Bird, Book & Bone
animism, ecstasy, knowledge, chaos

13 April 2013 @ 9pm


Lars Magnar Enoksen needs a better pair of glasses: cryptorunes, bindrunes and the Kylver rune stone

Feast your eyes on this, the Kylver rune stone:

Kylver rune stone

Look closer.

Kylver futhark


Kylver bindrune

The Kylver rune stone is the earliest known carving of the Elder Futhark rune row in sequential order, which is followed by a tree-like symbol.  (There’s also to the right side, a palindrome S U E U S –probably related, due to its proximity, but the meaning is unknown and it uses a much later version of one of the runic characters.)  Anyway, pay attention to the tree-like symbol (bindrune) because it’s going to get more interesting.

Before we get into what the bindrune means, it would probably help to have some context.

The Elder Futhark is traditionally broken into aettir, or three groups (each one an aett) of eight runes.


 Cryptorunes are a (generally weak) code wherein the tick marks on one side of the figure indicate the aett and the tick marks on the other side indicate the number within the indicated aett.  For example, twig cryptorunes from a Neolithic burial chamber in Maeshowe, Orkney, that a group of Vikings crashed in about six centuries ago:

Orkney runes

Twig cryptorunes are easy to carve, so they form the majority of cryptorune inscriptions, though once manuscripts became a thing, cryptorunes got really fanciful:

MS AM 687d 4°

MS AM 687d 4°

Fish!  Spirals!  Whatever the hell that wolf/crocodile-looking monsters are!

Most of the cryptorunes we’ve come across seem to be unnecessary, in that they aren’t very valuable for securely encrypting information; so they must be ornamental or magical, because precision-carving stone by hand isn’t easy and I take as my first assumption that ancient people weren’t stupid.  Many bindrunes end up being similarly ornamental or magical, given that they are often given names or their meaning is not always obvious, so they would be an unreliable way of conveying information.  Again, ancient people aren’t stupid: if you’re going to the effort of carving a rune stone, you’re not going to skimp on clarity just because you’re lazy.

So with that in mind, back to the tree-like bindrune at the end of the Kylver futhark.

Some of the explanations of the bindrune include Terje Spurkland’s: “The twigs on the left of the stave represent six t runes while the twigs on the right, in pairs, stand for four a runes: tttttt, aaaa, or six times ‘Týr’ and four times ‘áss’ in the meaning of ‘god’.”  Except that doesn’t make much sense — invoking Tyr is weird contextually and neither six nor four are magically-significant numbers for a Scandinavian.  Lars Magnar Enoksen suggests it’s a bindrune of stacked Tiwaz runes, which doesn’t make sense, because the left side is missing two lines, and again, what the hell would the significance be?

Now, we can argue all day on whether the runic characters were “really” used for magic, given that it is an utterly partisan debate.  There’s substantial evidence that they were used for both magical enchantments/incantations inscribed on valuable objects, perhaps crossing over with cryptorunes or with a sort of scrambled sigilic inscription, and that even the individual characters were likely regarded as magically valuable.  But it’s pretty clear to me that you don’t painstakingly carve the alphabet in stone in 400 CE with a little bindrune at the end if it doesn’t mean something; and I figure most literate adults would be bored with putting that much effort into kindergarten-level carving unless it was magic, unless the characters were an invocation or a supplication.

What makes sense for a rational carver is that the Futhark — the runes, the rúnar, the secrets — are not merely a literary alphabet but magically significant and that the bindrune at the end is not a random repetition of runes but a magically significant distillation of the rune row preceding it.  The bindrune is not invoking Tyr and the Aesir, it’s not a sloppy repetition of the Tiwaz rune, it’s the cryptorunic encapsulation of the entire rune row in a tidy sigil, almost qabalistic in its cosmic symbolic shorthand.

Kylver bindrune

Boom.  The Elder Futhark is a script with independent magical qualities worthy of being invoked, and the ~mystery symbol~ is a crypto-bindrune for the Futhark.  That’s two mysteries solved.



Let’s address the Seeland-II-C bracteate, an artefact dating to around 500 CE with a “triple Tiwaz” runic inscription often cited in connection with the Kylver rune stone.

Seeland-II-C bracteate

The bracteate has an actual message (to the tune of “Hariuha I am called: the danger-wise/travel-wise one: I give chance” with a figure that is arguably Odin). The bindrune following the inscription could be a magical bindrune linked with military power, if you take the spear-like Tiwaz and interpret it as a Tyr invocation (‘danger-wise’), or a bindrune connected to the guiding pole-star interpretation of Tiwaz, if you take the ‘travel-wise’ translation.

Or we could take the obscurists’ approach and read it not as Tiwaz-Tiwaz-Tiwaz but as a cryptorune (3-3) which gives us Ehwaz:

aettir - Ehwaz

Whether or not that’s what the writer intended, it’s certainly interesting: Ehwaz is the horse-rune, though always with a rider, an interesting synchronicity for a bracteate illustrating a horse and rider (perhaps a splendid-hoofed steed like that of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem).  As a magical inscription, Ehwaz would be appropriate for anyone travel-wise and opportunist; it is “always help” to the restless horse-riders of the stanza.  If the figure is Odin (highly likely) then yes, three Tiwaz is a valid hammering home of his martial and navigational skills; but Ehwaz would be a more cunning allusion to Sleipnir, the best of horses.

This is part of what I find infinitely interesting about deep-level rune study, which reminds me strongly of what qabalah I’ve learned — in cases like this bracteate, it’s pretty much impossible now to know which one (if not both) the writer intended, but it doesn’t matter.  At this point, everything is talking to me.

1 Comment

Posted by
Messier 87
10 December 2013 @ 1am

I found another source that may confirm what you said, check Burton, Richard Francis, Sir. “The Ogham-runes and El-Mushajjar : a study”, page 3, in

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