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Orkney runes: The new blog

Welcome to the Orkney runes blog!

Dear reader,

you might have found this blog because you follow my work or because you googled something to do with runes and Orkney. Here, I will regularly share some musings about my PhD project “Runic writing in the diaspora: Expression of a Norse identity?” which is supervised by the Institute for Northern Studies, UHI in Kirkwall and the Centre for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Aberdeen. It is an Applied Research Collaboration, funded by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, and as a non-academic partner, Orkney Museum, which hosts some of the inscriptions I work with, is also involved.

The “old” blog posts can be found here: Blog at INS page

I hope you enjoy my musings, and if you have any further questions about my research or suggestions for topics, feel free to contact me!

The runestones of Medelpad

I have been back from Sweden for a while now, but hadn’t got round to sorting through my runestone photos yet. The reason, though, is a good one – I just finished a first full draft of my PhD thesis. Now I’m getting round to looking through all the photos I took in Medelpad, and want to share some of the beautiful local runestones with you. I’m giving the signum for each stone, so those readers who are inclined to learn more about them, can look them up in the Scandinavian Runic Database or use the Swedish wikipedia – and the soon-to-be-published scholarly edition of the runic inscriptions of Medelpad, not to forget.

This is M 1, from Nolby:

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M 2, now next to the church at Njurunda, is sadly only a fragment. We spent quite a while there, discussing the name on it, because it could be both male or female.

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M 11 stands in the impressive grave field of Högom. As you can see, its edges are broken off, but luckily only to such an extent that almost the entire inscription remains readable.

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These two, M 4 and M 5, are now both found next to the churchyard fence in Attmarby. The smaller stone, now only a fragment, is M 4 – and could be the most northerly Invar-stone (discussing the fatal journey to the east by Ingvar the Far-Travelled) that is currently known.

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M 7, the fragment below, is built into the church wall at Tuna. Our lucky groups of field runologists was treated to some excellent organ music while inspecting the inscription.

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M 8 now stands at Sköle, the Hembygdsgård of Tuna commune. And yes, it has its own little roof. It also demonstrated that not all runestones were carved with equal aesthetic skill.

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These two, M 15 and M 16, now stand next to the church at Skön. Both rune animals’ heads on these are shown in the birds’ eye perspective, which makes these potentially some of the older runestones in the area.

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In addition, a report about the 2019 Gender and Medieval Studies Conference in Durham, which I co-authored with Dr Rebecca Merkelbach has been published in the current issue of Kyngervi Journal. It’s worth checking out the other contributions, too, if you have an interest in Norse culture: Kyngervi Journal

Speed dating the runes of Medelpad

Once again, I am about to head away from Orkney on the overnight boat to Aberdeen. This time, my journey leads to Sweden, Sundsvall in Medelpad to be precise. And what will I be doing there? I have a speed date with some amazing runestones.

It is the annual field runologists’ meeting where runologists from all corners of Europe as well as the USA and Russia come together in a chosen area to examine the local runic inscriptions, discuss all things runology and exchange ideas. As part of it, there’s also a public event, a “Speed date with the runes of Medelpad” where many runologists will give quick talks about certain aspects of the runes of Medelpad. It will be in Swedish (and other Scandinavian languages) and happens at Danslogen in Sundsvall on Thursday, 23rd May, at 7 PM. It’s free entry, so better come early to get a space!

Speed-date med Medelpads runor

If you come, you’ll also get to hear me discuss some aspects of the memory of voyages in a comparison of the Medelpad-ish runestone M 4 from Attmarby and the Maeshowe inscription Or Barnes 24 from Orkney.

Reflections on the exhibition

Here is a little guest contribution, reflecting on the exhibition as part of my PhD and what I have learned from it. It’s on the SGSAH Blog where you can also find lots of other interesting contributions, ranging from advice on the PhD process to glimpses of the many other fascinating projects Arts and Humanities PhD students across Scotland are working on.

SGSAH Guest Blog Post

Exhibition ended

Now my temporary exhibition on runes at Orkney Museum is ended, and I spent most of yesterday returning the loaned items to their owners. While that was very sad, I have good news: We have filmed all of the exhibition and at some point it will be made available online. I will post a link here once the virtual display is finished.

In the exhibition, I asked visitors for their suggestions what might be written on the inside of the tiny lead amulet from Quoys which cannot be unfolded without breaking it. Here are two beautiful ideas:

“He who joys and grieves, he wears the amulet the rainbow weaved.”

“From the darkness preserve me”

What do you think?

Upcoming exhibition on Runes in Orkney

Exciting news! As part of my Applied Research Collaborative Studentship, I am currently preparing an exhibition about “Runes in Orkney” at Orkney Museum. It runs from 9 March to 30 March at the museum’s special exhibition room and is free entry during the museum’s opening hours.

I’m happy to confirm that some rune-inscribed objects from Orkney will be on display which have never been displayed anywhere before, and there will also be works by local artists and designers who continue to be inspired by Orkney’s runic heritage.

Runes in Orkney Poster-1.jpg

A completely non-runic post

Seeing as all good things come in threes, here is another link to a guest blog post I recently wrote. This one was for SGSAH (Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities) who are funding my PhD research along with UHI. In a complete departure from my usual focus on runes, this post discusses the process of completing a PhD and how chess, of all things, helps me do it.

What chess does to my PhD