Home H - panel (Right Side) - The Inscription: Herh-os


Different from the foregoing inscriptions this text starts quite clearly on the left upper edge, runs down the right edge, continues upside down on the lower border and ends on the left edge. The structure of this inscription is the same, as on the opposite R-Panel, only that does not begin with an incantation on the left edge. Whether we have one at all will be discussed later.1

Here and there we have a bottom line with its runes kept upside down. The reason for that may be the hallowed realm (hearh), the forest. Due to that and to the perilous topic the rune master takes to cryptography. He encodes his wording by replacing the vowels with symbols similar to runes. This method was also used by his contemporary, Wynfriþ Boniface, (around 700) and even the Romans knew it. This reason for cryptography here is simply this: This panel is meant to procure our warrior a death on the battlefield, but of course not necessarily now. If someone could read the spell he might cite those powers, but here some troublemaker would not only have to know the code, he would have to stand on his head in order to trigger harm. Just turn it round? Do not touch, if you believe in magic!

Anyway, something must have gone terribly wrong. Two runes in the word agl(ac), which means 'un-luck' have been erased. The shavings will have been burnt (that is what Egil - according to the Egilssaga - did).

The reading is not quite certain, but metrical considerations and deductions from the picture can help. This is composed of three segments while the text is composed of three alliterating verses. Divided into words and verses we read:

  herh os sitæþ on hærmbergæ
agl(ac) drigiþ swa hir i erta e gisgraf
særden sorgæ and sefa tornæ

Within the picture we find three words filled in: risci " wudu " bita

Usually they read her hos sitæþ, and translate: "Here sits the horse", which seems to be erroneous from any point of view, anatomy, biology, iconography among others. If a horse could ever be talked into sitting the T-Panel shows what it might look like. As the setting is similar to that on the R-Panel, we find ourselves in a holy grove, herh < hearg (Ger. Heiliger Hain); and the only creature is no horse (oddly spelt her hos) but rather some os of the herh, a deity of the grove. With Herh-os we have a name positioned just like the names Fisc, Romwalus, Titus on the other panels. This goddess of the grove "sits on hærmberge", very likely her archetypal seat, a dwelling quite popular among gods. From here she works 'harm'; grief and pain come from here.

Less plain is the reading hir-i-erta-e-gisgraf, but again the picture can support the reading. Whether it is erta(e) or ierta(e), it is a supernatural being, quite likely Erce, the Anglo-Saxon 'Mother Earth', "Erce, Erce, Erce, eorÞen moÞer" as referred to in a charm.2 If Jörð (Old Norse "earth") is related with "earth" the reading "hir IERTA" should be preferred to "hiri ERTA". Nevertheless "Erta" is the deity we are after. It is quite likely that the Christian scribe changed the pagan "Erta" into a less suspicious "Erce". "Erta" goes along with Earthmothers like "Hertha", "Bertha", Perchta" and even with "Nerthus", which Tacitus knows.
Compare The Virgin and the Vamp.
May be the c in Erce became t, for the sake of rune value or, may be, to illustrate her fatal function in the game, as t-Rune turns into fate. This would agree with double function of that rune in the word bit-Runea.
For the third verse as well we have to refer to the picture, where terms like særden are disputed. There are two creatures fairly active, so that we prefer ‚to cause' and not 'to endure'. We may now translate:

  The goddess of the grove is sitting on the mount of sorrow
she works fate, as Erta imposed on her
they cause grief and distress.

The words in the picture are risci, 'twig'; wudu, 'wood'; bita, 'biter'.

1 The interpretation of this panel follows Wolfgang Krause, "Erta, ein anglischer Gott", Die Sprache 5 (1959) 46-54

2 Wikipedia: "In Norse mythology, Jörð (Old Norse "earth", pronounced /jɔrð/, sometimes Anglicized as Jord or Jorth), is a giantess, the mother of Thor, and the personification of the Earth. Fjörgyn and Hlôdyn are considered to be other names for Jörð.Jörð is also the goddess of Earth. Jörð is reckoned a goddess, like other giantesses who coupled with the gods. Jörð's name appears in skaldic poetry both as a poetic term for the land and in kennings for Thor. Etymology
Jörð is the common word for earth in Old Norse, as are the word's descendants in the modern Scandinavian languages; Icelandic jörð, Faroese jørð, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian jord. It is cognate to English "earth" through Old English eorðe."
"Fergenberg" (Front) may be an allusion to "Erta" (Right), describing the circle from "Birth" to "Death".


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