Detail of the Codex runicus, a vellum manuscript from c. 1300 containing one of the oldest and best preserved texts of the Scanian law (Skånske lov), written entirely in runes.

Runes of Power and Destruction: Reading the Cursed Runestones of Sweden

(Read the article on one page)

Runes are often associated with magic and sometimes curses too. For many centuries, they were used as magical symbols to guide people to the knowledge which they believed was created by their gods. They were also used as a warning to the ones who disturbed sacred space.

Runes were mentioned in so many stories over the years that it is perhaps impossible to count them all. They have also been a very important tool for fortunetellers, people who follow esoteric practices, people with pagan beliefs, and other people drawn to ancient practices.

The Björketorp Runestone

There are many runestones in Scandinavia however the most famous ones are located in Sweden. Their inscriptions terrified people for many centuries. This article describes only a few of them, because it is impossible to explain all of them in such a small space.

The Björketorp Runestone is located in Blekinge in Sweden. It is one of the tallest runestones of the world and measures 4.2 meters (13.78 ft.) in height. Near this stone are located two high menhirs (large standing stones) without any inscriptions on them.

The runes were carved in the 6th or the 7th century in Proto Norse language, which was an Indo-European language – a dialect of Proto-German. It was in use perhaps from the 2nd to the 8th century and became the basis of the Old Norse language. The most characteristic part of the language seems to be the Elder Futhark, the oldest runic alphabet. The stone contains two inscriptions, one on each side of the stone. The shorter line of the runes was transcribed and translated into ''I foresee perdition''.

The Björketorp Runestone.

The Björketorp Runestone. ( Joachim Bowin/CC BY SA 3.0 )

 The message on the other side of the stone says:

Haidz runo runu, falh'k hedra ginnarunaz. Argiu hermalausz, ... weladauþe, saz þat brytz. Uþarba spa.

This means:

I, master of the runes(?) conceal here runes of power. Incessantly (plagued by) maleficence, (doomed to) insidious death (is) he who breaks this (monument).
I prophesy destruction / prophecy of destruction.

The stone has the listing of DR 360 in the Rundata (Scandinavian Runic-text Data Base), and is a part of a burial field which also contains menhirs. These are usually stones put into stone circles. Researchers have dated them back to the 7th century AD, and count the runes as a form of language which linked the Elder and Younger Futharks. It doesn't contain names, but seems to be connected in some ways with a few other stones including Stentoften, Gummarp, and Istaby. It contains very similar messages to the one from Stentoften. Moreover, researchers believe that they could be created by the same person.

Detail showing the inscription on DR 360.

Detail showing the inscription on DR 360. ( Henrik Sendelbach /CC BY SA 3.0 )

The Stentoften and Istaby Runestones

The Stentoften Runestone is listed in the Rundata as DR 357. It was discovered in Stentoften, Blekinge, Sweden. As mentioned, the stone contains an inscription related to the previously described stone with a curse in the Proto-Norse language.

The inscription of the runes says:

<niuha>borumz <niuha>gestumz Haþuwulfz gaf j[ar], Hariwulfz ... ... haidiz runono, felh eka hedra
niu habrumz, niu hangistumz Haþuwulfz gaf j[ar], Hariwulfz ... ... haidiz runono, felh eka hedra
Hermalausaz argiu, Weladauþs, sa þat briutiþ.

The English translation for this is:

(To the) <niuha>dwellers (and) <niuha>guests Haþuwulfar gave ful year, Hariwulfar ... ... I, master of the runes(?) conceal here nine bucks, nine stallions, Haþuwulfar gave fruitful year, Hariwulfar ... ... I, master of the runes(?) conceal here runes of power.
Incessantly (plagued by) maleficence, (doomed to) insidious death (is) he who this

Stentoftastenen, exhibited in Sankt Nicolai church, Sölvesborg.

Stentoftastenen, exhibited in Sankt Nicolai church, Sölvesborg. ( Henrik Sendelbach /CC BY SA 3.0 )

In this case, the inscription describes animal sacrifice as a part of a ritual related to fertility. Both of the runestones were discovered in 1823. They were found lying down on the field with visible inscriptions.

The Istaby runestone also still exists, but it doesn't contain a curse. Instead, the text has the words: ''In memory of Hariwulfar. Haþuwulfar, Heruwulfar's son''. Unfortunately, although it sounds promising, the words have a symbolical meaning as well: hari is a warrior, wulafa - a wolf, haþu is the battle. This translation has made researchers suggest that the inscription is related to the initiation of warriors or perhaps a curse to support military goals.


I wonder if the DR 357 Runestone translates as follows:

"This year the local wolf warrior people offered.. I have recorded that the gated nine stags and nine horses are protected for a good year (offering?). I write with authority that cursed is anyone who frees (releases) them.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

The Lycurgus Cup.
A strange chalice made its way into the British Museum’s collection in the 1950s. It is a 1,600-year-old jade green Roman artifact called the Lycurgus Cup. The image on the chalice is an iconic scene with King Lycurgus of Thrace...

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article