Saturday, 10 February 2018


Wardruna is a Norwegian band that uses the "oldest of Nordic instruments and poetic metres as well as lyrics written in Norwegian, Old Norse and Proto-Norse tongue". 

A band that sings in Proto-Norse?

I think what Wikipedia calls Proto-Norse is the same as what Fortson in Indo-European Language and Culture calls Runic: the language of the Elder Futhark alphabet and possibly the ancestor of Old Norse.

This Runic inscription dates from AD 400: a golden horn found in Gallehus, Jutland.
The runes are read from left to right and begin with the dark ᛖ to the right of the word in the centre. They read:

ᛖᚲᚺᛚᛖᚹᚨᚷᚨᛋᛏᛁᛉ ᚺᛟᛚᛏᛁᛃᚨᛉ ᚺᛟᚱᚾᚨ ᛏᚨᚹᛁᛞᛟ
ekhlewagastiz holtijaz horna tawido
“I, Hlewagastiz Holtijaz, made (this) horn.”

Its phonology isn’t that different from Proto-Germanic; it retains the final *-z that became r in Old Norse. Wardruna uses a transliteration with R instead of z. Fortson says “The rune for this sound is frequently transcribed R, on the assumption that its phonetic value is between that of a z and an r; but this assumption is unnecessary.”

All of Wardruna's Runic song titles are names for runes. The origin of rune names is interesting. As far as I can tell, someone hypothesized Proto-Germanic and Runic names for the Elder Futhark letters based on evidence in later Anglo-Saxon rune poems. In other words, the names for the runes might not have been used at the time of the Elder Futhark, they might be later developments. On the other hand, this blog post argues that many of the rune names might date back to Proto-Germanic.

What I will do here is try to figure out what languages the song titles are in. But I know very little about North Germanic languages so I'd recommend just reading this blog.

Ár var alda: Old Norse “in days of yore”
Hagal: Runic *haǥalaz “hail”
Bjarkan: Old Norse “birch”
Løyndomsriss: løyndom is Norwegian "secret"
Heimta Thurs: Old Norse heimta “summon”, þurs “giant”
Thurs: Old Norse þurs “giant”
Jara: Runic *jāra “year”
Laukr: Old Norse “leek”
Kauna: Runic *kauna “ulcer”
Algir - Stien klarnar: cf Proto-Germanic *alǥiz “elk”. stien klarnar is Norwegian "the path is clear"
Algir - Tognatale: Icelandic togna "to be stretched", tal "speech"?
Dagr: Old Norse “day”

Rotlaust tre fell: Old Norse "rootless tree fell"?
Fehu: Runic *fehu “wealth, cattle” (English fee)
NaudiR: Runic *nauđiz “need”
EhwaR: Runic *ehwaz “horse”
AnsuR: Proto-Germanic *ansuz “god”
IwaR: Runic *īwaz “yew”
IngwaR: Runic *inǥwaz “Yngvi”
Gibu: Runic *ǥeƀu “gift”
Solringen: Norwegian “the sun ring”
Sowelu: Runic *sōwila “sun”
Helvegen: Norwegian “The road to Hel”

Tyr: Norwegian “Tyr”
UruR: Runic *ūruz, “aurochs”
Isa: Runic *īsaz “ice”
MannaR - Drivande: Runic *mannaz “man”. I’m not sure what drivande should be; the Old Norse is drifa, Proto-Germanic *drīƀan
Raido: Proto-Germanic *raiđō “ride”
Pertho: Runic *perþō, no one knows what this means
Odal: Runic *ōþilą "native land" (German edel)
Wunjo: Proto-Germanic *wunjō “joy” (Old English wynn)
Runaljod: Old Norse runa ljóð “song of runes”?

The rune wunjo ᚹ found its way into the Old English alphabet as the letter wynn Ƿ ƿ which was later replaced by W.