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Runic Inscriptions about Love

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(Original article 1/2018)

Valentine’s day is soon so I’m sharing some runic inscriptions about love here. Some of them I have already mentioned before here on my blog.

The oldest love related runic inscriptions not necessarily deal with romantic love as we understand it today. The idea of romantic love probably developed later in the Middle Ages, in the 12th century, with the troubadour culture.

The purpose of the oldest, short inscriptions was magical and they were expected to generate love, fidelity, lust and so on, for the owner of the object or for the person mentioned in the text. Later, the inscriptions got longer and were more like messages. About the runic inscriptions, in general, I have written here.

Leub and its variations – Love

The word leub often appears in the old inscriptions found in the area what is now called Germany. It occurs in the inscriptions in different forms: leub, leubo, leuba, leubi, leubwini, lbi, leob, liub. Leub means love in its basic form. Leubo and leuba are probably adjectives, masculine and feminine: dear, beloved, darling.

The texts including the word leub date to the 6th and 7th centuries and they like the other oldest runic inscriptions are written on objects. One of the leub words was written on a brooch found in the grave of a woman in Germany, near Engers. On the brooch, only one word, “leub”, was inscribed. However, someone stole the brooch and melted it afterwards.

For the beloved wayfarer

Another inscription in the form of leubo also on a brooch was found in Germany, Schretzheim. The text says: “Sithwagadin, leubo”,

For the wayfarer, love.

Here the word leubo is masculine and likely refers to the wayfarer because the brooch was in the grave of a woman. Maybe the purpose of the text was to generate love for the absent lover. Or the wayfarer may refer to a life companion, the fellow traveller.

Written by women?

Researchers have stated that women wrote the oldest inscriptions from Germany: men preferred the Latin alphabet and women the runes. At least, often these texts originate from the graves of women.

Also, on another object, an amulet box, found in Schretzheim there was an inscription with two female names, the word leuba connected with the names and a text: they did. The text may mean that these women wrote the text on the box.

Late love inscriptions from Norway

In the 1950s they excavated hundreds of runic inscriptions written on pieces of wood and bone in a harbour of Bergen, Norway. They date to the 12th – 14th centuries. The texts are everyday messages, names of the owners, bookkeeping related and also love-related texts.

Ingebor slept with me when I was in Stavanger

Rune stick from the 12th century

Runic inscription from the 12th century. “Ingeborg slept with me when I was in Stavanger” Bengt A Lundberg / Riksantikvarieämbetet [CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Later Norse literature tells about the habit of men throwing message sticks into the laps of women to express their interest. Maybe, the next inscriptions originate from that kind of sticks.

The stick from Bergen with the message:

My love, kiss me

The text dates to the 12th century. Also, there is an inscription with the same “Kiss me” message from Oslo.

From Oslo is also a text that someone carved on the rib of a cow:

The man who carved these runes loves you, Þordís. Þóra, I know how to make love.

A stick that dates to the 13th century with a proposal was found in the Lom church, Norway:

Hávarðr sends to Guðný God’s greetings and his own friendship. And now it is my full will to ask for your hand, if you do not want to be with Kolbeinn. Consider your marriage plans and let me know your will.

Someone had tried to erase the names of the stick hidden under the floorboards of a church. The gravel stuck on the other end of the stick made researchers think that maybe the stick was originally a part of a walking stick that Hávarðr used to write a letter on the way to the church.

At the church, he would have given the stick to Guðný who wanted to get rid of it by hiding it under the floor and tried to erase the names. Maybe she was even with Kolbeinn. So it seems that the proposal of Hávarðr was denied.

In Bergen, they also spoke Latin:

Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori

“Love conquers all; let us too yield to love.” Someone carved this quote, originally by a Latin poet, Virgil, on a wooden stick in the 13th century. It concluded a Norse love poem written for a “beautiful, dangerous woman” by someone.

More runic inscriptions about love:

From Bergen:
From Oslo:
Runic Amulets and Magic Objects, Mindy MacLeod and Bernard Mees, 2006

runic inscription about love by solekoru

Some runic inscriptions about love in solekoru jewellery: “Think of me, I think of you; love me, I love you”. This is a love poem from Bergen, Norway.