. Der Bethlehemitische Kindermord und die Frontseite
des Franks Casket“, Hvanndalir Beiträge zur europäischen Altertumskunde und
mediävistischen Literaturwissenschaft, 429 461 (De Gruyter, 2018).
Ders.: Bildliche Darstellungen vom Schmied Wieland und ein unerwarteter Auftritt in
Walhall“, in: Goldsmith Mysteries, Archaeological, pictorial and documentary evidence from the 1st
millennium AD in northern Europe (2012), 279 332.
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resurrection to Valhalla (lid). Thus, three of the panels deal with life and two with death and
afterlife. Also, the text (rune number and rune value) relates as 2 to 1.
This evocation of fate is supported by a calendar function. Thus, behind each depiction is a
deity after which a day of the week is named; for example, Woden for Wednesday.
The motifs on the four sides also correspond in their sequence (front, left, back, right) to the
four seasons (winter, spring, summer autumn).
The 12 dot marks on the lid image stand at the same time for three constellations - Orion's Belt
(3), Pleiades (7), Gemini (2) - and for the 12 months of the year, while the battle plot depicts
the cycle of the year as a zodiac with its solstices by the constellations Sagittarius and Gemini
while the equinoxes are indicated by the two shield bearers, standing for the constellation
Scutum (lat. scutum, shield). This pictorial testimony, by the way, is 1000 years older than the
first written mention of the constellation by Johannes Hevelius in 1690.
Understood scenically this symbolizes Ragnarök, thus the fight about the Sun and the end of
the Aeon. This lasts 432000 years, and also this period is represented.
This calendar function is supported and perpetuated by the rune inscriptions. The runic
number (288) stands for 10 solar years
9
, while its gematric
10
value (3568) stands for 10 lunar
years (3540 days + 28 days as a kick-off month). A Meton cycle (reverse side) synchronizes
these two calendars. Here three lunations serve as kick-off to take us from midwinter to
easter.
To make this thesis more probable, we here analyse the front side (F-panel) in detail and check
the findings in comparison with the results from the other plates, these are the three side
panels and the lid. This plate bears a runic inscription on the four bars that frame the two
images. The text here is formed by two long lines alliterating F and G respectively, preceded
by a formula on the left bar.
II.1 The Picture of the Magi
Fig. 2.1 and 2.2
9
288 = 12 x 24; according to the Gaussian summation formula 24 produces the value 300; 12 x
300 = 3600. A solar year has 12 months with 360 days each.
10
Gematria (from Hebrew הירטמיג gimatr-ja), is the hermeneutic technique of interpreting
words with the help of numbers. Letters are transformed into their corresponding numerical
in order to infer meanings and establish relationships from them.
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The image on the right, which shows the adoration by the Magi, follows the "oriental type" in
its composition. This pictorial formula - with star and angel - was created in the 5th century
and is the representation of the Virgin with Christ that has been common since then. This
pictorial formula takes the viewer to a royal court. Noble strangers in deeply humble attitudes
approach the throne of the two, either guided by the angel or received, as if by a master of
ceremonies in the service of the court. Mary and Jesus - she as the Queen of Heaven, he the
Savior, both with halos (nimbus) - have turned away from their visitors and look out of the
picture at the viewer. The Child raises his right hand to the speech gesture. One could say that
Mary has now become a Christian mother deity, on a par with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Magi picture of the rune box uses this "oriental" template, but shows a large water bird
instead of the angel. Instead of the star there is a rosette. Without any apparent necessity, the
word Mægi, written in runes, identifies the visitor as a Magi. This corresponds to the biblical
term (lat. magi), but it was certainly not intended as a pictorial explanation. This titulus thus
makes the magic priests the actual subject. The length of the beard marks age and rank, the
oldest is the first in line, the beardless youth the last. Their gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh
- are clearly visible. Over the back of the last in the row is emblazoned a knot ornament,
seemingly a space filler.
The group of Mother and Child is not found like this in any other depiction of this motif.
Usually, the Mother of God sits on the throne (Ratchis Altar from San Martino, Cividale) and
holds the Child on her lap, who extends his hand to the visitors, their faces turned toward the
viewer. Instead, here we see only two faces with nimbus, superimposed in a disc-like manner.
Such a representation is reminiscent of medallions depicting, for example, Sol Invictus (the
Unconquered Sun), the official sun god of the later Roman Empire, patron saint of warriors.
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However, details that otherwise do not play a role in the history of interpretation are also
striking: The rosette has 13 leaves; in the lower part of the throne chair 13 (?) dots are
embedded; the plinths under and between the pillars of the throne are probably not randomly
irregularly divided. In addition, (about) 5 S-shaped curved elements (2 with the mother and
3 with the Magi) are inserted. So far, the indisputable. In the following, we present theses,
interpretations that can be verified or at least made probable on the basis of the other images.
The representation is a pagan adaptation of the Christian motif. A first clue is the insertion of
the death knot (Woden's knot), which fits appropriately with the gift of the last in the row.
While gold secures the material existence (kingship) and incense symbolizes the spiritual
aspect (holiness), myrrh serves as a balsam to preserve the corpse intact for its physical
resurrection. The bird takes the place of the angel. This creature is the fylgja (the life
accompanying female being), the swan maiden, who does not show herself to the living in
her human form, but sometimes as a bird, preferably as a swan, sometimes as a wolf or a bear,
all of them are "the beasts of battle"
12
. The 13 leaves of the rosette (a rather unusual number
for this symbol) stand for the 12 months of the year and - to keep the cycle going - the first
(kick-off) month of the following year, - figuratively for death and resurrection.
This process is also supported by the S-shaped elements, which resemble the eoh rune. While
in the runic series the 12th rune, ger (j) stands quite meaningfully for "year", the 13th in the
series, eoh (O), yew, symbolizes death and resurrection. If the sign is found with the first and
11
Pollington, Stephen, The Elder Gods, The Otherworld of Early England (2011) S. 401
12
Pollington, Stephen, The English Warrior (1996), p. 47
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last of the Magi, it stands very meaningfully for birth and death and resurrection
13
,
respectively. But this sign is especially meaningful next to Jesus on the mother's lap, since he
personifies this process. Two more frame Mary's head, which here acts as Luna.
The 13 dots in the lower part of the throne chair point numerically in the same direction. Very
meaningful, because Mary personifies the moon (Luna), whose waxing and waning is a
celestial metaphor for death and rebirth. Jesus, on the other hand, takes the role of the
Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus), which descends and rises in the cycle of the year, just as the
moon does in the cycle of the month. But also, the week, which begins with Monday (Luna)
and ends with Sunday (Sol), symbolizes this aspect. And just for these two days of the week,
Monday and Sunday, stand Virgin and Child, depicted as separate medallions here.
II.2 The Picture of the Welund
Fig. 3.1 Franks Casket, Welund 3.2 ArdreVIII, Welund Becker (1973)
The left picture shows Welund, (ON Völund), the goldsmith, standing at the anvil. His leg
position may indicate the cut sinews, a measure Niðud used to prevent the captured elf,
creator of wealth, from escaping. This, at any rate, is the usual explanation. But in
Vœlundarkviða, 1-4, Völund speaks, "Vel ec . . . verða ec á fitiom, þeim er mic Niðaðar namo rcccar."
Here the reference is not to tendons or even hamstrings, but to fitjar, "webbed skin" (between
the toes of waterfowl), which Niðud's people took from him. This would explain that with his
"revenge" he regains the old ability to shape-shift and soars - presumably in bird form. And
so Niðud laments (Vœlundarkviða 37: "... (there is) no one so strong as to shoot you down, as
you lift yourself to the clouds of heaven.". Thus, it is probably a gesture of humility - similar
to that of the warriors with the Roman twins (left side), with which he hands the stunning
"drink" to his visitor, Niðuds daughter. With the other hand the smith holds the head of the
prince in the pincers. The decapitated body of the boy lies under the anvil. Already this
constellation - the sister reaches for the cup with a view of the dead brother - shows that it is
not a scene but a pictorial formula. To it belongs, after the completed act of liberation, the
change of shape, the escape, which is described with the scene on the right in the picture. The
bird catcher, Niðud (?), has three birds in his grip, the fourth escapes. These elements are
13
The poisonous yew also represents the death of the sun in the Celtic annual wheel. It
symbolizes the last short day before the winter solstice on December 21 and thus stands for
the end of the eternal cycle of time, which continues to turn with the rebirth of the sun. It
stands to reason that the Celtic name of the yew tree, namely "ivo" or "ibar", is related to the
ancient word "ewa" or now "ever".
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found, differently represented, on the Gothic picture stone Ardre VIII and partly on the cross
shafts of Leeds.
14
Unlike there, in our picture another female figure appears in the central part, separated from
the other two by two floral-looking signs. She carries a kind of pilgrim's bottle, with which
she could have brought the beer that Welund hands to the visitor. To the left, there are other
symbols here that may represent a hammer, the forge, and below that, once again, a hammer
Fig. 4.1 Section of the Welund picture Fig. 4.2 Bird footprints (Becker)
Here again we put forward theses that can be verified or at least made probable on the basis
of the other pictures.
The woman with the bottle is Welund's Fylgja. The signs to the right and left of her head
clarify what is meant. It is a floral variant of the rune z, which in the "Runic poem " is eolh,
which indicates 'sedge' or 'reed' (eolhsecg). Here the waterfowl nest, whose form the
fylgja/Valkyrie takes when she meets the living. This double meaning also becomes clear in
the Runic Poem, when it says that eolh is usually found in the swamp, grows in the water,
tears nasty wounds and covers every warrior(!) who touches it with blood. Thus, rune name
and rune form point to the elven companion of the elfish smith.
The next character, which is interpreted as a hammer, is an N-rune n (nyd), distress, danger,
which is quite appropriate in view of the predicament of the king's daughter. Another N-rune
above the head in the pincers just as aptly identifies the other victim, her brother. So there
remains the sign which is interpreted as a forge. This symbol, to the right of Welund's head,
could be a rounded form of the Yr-rune y, which stands for bow, gold, jewellery, and drinking
horn
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, exactly what the goldsmith makes.
In anticipation of numbers and values still this: The 5 picture elements, understood as runes,
produce the runic value 77 (7 x 11), remarkable because the value 11 appears more often than
chance allows and mostly along with death.
If now a point in the inscriptions has the value 1, he can stand also here he for the first rune,
thus for f (feoh). With it the goldsmith would be aptly identified as the multiplier of wealth.
14
See Becker, Alfred, Franks Casket (2021)
15
Schneider, Karl, Die germanischen Runennamen (1956) was the first one to come up with this
view.
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II.3 The Inscription
We begin the reading on the vertical, left bar, which - as on the R-plate
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(Romulus) or T-plate
(Titus) - is to be understood quasi as a motif for the following text. This begins on the upper
bar (horizontally from left to right), leads vertically down the right one and finally ends
(horizontally, mirror-inverted and to be read from right to left) on the lower bar. The words
are not separated from each other by spaces or characters, as is the case here. If one dot each
is inserted after fisc and flodu, as well as two dots in gasric, this has a different meaning, as
will be shown.
Left hronæs ban
Top Fisc* flodu* ahof on ferg
Right enberig
Bottom Ga : sric grorn þær he on greut giswom
The motif "whalebone" introduces the two staff rhyme verses as a magic formula. The
grammatical sequence subject, predicate, object would lead to the reading "the fish threw the
flood"; but since the second long line tells of the stranded animal, we should take fisc to be the
object. This allows the rune master to begin here - as on all other plates - with the name (Fisc)
and its meaning-giving rune f. We read thus: "The fish threw the flood ..." Also gasric with
the term rune g refers to the animal; now as subject of the action.
The place is described with fergenberig. The majority of translators interpret fergen as a form
of firgen, 'mountain', which would be equivalent to berig, (from beorg), a 'mountain hill'
therefore. But how could a whale be thrown on a high mountain, or even only on a hill? This
is rather unlikely, especially since the second long line reads ...þær he on greut (greot, sand,
gravel) giswom.
In contrast, a translation deriving fergen from feorg, ferh, 'life, spirit, soul' is more likely;
fergenberig could thus be understood as 'mountain of life, mountain of soul' or 'mountain of
heaven' (K. Schneider), which would be meaningfully continued with gasric, spirit king (?).
Mountains were considered to be the seat of deities and demons. In this context one may think
of the old Norse earth and fertility goddess Fjörgyn, one of Odin's wives. Her Anglo-Saxon
name has not survived, but may have lived on in fergen. If this side of the casket with the
image of the Magi thematizes 'birth' (i.e., life), then this assumption (mountain of life or
similar) is quite obvious, especially as on the S-panel (right), which deals with the death of
the hero, the death-bringing being Herh-os sits on hærmbergæ, the 'mountain of sorrow', and
works mischief. Thus, here the mountain, i.e., the respective deity, stands for the beginning
and end of life.
If the "fish" in the second long line is called gas-ric, then 'spirit king' (cf. OE. gastcyning, 'god,
soul king', Gen. 2883) would be a coherent term: OE. gast, 'breath, soul, spirit, demon'; OE.
rica, 'ruler'. The two dot marks under the S-rune s in gasric can be understood as u u 'Ur' (2nd
rune in fuþorc; symbol of animal power), which would also fit in well. This name connects
the naming of the potent material with the powerful creature. hronæsban is thus not a simple
guarantee of quality like 'Pure Wool' or 'Genuine Plastic'. The bone in particular "is a very
special material", because it is the bearer of the vitality and thus becomes a magical means,
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F-panel (Fisk) = front side; R-panel (Romwalus) = left side; T-panel (Titus) = back side;
H/S-panel (Herhos) = right side; Æ-panel (Ægili) = lid
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which not only Welund (see below) knows how to use, but also fills countless church shrines
of the Christian Occident in the form of relics. And so, we translate now:
Whalebone:
The fish the flood raised on the mountain of life
The spirit king was grieved when he swam onto the gravel.
hronæsban is a magic formula (charm) composed of 9 runes (value 123) to strengthen the
following text, an incantation, which begins in the upper left corner (a significant place on all
panels) with the F initial rune, f, and ends on the right with a G rune, g
Fisc flodu ahof on fergenberig
warþ Gasric grorn þær he on greut giswom
This is the oldest preserved poetry in staff rhyme form, - two long lines with three alliteration
on f and g.
As already said: f (feoh) denotes the money-like possession. g (gifu) stands for gift or present.
Both words form the OE. word feohgift, 'bounty, generosity' again. What fits better for a full
treasure box from which the warrior gives gifts, bounties to his retinue and thus honors them?
So says the Runic Poem, here in translation:
f Wealth is a comfort to all men; but every man must distribute it freely,
if he wants to win honor in the eyes of the Lord.
g Giving brings prestige and honor, which enhance everyone's dignity;
it brings help and is food to all broken people who have nothing else.
The smith was generally considered to be the source of wealth, even if it was probably mostly
the spoils of war that he cast into new forms. And the warlord needed these golden goods to
secure the loyal allegiance of his fellow soldiers. Regarding these spoils, Pollington (Warrior,
p.168) states:
"... was later redistributed among the warriors and at some point, could be lost to a foe. The supply of
such goods was constantly replenished by the work of smiths who produced new artifacts ...
Nevertheless, the competition for the means of acquiring prestige goods was always present among early
chiefs whose own reputation and power depended on these resources."
And this is the view of the Exeter Book, "Gnomic Verses" ll. 28-9:
... cyning sceal on healle beagas dælan ...
... in the hall a king shall bestow rings ...
So, the king shall award rings to his retinue in the hall. Now as this is the treasure chest of our
royal hero, the runemaster could not carve better runes.
But these runes also establish the reference to the picture: The Magi bring g (gifu), thus gifts.
That they are invoked here in their capacity as magic priests (with whom material
expectations might be connected) is made clear by the inserted mægi. Welund, on the other
hand, manufactures those golden things which, by the rune f (feoh) denote material
possessions. This mythical smith is considered the fountainhead of all wealth, which is
expressed not least in "Welund" with the name component wel, (jewellery, wealth).
Welund, on the other hand, manufactures those golden things which, with f (feoh), denote
material possessions.
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Thus, f (fisc) is the theme rune for the Welund image, and g (gasric) that for the image of the
Magi. These "theme runes" are always the initial of a name or name-like term and appear on
all plates as the first rune on the left of the upper bar. Since there are two images on one panel,
the position of g - as last rune of the upper bar in: ferg [-enberig] may be due to the same
intention.
II.4 Rune Number and Rune Value
But we still haven't reached the bottom of our runemaster's bag of tricks. Let's turn to the
inscription again and examine rune number and rune value. We count 68 runes and 4 dot
marks (4 x value 1). According to the usual counting method, this results in the rune number
72. Since it contains the magic 24 three times (but also 9 x 8), it is considered particularly
effective; and this effect extends precisely to f and g, (1 + 8) the staff-bearing runes of the
alliterative verses. This may also suggest a conclusion to the most original function of the
alliterating rhyme: They were once magical incantations and served as such the summoning
of otherworldly powers.
If we now also determine the runic value, we see the perfection of the plan: The 72 runes and
signs add up to exactly 720 as the sum of their values. If we add up the values of the
alliterative runes 3 x f and 3 x g (f = 1; g = 7), we get 24, the rune number of the fuþark. And
24 is contained exactly 30 times in 720.
9 of the 72 runes form the formula hronæsban on the left bar. If now supernatural expectations
attach themselves to the bone material, then this magic rune number is intended, and this
should be found on the other panels. The same applies to the runic value. Here we receive
123, (3 x 41) whereby the divisibility by 3 is intended, since the principle is kept also on the
others
Thus, the carver has used everything on this panel - the magic of iconic themes and symbols,
of words, runes, numbers and values - to equip his protégé with what he now urgently needs:
feohgift, said golden rings and hoops, which he generously distributes to his faithful as a sign
of his appreciation. At the same time, the two iconic formulas secure the way to life. The noble
descent in the presence of the Fylgja in bird shape is followed by the assistance of this helper
on the way through life, as expressed in the motif of Welund's way into freedom.
III. Magic: Spells with runes and numbers
When one speaks of "magic" today, one usually thinks of sorcery in which the laws of nature
are suspended. In the Middle Ages, however, this "ability" was understood in the sense of
power, ability, whereby the word relationship of OE. magan (can; mæg = he can) with the Old
Persian magus was a helpful bridge.
17
Behind the concrete things one suspected hidden
17
Birkhan, Helmut, Magie im Mittelalter (Munich 2010). According to this, magic and
manticism are a conception of the inner cohesion of the cosmos and the forces that determine
it. - On etymology, Wikipedia, "Magier": the word magic (gr. μαγεία, mageía) goes back to the
word magoi (gr. Μάγοs = wise man). A tribe called the Mager (gr. Μάγοι), lived in ancient
times in northwestern modern Iran. According to the Greek historian Herodotus (490 to ca.
425 B.C.), among them were particularly many wise men who were engaged in dream
interpretation and astrology. The term magoi (Gr. Μάγοι) was therefore used synonymously
with sage.
10
forces, which determine their kind. So it should be possible to gain power over things if one
knows the formulas they obey. Thus, one attributed this ability to the runes, which stand as
terms for the real things (i.e., their appearances). Since the sign represents the thing in itself,
one will have considered it more real than the individual appearance itself. So, the T-rune t
stands for victory in general, while the victory of Titus over the Jews is only one of its
appearances. And since these runes have a numerically definable position in the runic row,
the number as an ordering principle also gains a magic quality. So now the 24 runes of the
fuþark have been divided into three groups of 8 runes each (Sg. ætt, Pl. ættir) in order to define
things. In the concrete case the rune t is at the 17th place of the rune row. So, it is the first rune
in the third ætt (3/1) and keeps the value 17. The system of the 24 runes thus defines the things
according to name, number and value of the runes
18
.
But again from the beginning: The Germanic row of runes, fuþark, is composed of 24 runes,
where each rune stands for a thing, as it were, and is almost identical with it. Thus the F-rune
f in the " Runic Poem" is called feoh, the Old English word for 'cattle'. Since this was the earliest
means of payment (so also Latin pecus, cattle; pecunia, money), the word finally denotes any
portable, i.e., money-like, property. On the other hand, the rune, E, stands for real estate,
hereditary property. The G-rune, g, means gifu, gift, an important source of income in those
days when salaries were still unknown. And since all these 24 signs were considered
magically effective, very specific scribing techniques were formed to use their power. This
could concern the increase of property by receiving gifts, as well as health or divine assistance
in battle. Next to the blessing is its opposite, the spell of harm against unloved fellow men
and consequently the magical defence against harm.
The number of runes (24) in the so-called Elder Fuþark does not result from the number of the
necessary sounds, it is rather number-magically based. Beside the 11 especially 3, 4 and 8 are
effective numbers, and even more the products of these numbers (110, 330; 24, 48, 72 etc. resp.
240, 480, 720 etc., but also 3, 9 etc., 30, 90 etc. resp. 300, 900 etc.). So it is not surprising that the
runic series is divided into 3 groups (ættir) of 8 runes (ætt) each. If we add the numbers 1 to
24, we get the significant runic value 300. However, each number might have had a meaning;
and thus we have to be careful not to confuse coincidence and intention.
In runic practice, this means: Inscriptions composed of 9, 24, 48, 72, etc. symbols, may be
arranged this way with magical intent. In order to achieve the intended rune number, dot
marks were also inserted into some texts, increasing the rune number as well as its value by
1 each. They were occasionally necessary (F- and R-panel) to achieve certain rune numbers or
values; because besides the rune number, the rune value could also be magically effective.
(The other way round 2 runes could be combined to a ligature, in order not to exceed the
intended number). In the fuþark thus f = 1, u = 2, þ = 3 and so on. So, if in the ideal case an
inscription is composed of 72 characters (rune number), which result in the value 720 (rune
value), then there should be rune magic intention without any doubt. And this is exactly what
we find on the rune box. With the sound change the Germanic fuþark developed to the Anglo-
Frisian fuþorc, which first had 27 (3 x 9) and later 33 (3 x 11) runes. Nevertheless, the rune-
magical practice based on 3 x 8 has survived, whereby 9 and 11 also had special magical
qualities. - Whether it was actually the sound change that was causative or more extensive
Theurgy (Gr. θεουργία) means the believed ability to make gods and spirits serviceable, which
magicians and sorcerers, but also Neoplatonists like Jamblichos and Proklos claimed for
themselves.
18
As to the ættir see Düwel, Klaus, Runenkunde (Weimar, 2001), p.182 ff. Encryptions and secret
runes - runic cryptography
11
numerical speculation is left unresolved here. As remains to be shown, the runemaster
developed a perfection with his number magic practices that put our calculator skills to a
severe test.
IV. The Anglo Saxon Fuþorc
The elder common Germanic runic row is called fuþark. It consists of 24 characters. This fuþark
was used in the same form by all Germanic tribes until about 750 AD. However, an extended
runic series developed in England and Friesland, which was used from the late 5th century on.
Characteristic for this fuþark is the insertion of new runes to express the umlauts æ, y and œ,
which had developed in the meantime in the Germanic languages. As the A-rune was
replaced by a new rune with the phonetic sound o, the Anglo-Saxon rune row is now called
fuþorc. Altogether the rune row grows till the 9th century up to 33 characters.
Das angelsächsische fuþorc in Achterreihen [Ættir] gegliedert
1. Ætt
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
f
u
th/dh
o
r
c
g
w








feoh
ur
thorn
os
rad
cen
gifu
wynn
Vieh
Ur
Dorn
Ase/Mund
Fahrt
Fackel
Gabe
Wonne
2. Ætt
1/9
2/10
3/11
4/12
5/13
6/14
7/15
8/16
h
n
i
y
eo
p
x
s







hagal
nyd
is
ger
eoh
peord
eolhx
sigel
Hagel
Not
Eis
Jahr
Eibe
?Spiel?
Elch/Ried
Sonne
3. Ætt
1/17
2/18
3/19
4/20
5/21
6/22
7/23*
8/24*
t
b
e
m
l
ng
d
e œ








tir
beorc
eh
mann
lagu
Ing
dæg
ethel
Tiw/Ruhm
Birke
Pferd
Mann/Mensch
See
Gott Ing
Tag
Erbbesitz
*oft auch als 23. und als 24. Rune
1/25
2/26
3/27
4/28
5/29
6/30
7/31
8/32
a
Æ
y
ea
eo/io
q
k
st






ac
æsc
yr
ear
ior
weordh
calc
stan
Eiche
Esche
Bogen/Gold
Erde/Grab
Schlange
Feuerwirbel
Kalk
Stein
Fig. 5 The fuþorc divided into rows of eight (Ættir) and its use as tree runes
12
Since our rune master also uses the Æ-rune, which is the 26th in line he knew this extension,
but by not using Jj G q, he limits himself to the magic 24 characters! 22 runes occur in the
texts, 2 more (I z) as hidden symbols reinforce some images.
The elder Fuþark can be divided into three rows of eight runes each. These rows are called
ættir (pl.), ætt (sg.) 'gender, family'. This system can also be applied to the Fuþorc, where the
extensions would establish another row.
Example "Franks Casket", R-panel (Fig. 5), cypher runes. To encode a rune by numbers, one
indicates the row of the ætt (1 to 3) on the left and the position of the character there (1 to 8)
in this row (on the right).
According to this scheme, the six roots [from left to right] read like this:
(1/2) u (ur, aurochs) power // (2/2) n (nyd, distress) distress
(2/3) i (is, ice) death //(2/3) i (is, ice) death
(2/1) h (hagal, hail) // 1/1 f (feoh, cattle), pecuniary possession.
The H/ S-panel also follows this pattern.
V. The Verification of the theses
V.1 Concept rune and image theme
As shown by the example of the front side, the alliterating runes f (F = feoh, monetary
property) and g (G = gifu, gift) correspond according to their meaning to the two
representations of this panel, which are to be regarded as icons rather than scenes. If concept
runes and pictorial emblems are arranged like that, this should be possible to prove by the
choice of alliterating runes and pictorial icons on the other panels. Following the life course
thesis, we now look at the sequence of images on the left. If concept runes and picture
emblems are so chosen, it should be possible to prove this by the corresponding use of
alliterating runes and motifs on the other panels. Following the life cycle thesis, we now look
at the sequence of images in a left-hand direction.
V.2 The R- panel
Fig. 6 Franks Casket, R-Panel © British Museum
13
The Text
We start with the reading on the left edge of the panel. As there, the reading is initially
clockwise, continues on the upper left and on the bottom bar, but now not mirror-inverted,
but upside-down. Thus it corresponds to the course of the runes on the right edge. according
into measures (//): And so we read the text, divided by ledges, divided into words and
structured in pairs (//):
Left: oÞlæ unneg //
Top: Romwalus and Reumwalus// twœgen
Right: gibroðær a*//
Bottom: // fœddæ hiæ wylif// in Romæ cæstri
Far from home
Romulus and Remus two brothers,
The she-wolf raised them in Rome(castle)
Romwalus alliterates with Reumwalus and Romæcæstri, nevertheless this does not form an
alliterating verse, but a two-beat phrase, which is followed by others and returns to the concept
rune r in Romæcæstri.
However, striking is the choice of initials in the phrase "... twoegen gibroðæra // foeddæ ..." The
rune t - symbol of rulership and victory - is accompanied by the runes f- possession - and g-
gift. This triad is also found in the text of the T-panel (reverse), where the carver even
"transliterates" a word - iuþeas to giuþeas (along with fegtaþ and Titus) - to get the desired
formula f t g, and on the same time the number and total value of the runes.
r (rad) now stands for "ride" and thus indicates the theme of the panel. The OE. Rune name rad
is also found in the expression þunorrad, meaning Þunor's (Thor's) ride with his armed chariot
over the clouds, which produces the dull rumbling to the thunderclap.
The Picture
The place here is a forest. The dioscuric brothers are depicted as tall as adults, lying by their
foster mother (not standing on their heads) here along with a second wolf instead of just the
she-wolf. To their right and left, facing this scene, four men. kneeling as if in worship.
They are obviously not Roman shepherds with crooks, but Germanic warriors armed with
spears (perhaps a thane with his retinue), here, in the sacred grove, the place of pagan cult,
seeking the protection of the Dioscuri, who are considered to be travel and battle helpers.
Romulus in particular, since he experienced post mortem his apotheosis to the god of war. Since
infants would be of little help, they are portrayed as adolescents. And if they are now joined
by two wolves, then these are Odin's famous companions Geri and Freki. Not surprising, since
Odin is the Germanic counterpart to the father of the twins, Mars
The fate of the four men and the nature of the travel and battle helpers is to be taken from the
root system of the trees, understood as branch runes: From this scheme the six roots read
[from left to right] thus: (1/2) u (ur, aurochs) strength // (2/2) n (nyd, distress) distress ////
(2/3) i (is, ice) death //(2/3) i (is, ice) death //// (2/1) h (hagal, hail) danger [the 3rd staff on
the left is the end of a spear shaft] // 1/1 f (feoh, cattle), monetary possession.
14
Conclusion
On this panel, too, the alliterating concept runes correspond with the emblematically
conceived representation.
The thrice alliterating rune r, the initial of the name (Romwalus) gives as a term rune the
theme: ride (into battle). The stressed rune t invokes victory, followed by g, gift, securing
allegiance, and finally f, securing prosperity.
V.3 T-Panel
Fig. 7 Franks Casket, T -Panel © British Museum
The Text
Left: Her fegtaþ
Top: titus end giuþeasu / h i c f u g i a n t h i e r u s a l i m
Right: afitatores
Bottom: dom // gisl
Here fight // Titus and the Jews/ here flee Jerusalem’s // inhabitants//
Judgement Hostages
A phrase of 9 runes on the left side precedes the name Titus, initial T, on the upper horizontal
ledge. The cross-shaped sign in front of the name of the Roman commander and later emperor
Titus has no discernible function in this context, although it is probably intended to have a
magically reinforcing effect. In relation to the initial t this means "victory, glory, justice".
The words giuþeasu (here instead of OE. iuþeas, Jews) and afitatores (instead of lat. habitatores,
inhabitants) are unusual, but will have been formed for rune-magical reasons (initial rune,
rune number and value).
15
But since, as we have already noted in the verses of the whale (F-plate), possession [f] (here
the spoils of war) and gifts [g] to t On the right: Here, as the word gisl explains, people
are taken hostage, spoils of war, at the same time a pledge of the vanquished
he retinue are prerequisites for the ruler's victory [t], the runemaster (like above on the R-
pane) has chosen these three initials, using giuþeas instead of iuþeas to change the name for his
purposes. He thus repeats the pattern of the text of the R-panel.
The text continues with a par text that is Latin, both in words and writing. On closer inspection,
however, we notice several letters in the Latin words that are either clearly runes (r and S)
or could be considered as such; thus, the character ( i ). Besides this, the letter a appears
twice, changed into the form of a majuscule a, as found in manuscripts (e.g., Lindisfarne).
The image
The plate is divided horizontally into two picture bands, which are also divided vertically by
an arcade. In the upper left part of the picture, we recognize 5 armed attackers, Romans under
their commander Titus, - presumably here the leader, marked by the helmet and the prominent
armor. He and his legionnaires have put the Jews, altogether 17 people, to flight. The last of
the fleeing is hit by a sword, his weapon slips from his grasp, while two others try to escape
via the bow. In the right part of the picture, this flight continues. The inhabitants of Jerusalem
- some with walking staffs, another one with a carrying bottle - flee the city.
The lower bar also shows two images: On the left, a courtroom scene commented on with the
term, dom (judgment, honor, glory). Warfare and jurisprudence are the contents of the picture,
privileges of the victor.
On the right: Here, as the word gisl explains, people are taken hostage, spoils of war, at the
same time a pledge of the vanquished
Conclusion
On this panel, too, the stressed or conceptual runes correspond with the emblematically
conceived representation. Thematically, the rune t, which stands for the ancient god of war
and judgment, Tyr/Tiw, and thus is said to bring victory, justice, and glory, which is exactly
what the pictorial emblems represent.
Since possession [f] (here the spoils of war) and gifts [g] (to the retinue) are prerequisites for
the ruler's victory [t], the rune master has chosen these three initials, using giuþeas instead of
iuþeas to change the name for his purpose.
Thus, the three panels dedicated to life have largely the same pattern in text and image.
16
V.4 T-Panel
Fig. 7 Franks Casket, H/S -Panel © British Museum
While three plates, the F-R-T-panels, refer to life the fourth side and lid, he H/S- and Æ-panel
relate to afterlife and beyond.
The Text
Top: herhos/sitæþ/on/hærmbergæ/agl(ac)/
Right: drigiþ/swæ
bottom: hir/i/erta/e/gisgraf/særden/sorgæ/a
Left: nd/se(fa)/tornæ
Structured in units of meaning:
Herh-Os sits on harm-hill // acting in the way//
Erta instructed her to do// they cause worry and heartache
The three verses or longlines here show the alliterative scheme
H H // A E // S S S.
The first long line begins on the top edge with the initial H of the name Herh-Os with H in
alliteration. The H-rune h, hægl, hail, foretells disaster, similar to the I-rune, i, is, ice which
indicates death. Herh-os (forest deity) stands for a name, as the inscriptions of all other plates
are also introduced this way.
The second long line alliterates on A and E. The A-rune a, ac, oak and the E-rune e, eoh,
Horse, together form a harm-preventing formula
19
.
The third long line alliterates on S. The S-rune s, sigl, sun, describes light and life and is
connected with Wotan/Odin (Odin's eye) or even himself. Since the name of the god is taboo,
it is indicated here by this S-rune.
19
Arntz, Helmut, Handbuch der Runenkunde (1944²; reprint 2007) p. 278
17
The image
The image is divided into three icons. The left segment shows Herh-Os, the forest deity, sitting
on the mountain of doom. She combines the features of various creatures in herself. It is the
Valkyrie that brings death in battle. Opposite her stands a warrior armed for combat.
The middle part of the picture with the burial mound and the horse with the Woden-knots
stands for death which the Valkyrie, now in human shape, averts with the potion from the
cup. The right part of the picture shows the resurrected man being led away by two
psychopomps. Here, too, the rune-shaped symbol (similar to I) stands for death and
resurrection.
Let us now look at the tree roots and understand them as tree or branch runes, as on the R-
panel. Directly behind the troubled hero we see a small plant with 2 roots to the left and 2 to
the right, thus (2/2). This is the N-rune n (nyd), which - quite appropriately - means 'distress'
and 'danger'. The foliage of this plant (2/2) says the same.
The root system between Sleipnir's hind hooves (if it is Woden/Odin’s horse) also points in
this direction, where with (2/1), the H-rune h (hagal) signals 'hail' and thus 'danger'. The same
reading could apply to the foliage here (above the horse's tail). The roots of the plant between
the horse and the grave would also indicate n (nyd) 'distress', while the leaves could be read
with (3/2) as b (beorc) 'Birke', which would fit well, as it symbolizes new life, nature
awakened from hibernation. Among the Celts, it was customary to cover the fresh corpse
with green birch branches.
20
And the corpse is next to the prophetic plant in the picture.
Above the neck of the horse, one could read (2/2) n, a quite reasonable interpretation in this
context. Also, the foliage will be read in this way, but this remains quite speculative. The
foliage above the tail of the horse seems to indicate t with (3/1). The appropriate place would
be.
Conclusion
On this plate, too, the alliterating conceptual runes correspond with the emblematically
conceived representations.
As magically effective runes stand:
1st icon: h h The two H-runes spelling "disaster" correspond to the fate, which the Valkyrie
will bring over her warrior chosen for death.
2nd icon: e a The E- and the A-rune with the meaning "horse" and "oak" find their
correspondence in the central icon with tree and horse. The defense of death is indicated by
the image of the corpse in the burial mound, which here is denoted by 11 elements (I-rune),
and the Valkyrie, who now brings him the reviving drink. Here the 9-rune formula follows,
which conjures a good fortune.
3rd icon: sss The three S-runes, which stand for light and life, are to cause the resurrection
and the way into Valhalla. This event is reproduced here with the Psychopompoi, who guide
the resurrected.
20
Arntz, Helmut, Runenkunde, p.220
18
V.5 Æ-Panel (The Lid)
Fig. 8 Franks Casket, Æ -Panel © British Museum
The Text
The lid was composed of three segments, of which only the middle one is preserved. There
cannot have been a circumferential inscription here according to the pattern of the other
panels, since the picture plate covers the entire width of the box and would consequently also
have to bear word fragments on the right and left. A line of text only on the upper and/or
lower section is rather improbable. If already the realm of death lets our rune master resort to
cryptography (H/S-panel), then the realm of the Aesir may be a taboo zone for him, which
does not allow any commentary.
Only the name Ægili, inserted as a titulus, offers itself for interpretation. It is the name of the
archer, which does not mean Welund's brother Egil. Since we interpret the representation as a
zodiac, the name will be derived from Achill (), who represents the centaur Cheiron, his
instructor in archery, in the zodiac. The ending on 'i' in Ægili would seem odd to us, if it were
not for numerical reasons.
The Æ-rune A æsc, stands for the ash tree, a symbol of defence. About this the Runic Poem"
says: "The ash tree ... it resists steadfastly, even when attacked by many men".
The image
To the right of the round segment, which will have once probably carried the sun disk (not a
button handle), lies a fortified enclosure (walls with battlements, thus no house) with a gate
(and consequently no window) in horizontal projection. The 18 crenelated elements, divided
into 54 segments, can be interpreted as a symbol for the 540 gates of Walhalla, from each of
which 800 warriors (indicated by the 8 attackers) - i.e., 432000 - can storm out. 432000, that is
the aeon formula spread over the whole Indo-European area. If now the elements, from which
the wall is joined, have the form of 27 (3x3x3) grouted S-runes [sss] and if the rune symbol
stands for "sun" (i.e., light, life) then the place fits to Woden/Odin as sun deity.
19
Here the course of the year is embedded in the zodiac. With that Ægil the summer
constellation Sagittarius (archer) is shown, opposite to it the winter constellation Gemini
(twins). These two signs of the zodiac indicate the solstices while the two other ones stand for
the equinoxes. The scene thus reflects the fragile balance between order and chaos. The frost
giants on the one side and the fire giants on the other, symbolize the destructive forces of
nature. They are at permanent war with the ordering forces represented by the gods, who
stand for the cosmic order. At the end, at Ragnarök, the balance fades with the "twilight of the
gods", the Aeon ends, with the death of the sun and the downfall of the Aesir.
The two shield bearers stand for the constellation Shield (Lat. Scutum), a constellation near the
celestial equator, which marks the equinoxes. [This so far unidentified illustration is about
1000 years older than the first written mention around 1690].
In addition to those figural icons, three other constellations of the ecliptic are depicted as
seasonal constellations: The Orion belt with its 3 stars for the time from winter to spring; the 7
Pleiadean stars for the period from summer to autumn; the 2 twin stars Castor and Pollux for
the time around the winter solstice (Jul). Altogether 12 stars, reflecting the 12 months of the
year.
Overall Conclusion
All 6 name initials (F G R T H S Æ) understood as concept runes, reflect the picture icons. This
would be a coincidence (with reservations due to my math) with the probability of 246 which
would number 191.102.976, i.e., almost 1 to 200 million. With 8 initials (G R T H A E S Æ)
resulting in 248 it would be 110.075.314.176.
Also, the names and initials Fisc Gasric Romwalus Titus S(igl) Ægili produce results according
to number and value which cannot be random.
The 4 initials on the 3 life related panels (F G R T) produce the runic value 30. The 2 initials of
the 2 death and afterlife related panels (S Æ) produce the value 42.
Together the 6 initials produce the value 72 (6 x 12 or 3 x 24).
The names Fisc Gasric Romwalus Titus S(igl) Ægili are composed of 24 runes that produce
the value 360 (30 x 12 or 15 x 24).
20
VI. Magic formulas
On the 3 panels dedicated to life, a 9-rune formula on the left edge precedes each thematic
runic initial on the upper edge. Thus, it is obvious that it is a magically effective formula.
The symmetries are obvious: All charms are composed of 9 runes each. For the 3 formulas or
charms referring to the life this makes 27 (3 x 3 x 3), for the 2 charms referring to the afterlife
18 characters, whereby the relation of life to afterlife in picture and word is 3 to 2.
Since also the relation of 27 runes to 330 behaves like 9 runes to 110, likewise (3 to 2), a
coincidence is probably impossible.
Beside the 3 also the 11 appears with a striking frequency (22, 110, 330, 440). While the 3
describes the sphere of life (cf. 330), we find here the 11 rather in the magical context of death
and afterlife (cf. 110).
The Initials
21
These charms on the right sidebars of the F- R- and T-panels follow on the top bar those names
whose runic initials, understood as term runes, correspond to the icon also according to the
Runic Poem: f Wealth (along with g gift), r Ride, t Victory
These 4 name initials on the 3 panels related to life produce the runic value 30, while the
corresponding charms produced 330. (100 x 3)
We now skip the misfortune-boding initial h of the death-bringing Valkyrie, HerhOs.
The runes related to the afterlife are: s sun, life, A defense (here in Valhalla)
These two produce the value of 42. Adding the remaining 30 this results in 72 (24 x 3).
Adding the value of h (9) this results in the positive value 81 (9 x 3), which again transforms
death into resurrection.
Alliterating and Stressed Runes
The accented (partially alliterating) runes of all 5 panels also reveal the numerical intention.
22
The 5 plates bear a total of 27 alliterative or accented runes with a value of 288.
Already the values of the individual plates for themselves (here 24, 48, 80, 110) are
remarkable, the sums even more. Thus 27 is understood as 3 x 3 x 3 and 288 as 12 x
24 or 4 x 72.
23
The texts by Runic Number and Value
Below you will find various materials to follow up and, if necessary, continue the reflections.
The runic texts and their transliteration
fisc 1 flodu 1 ahof on fergenberig warT gas2ric grorn TAr he on greut giswom hronAsban
oTlA unneg romwalus and reumwalus twEgen gibroTAr afEdde hiA wylif in romAcAstri 3
her fegtaT titus endgiuTeasu iiii s r afitatores dom gisl
herh os sitAT on hArmbergA aglac drigiT swA hir i erta e gisgraf sArden sorgA and sefa
tornA
mAgi Agili risci bita wudu
fisc 1 flodu 1 ahof on fergenberig warþ gas2ric grorn þær he on greut gis 3wom hronæsban
oþlæ unneg romwalus and reumwalus twœgen gibroþær afœdde hiæ wylif in romæcæstri 3
her fegtaþ titus end giuþeasu iiii s r afitatores dom gisl
herh os sitæþ on hærmbergæ aglac drigiþ swæ hir i erta e gisgraf særden sorgæ and sefa
tornæ
mægi Ægili risci bita wudu
24
25
The runic texts in their transliteration: Runes, Frequencies and Values
Adopted from Alfred Becker, The King’s Giftbox (forthcoming 2021/22)
Note: The value of the stressed runes (288) is the same as that of the total number of runes
(288) in the texts.
26
VII. An Endless Calendar
The number of runes (288 = 24 × 12 or 12 × 300 = 3600) stands for 10 solar years, the
runic value of all inscriptions is 3568, which stands for 10 lunar years (3540 days) + 1
month (28 days). The overshooting month ensures the progress of time. The Latin text
fragment (in language and script) on the reverse represents a perfect Meton cycle (with
all leap years in runes) that aligns the solar and lunar calendars.
The days of the week are rendered like this:
In Franks Casket, which also uses motifs and techniques that Christianity first
imparted, each element is functional. In this way, its intention is reminiscent of the Old
English "charms", while the Christian representations on reliquaries have rather
apotropaic function, seeking through image and text heavenly assistance, and by
means of a relic, the protection and intercession of the saint venerated here.
The seasons run clockwise from Yule: Modraniht (Front) to Spring: Ride to war (Left),
Summer: Victory and glory (Back) to Fall: Death and resurrection (Right).
The Lid (Æ-Panel) illustrates the course of the years by an endless Zodiak. This is
rendered by the picture on the lid with months, seasons, solstices and equinoxes
indicated by the constellations of Gemini, Scutum, Sagittarius, Scutum. The 432.00
years of the Aeon till Ragnarök.
After All, Results of General Interest
Runes equal numbers
Runic numbers (like 3, 9, 15, 24, 72 etc.) have been regarded as magically effective.
Runic text values are the sum of those runic numbers.
Runes stand for material as well as for immaterial terms
Runic writing may include calendric speculations.
Pictures are no scenes but icons which correspond with individual runes.
Pictures may hide by symbol and number messages in runic terms.
Icons and runes may correspond, supported by runes in number and value.
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Gemini: Castor and Pollux (2 stars), stand for the dying and the upcoming new year.
Scutum: The first written mention of Scutum, constellation at equinox, was first listed
by 1690 in the 1690 work Firmamentum Sobiescianum by Johannes Hevelius.
Sagittarius: The archer represents the summer constellation. Here shown among the
Pleiades (7 stars)
The constellations of Orion Belt (3), Pleiades (7) and Gemini (2) indicate the seasons.
Their seemingly randomly interspersed 12 dot marks represent 3 constellations and at
the same time symbolize the 12 months along with the seasons.
2 of 7 Pleiades/7 Sisters
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The constellations, starting with Æfterra Geola (mid-January) correspond to their
visibility:
The Orion belt (3) for the time until mid-April. - Then, assigned to the Pleiades (7), five
frost-free months until September. The remaining two Pleiades stars indicate the frosty
months of October and November. December and early January are ruled by Castor
and Pollux, i.e., Gemini, illustrating the dying year and the birth of light.
There is no object of such an intricate and sophisticate design known to me north of
the Alps. - South of the mountains neither!
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Summary
The Runic Casket of Auzon (Franks Casket), a carving on whalebone from the early 7th
century, shows on its sides and lid a sequence of images with Christian, classical and pagan
motifs, which we have recognized here as the magically invoked, ideal life course of a royal
hero. - The runic inscription on the obverse offers two alliterative verses on the beaching of a
whale. The alliterative runes provide the indirect contextual reference to the images on this
panel, while the remaining runic inscriptions on the edges of the other panels seem to
comment on their images directly.
A closer look reveals the relationship between the runes and pictorial icons. All texts prove to
be well calculated in terms of rune number and rune value. This system is exemplified by the
front of the casket and made probable by the parallels on the other panels. -The final result is
a perpetual calendar, embedded in a zodiac with its symbols and constellations. - Such a
combination of image, text and number combined with astronomical observations turns an
inconspicuous reliquary chest into a monument without equal.
Search terms: runes, rune magic, image magic, calendar magic
sumé
Le coffret runique d'Auzon (ou: le Coffret d'Auzon) une sculpture sur fanon de baleine du
début du VIIe siècle, présente sur ses côtés et son couvercle une séquence d'images aux
motifs chrétiens, classiques et païens, que nous avons reconnus ici comme le parcours de vie
idéal, invoqué magiquement, d'un héros royal. - L'inscription runique de l'avers propose
deux vers allitératifs sur l'échouage d'une baleine. Les runes allitératives fournissent la
référence contextuelle indirecte aux images de ce panneau, tandis que les autres inscriptions
runiques sur les bords des autres panneaux semblent commenter directement leurs images. -
Un examen plus attentif révèle la relation entre les runes et les icônes picturales. Tous les
textes s'avèrent bien calculés en termes de nombre et de valeur des runes. Ce système est
illustré par la façade du cercueil et rendu probable par les parallèles sur les autres panneaux.
-Le résultat final est un calendrier perpétuel, intégré dans un zodiaque avec ses symboles et
ses constellations. - Une telle combinaison d'images, de textes et de chiffres, associée à des
observations astronomiques, transforme un coffre reliquaire discret en un monument sans
égal.
Termes de recherche : runes, magie runique, magie des images, magie du calendrier
Traduit avec www.DeepL.com/Translator (version gratuite)
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Bibliography
The bibliography lists only those works that have been specifically addressed here. The three
publications of the author mentioned below provide comprehensive references.
Becker, Alfred, Franks Casket; Zu den Bildern und Inschriften des Runenkästchens von Auzon;
Regensburger Arbeiten zur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, vol. 5 (1973).
Ders.: Franks Casket: Das Runenkästchen von Auzon; Magie in Bildern, Runen und Zahlen (Berlin,
2021)
Ders.: The Kings Gift Box (forthcoming 2021/22)
Birkhan, Helmut, Magie im Mittelalter (Munich 2010)
Düwel, Klaus, Runenkunde (Weimar, 2001)
Napier, A.S. “Contributions to Old English Literature; 2: The Franks Casket”; An English
Miscellany presented to Dr. Furnivall in Honour of his 75th Birthday (1901)
Oehrl, Sigmund, „Wieland – Herodes. Der Bethlehemitische Kindermord und die Frontseite
des Franks Casket“, Hvanndalir – Beiträge zur europäischen Altertumskunde und
mediävistischen Literaturwissenschaft, 429 461 (De Gruyter, 2018).
Ders.: Bildliche Darstellungen vom Schmied Wieland und ein unerwarteter Auftritt in
Walhall“, in: Goldsmith Mysteries, Archaeological, pictorial and documentary evidence from the 1st
millennium AD in northern Europe (2012), 279 332.
Pollington, Stephen, The Elder Gods, The Otherworld of Early England (2011)
Ders.: The English Warrior (1996),
Schneider, Karl, Die germanischen Runennamen (1956)
Schwab, Ute, Franks Casket: Fünf Studien zum Runenkästchen von Auzon, Studia Medievalia
Septentrionalia 15, (Wien, 2008).
Stiller, Max „Germanische Heldensage und Historiographie, neue Deutungen“, in Filologica
Germanica, Supplemento 1 (2019), 233 - 252
Wadstein, Elis, The Clermont Runic Casket (Upsala, 1900
Webster, Leslie, The Franks Casket; Objects in Focus, British Museum Press (2012)
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32
33
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Franks Casket: Das Runenkästchen von Auzon
  • Ders
Ders.: Franks Casket: Das Runenkästchen von Auzon; Magie in Bildern, Runen und Zahlen (Berlin, 2021) Ders.: The King's Gift Box (forthcoming 2021/22)
Contributions to Old English Literature; 2: The Franks Casket
  • A S Napier
Napier, A.S. "Contributions to Old English Literature; 2: The Franks Casket";
Bildliche Darstellungen vom Schmied Wieland und ein unerwarteter Auftritt in Walhall
  • Ders
Ders.: "Bildliche Darstellungen vom Schmied Wieland und ein unerwarteter Auftritt in Walhall", in: Goldsmith Mysteries, Archaeological, pictorial and documentary evidence from the 1st millennium AD in northern Europe (2012), 279 -332.
  • Ute Schwab
  • Franks Casket
Schwab, Ute, Franks Casket: Fünf Studien zum Runenkästchen von Auzon, Studia Medievalia Septentrionalia 15, (Wien, 2008).
The Clermont Runic Casket
  • Elis Wadstein
Wadstein, Elis, The Clermont Runic Casket (Upsala, 1900