Sweden in later days

Sweden was the last Germanic area to be converted from heathenry, especially Uppland. The last heathen king was Blót-Sweyn (1084-87).

Sweden also clung on to the use of runes much later than other places.

Runes were used throughout Scandinavia well into the Middle Ages, much later than one might think and often in deliberate competition with the Roman alphabet. In Iceland, shortly after 1100, Ári inn fróđi and Ţóroddur Rúnmeistari created an expanded standardized fuţork. The first runic alphabet proper - with symbols corresponding to every Latin letter in use, and in the same order - was probably the Danish one developed in the reign of Valdemar II (1202-41). In 13th- and 14th-century Norway, a runic alphabet similar to this

Image created by Tasnu Arakun, Wikimedia Commons

Medieval runes

was widely used (Thorsson 47). We have one surviving runic manuscript, the 14th-century Codex Runicus, which contains Danish laws and a folksong.

However, the Swedes carried on longer than anyone else. Throughout the Middle Ages, parish priests in Sweden were required to be able to read and write runes because of their use on gravestones and memorials. Then in the sixteenth century, the scholar, antiquarian, and occultist Johannes Bureus (Johan Bure) revived interest in runes, developed a cursive runic script, and wrote a schoolbook to teach runes to students (available online via the Swedish Royal Library(link will open new window)). He hoped to have them replace the Roman alphabet as an anti-Catholic gesture. (He may or may not also have wanted to reintroduce a form of heathenry.) A Swedish general used runes as military code in the Thirty Years War - hardly the last such use of them (Thorsson 56). In contrast to these learned revivals, in Dälarna people used a local variety of runes, the "dalrunes" or "Dalecarlian runes," from the 16th into the 20th centuries, in the end mostly for writing the local dialect of Älvdalen. These runes were more and more influenced by Roman letters as time went on, but nonetheless constitute the last popular surviving use of runes.

Image created by Tasnu Arakun, Wikimedia Commons

Dalecarlian runes: a set of runes used in the province of Dalarna, Sweden from the 16th up to the early 20th century.

Photo by By Skvattram (Eget arbete) [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons

A 1635 inscription in Dalecarlian runes

[1. Medeltida runor image from http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil:Medeltida_runor.svg

2. Dalecarlian runes image from http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil:Dalrunor.svg

3. Inscription image from http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil:Orsblecksloftet.JPG]


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