A Magic Spell, "powered by" a Luni-Solar Calendar
The Elder fuÞark, a luni-solar calendar formular?
I. The thesis in brief: A Charm for Life and Death
1. In order to design a magic charm for the sake of his (probably royal) protégée the rune-master first chose an appropriate set of runes (runic intent) and then picked the motifs which matched them best. There are 4 topic runes (and pictures) referring to life (solar level) and 2 topic runes related to death and "thereafter"(lunar level).
2. Each inscription is composed with numerical intent as to its number of runes and their values (according to their position in the runic row) both aiming at certain totals.
3. The number of runes corresponds to 10 solar years of 360 days. The odd 5 (holy-) days “between” the years were not part of them.
The value of these runes corresponds to 10 lunar years of 357 days each, slightly more than the sidereal year (354,36) holds.
4. The divergence between the solar calendar (referring to "Life") and the lunar scheme (referring to "Death") is evened out by an "Eight-Year Cycle" (Reuter4), a schedule for sacrifices, and by the 19-Year Cycle, known in the ancient world as the "Metonic Cycle". Both scales are hidden in the Latin portion on the Back Panel.
Back (T-Panel): Titus conquers Jerusalem (HIERUSALIM)
II. The thesis in detail: How did he make the Charm work?
1. Stages of Life and Death, as a Gate to "thereafter"
As expounded in Asterisk XII/2 (2003) pp. 83 - 128 (comp. www.franks-casket.de) the programme of the casket, a
The scenes from Bible (Mægi), ), history (Titus), classical Roman (Romulus) and Germanic mythology or saga (Weland, Egil and Herh-Os) serve as emblems for the protégée’s different stages of life in order to direct his destiny (O.E. wyrd) to the better. The pictures have little or no ornamental function. They are engraved rather for their emblematic quality to signify the decisive stages of life from birth to death and beyond.
The thematic runes ( Runes and Relevance)
All 4 panels bear inscriptions, 3 of them introduced by a 9 -rune spell on the left rim [total value 330] while the 4th panel opens with “bad news” in order to change it by a 9 -rune spell [value 110] on the right rim. These 9 -rune phrases are directly followed by a “thematic” rune, i.e. a rune, the name of which directly corresponds with the theme of the picture it belongs to. In the case of the F-Panel there are two such runes alliterating in the verses of the whale, as there are two different scenes depicted. Including the Lid (Æ-Panel), which only bears a person's name, there are the following 6 thematic runes with their names (O.E. and N.E. in brackets):
2. Runes, Numbers and Values to help the Charm
Each inscription is composed with numerical intention as to its number of runes and their values (i.e. their position in the runic row), both aiming at certain totals. It seems as if the carver had allowed (or limited) himself (to) a definite and significant number of each rune (see Runes & Values), from which he then composed his texts, in order to create suitable numerical values.Out of the Anglo-Saxon runic row of 33 runes he used
**including words within pictures (risci, wudu, bita, mægi, Ægili)
3. Lunisolar Aspects of Runic Numbers and Values
3.1 The plain solar year as reflected in the inscriptions
In early medieval thinking each and every number (and its multiple) was of some significance, in particular
If we equate 24 with 300 (1+2+3+4 ... +24 = 300) and multiply that with 12 [the number of runes (288) is the product of 12 x 24] the score is 3600. This is the number of days in 10 solar years of 12 months at 30 days each, occasionally subdivided into 6 weeks of 5 days
In order to bring this 360-day year (72 weeks of 5 days each) in line with the tropical year of 365 days 5 hollowed day-week (of 5 days) was celebrated, which was neither a part of the past nor of the oncoming year. The German term "zwischen den Jahren" (between the years), remembers this practice. This was the time from Midwinter, Middanwinter till Modra Nect (O.E. Geol, N.E. Yule), in our terms Dec. 21st. till Dec. 25th., which was seen as the re-birth of the sun . In later days this date celebrated the birth of Christ, who himself was equated with Sol Invictus, the “Invincible Sun”. 11
The 3 days between (in our terms) the 21st (Midwinter) and the 25th December (Modra Nect) could be regarded as a period of transition from Death to Life , comparable to the Resurrection of Christ (after he had “descended into hell”) on the 3rd day. With regard to this the picture of the Mægi is quite meaningful, as they, too, - told by their gifts - symbolize the cycle of life. The period of 10 years – which results from the number and value of the runes – does not constitute a certain duration of time and spell, it rather describes a cycle, which ends after 9 (19, 29 etc.) completed years and sets in again with 10 (20, 30 etc.). This way the sequence does not come to an end.
This type of solar calendar may have been in use with peasants, but it was not sufficient for the temple or church. Here the days of feasts, in particular Easter, needed to be predictable. On the Runic Casket it serves to regulate the solar aspect of “here and now”: Life.
3.2 The plain lunar year as reflected in the inscriptions2
The number of runes (288) in the text is one aspect, their total value (3567 or 3572) the other. The number is plain counting, the value bases on the position of the runes in the fuþorc
A rosette of 12 rays can be regarded to be a symbol for the solar year or, more precisely, for its cycle from birth to death, 360 days from Geol to Midwinter. If the number of 288 runes stands for 3600, this would make 10 solar years of 360 days each, i.e. 12 months of 30 days.
A rosette of 13 rays (as in the picture of the Mægi) would indicate the same, though now hinting at a lunar period. If the runic value 3572 is read in terms of days, this would make 10 lunar years of 357,2 days each, i.e. 27,476 days per month.3 This is close to (but not quite) the sidereal lunar year of 355 days, divided into 13 months of 27 days each; a total of 351 days with 4 leap days (months of 28 days) added to it.
The lunar month by the Sidereal Cycle , calculated by modern observation, actually measures 27,322 days, a difference of a couple of hours per month, of 2,8 days per year, of quite precisely one lunar month in 10 years. Why that? This difference may well be intended, as the rune-master did not want the circle to come to a stand still, a "dead end", literally. This method seems to be kept through at other cycles, as we will see further down.
We achieve a similar result, now according to the Synodic Cycle, if we divide the runic value (~ 3570 days by 12 months). With 29,7 days we are a couple of hours over the 29,5 days per month, which sums up to about 3 days per year or one month in 10 years. Again this may indicate the beginning of the new cycle. Nevertheless, the correspondence with the sidereal cycle is due to the values they base on.
Quite precisely the synodic month takes 29.53059 days. 12 months of 29.53 days make a year of 354,36 days; 11 days short of a tropical year, which has 365.2424 days. An embolic year of 13 months was the corrective. Thus a third Liþa (name of the months June and July) was inserted, when the cycle threatened to drop behind.
However, the Germanic country folks – almost each and everyone those days – would observe the moon from new to new, as the new month (new moon) started with the first sighting of the waxing crescent, the "knife of time , which “cut the months” from one another." Their month was 29 or 30 days long, depending on the edge of that "knife".
The Three Mægi, believed to be astronomers, may be supposed to have worked with a 13-month calendar (cf. rosette), of 355,18 days per year. A calculation of that nature is based on expert astronomic knowledge as priests will have had. And people like them knew the means to even out the discrepancies between the calendars.
4. The 8- and 19-Year-Cycles as Correctives
T-Panel: Latin text part: HCFUGANTHEUALM
In order to catch up with that solar year of 365.24 days a cycle of 19 years (a time-span of 235 lunations) was introduced, during which the divergence of time from about 11 days in 1 year could be reduced to about 2 hours in total. This Metonic Cycle required 7 Embolismic years, i.e. leap years of 13 months inserted among the Ordinary years. 4
Along with that rule we have the Eight-year cycle (Reuter5: Achtjahr ). It has 5 years of 12 months and 3 embolic years of 13 months with 99 lunations altogether, a number which made this particular cycle very special. It was easier to observe because of the shorter time span and good enough for the calculation of feasts and sacrifices, but on the long run less precise.
If the Runic Casket incorporates a lunar calendar, we may expect such a corrective. Here we turn to the T-Panel (Back) with its otherwise inexplicable Latin text, strange in grammar and script, a passage which has puzzled scholars ever since:
4.1 Baffling at first:
We may still wonder why there are 20 characters instead of 19, which stand for the 19 years of the Metonic Cycle. But as the calendar is to "power" the spell of pictures and runes for the benefit of the protégée for whom it was designed, it must not end here. So the 20th letter, M - holding the same position (20) as the rune in fuþark and fuþorc, where it means “Man” - takes him into the next cycle. It perpetuates the sequence beyond midwinter, which is synonymous with “death”.
And if we now figure the value of all the 20 characters - Latin, runic and majuscule - in the same way we treat the runic values of the other texts we arrive at 238.
4.3 The choice and position of letters
The i-rune, along with the letter H, takes position 12 in both the runic rows, i.e. it takes the rank of , meaning jera, year, equivalent to the letter J. And it stands for the letter J in "Jerusalim", here "HIERUSALIM". From this position , replacing J, looks back at the "solar year", i.e. "life". We may guess that it continues with "death" and resurrection at Easter.
The text leads up to the runic S, here in its (unique shape ). It stands for the life-giving 'Sun'
A sequence of just 19 letters would end on I, which stands for 'Ice' (water, which freezes), the mark of winter and symbol of death. In other words, the letters take us from the beginning of the first day of the first year (Geol, December 25th) - over the stretch of 19 years - to the very end
In order not to let the cycle of birth and death finish here, the 20th letter, 'M', takes us into spring. The letter 'M', interpreted like the rune (rank 20 in the runic row and in this text), means 'man' and it may stand for the Solar Hero (Sol Invictus ), who becomes apparent after the 3rd night of the new moon. In Christian creed it is Christ, who descends to Hell and is resurrected on the 3rd day, to remain there for 40 days, before he ascends to Heaven (sky). 11 This corresponds very well with the fates of solar heroes like Baldr. The God of light, beauty and justice, the deity of spring, is a dying and resurrecting god. The time of resurrection - here and there - is celebrated with "Easter", so named after the undying God(dess) of Spring and Equinox, if not after a forgotten god ‘Ostar’. 12
The overlapping featurtes of fuþark or fuþorc, respectively, and this Latin-Runic composition, the Metonic cycle, seem to confirm the original calandar function of the runic rows.
5. Jewish Lunar Calendar and FC-Calendar in Comparison
Jahr(J) = Year (Y)
19Year = Metonic Cycle
The position of the leap years in both (8 and 19 year) cycles on the Franks Casket corresponds closely with that of the Jewish Lunar Calendar. Deviations result from the geographic position (degree of longitude) of the observer, as the moon becomes visible later the further west (e.g. Spain) he is. Anyway, as the rune master had to produce a legible text he may have been forced into a sequence only close to reality, in particular if - with the runic sequence
6. The Function of the "Calendars"
The circle of solar and lunar calendar, of runic numbers and values closes, when we detect that the difference between the values of the >birth panel< (Front: 720) and the >death panel< (Right: 1008) corresponds precisely with the number of runes (281 runes + 7 dots), by which the inscriptions are composed. Coincidence or not, the time between conception and birth is about the same.
Annotations: 0 The Fylgja (Old Norse) is a female following spirit, who at the end turns into the hero's Valkyrie and redeemer.
1 The use of a Solar Calendar is reported from pre-Christian Norway. The year comprised 12 months of 30 days each, which were divided in 6 weeks with 5 days apiece. Thus the year consisted of 72 weeks or 360 days. The remaining 5 days were “holy days”, which were neither part to the past nor part of the new year. In order to correctly counting during the polar night the moon had to be observed. See O. S. Reuter, Der Himmel über den Germanen (München 1936) p. 25 f, „Das altnorwegische Sonnenjahr“
3 If we comprehend the 5 marks (or: dots) next to ÆGILI (Lid) as "placeholders" for runes (each = 1 in number and value ), we arrive at a total value of 3572 (instead of 3567) and a value of all words within the pictures of 300 (instead of 295). This should not affect the number of runes, which corresponds with the solar year of 360 days. This year was brought to the necessary total of 365 days by odd 5 holy days “between the years”, days which did not count as part of either year. So these 5 marks, placed in the “holy region” of Walhalla (Lid), will stand for that hallowed period (Dec. 21st to Dec. 25th thus not being part of the solar rune number, but an element of the lunar year.
4 Metonic Cycle. Meton of Athens (ca. 440 BC) noticed that 235 lunar months made up almost exactly 19 solar years. In modern measurement: 19 tropical years of 365,2425 days/year by 29,5359 days/synodic (lunar) month = 234,997 synodic months/19 tropical years. Since 12 lunar months equal 354.367 days, about 11 days less than a solar year, an additional 235-19(12) = 7 lunar months were added to synchronise the cycle. These were added in years 3, 5, 8, 11, 13, 16, and 19 of the cycle.
5 O.S. Reuter, Der Himmel über den Germanen; pp. 23 "Die Zeitrechnung".
6 instead of on Chessel Down sheath, Thames Sax and Cuthbert Coffin; here on the Runic Casket it serves to distinguish this particular rune in its particular place from all the other S-runes.
7 O.S. Reuter: Der Himmel über den Germanen; "Die Lage des Julfestes. Das nordische Mondjahr und der Achtjahresschaltkreis." pp 30 - 34. According to Reuter the 99 lunations during this time, 99 heads had to be sacrificed. The author also reports an observation from 1689, when a Swedish physician met a peasant with a rune-rod, who cited the rule for the Disting full moon with the words: "Der Mond schreitet 12 und 20 während Aun." Reuter concludes that "Aun" is the time span between 12 and 20 during which the moon progresses.
8 "On the first day of the year, that is, on the first day of Yule all christian folke honour Christ's birth" (The Shrine, p. 29, l. 26) Joseph Bosworth(An Anglo-Saxon dictionary; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1898, 1983) quotes twice from The Shrine (1864-1870) by the Rev. Oswald Cockayne.
9 Homer makes Odysseus leave Ithaca, and then return and secretly meet Penelope at just the exact moment one cycle occurs. As to this H. P. Aleff in "Phaistos Disk" (The Phaistos Disk) "This is very much the pattern of the “solar hero”, here Odysseus, who “warred and travelled for nineteen years to rejoin his weaving and unweaving moon-wife Penelope at the beginning of the twentieth”. Very significantly he “arrived in the garb of an old man, in biting cold weather. He won his wife and kingdom back on the day of the sun god Apollo’s great festival, meaning the winter solstice. We are also told repeatedly that "this very month -- just as the old moon dies and the new moon rises into life -- Odysseus will return!" His first incognito night on the island is 'a foul night, the dark of the moon', so the festival on his third day there coincided with the appearance of the new moon."
10 Golther, Germanische Mythologie, S. 366 (Baldr)
11 Wikipedia: "Sol invictus" The date for Christmas may also bear a relation to the sun worship. According to the scriptor Syrus, writing in the fourth century: "It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day."
12 Vollmer, Wörterbuch der Mythologie (1874) lists the name Ostar and ascribes it to a Moon-god, for whom bulls had to be sacrificed.
13 Wikipedia: Under the codified rules, the Jewish calendar is based on the Metonic cycle of 19 years, of which 12 are common years (12 months) and 7 leap years (13 months). The leap years are years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 of the Metonic cycle. Year 19 (there is no year 0) of the Metonic cycle is a year exactly divisible by 19 (when the Jewish year number, when divided by 19, has no remainder). In the same manner, the remainder of the division indicates the year in the Metonic cycle (years 1 to 18) the year is in.
Table I: Frequency and value of individual characters
The text consists of 20 runes and letters with 14 different characters: