Recently deciphered Viking rune hints at a ‘queer’ playfulness to violent Norse culture

By Scott Kaufman
Monday, February 10, 2014 13:39 EDT
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A runologist doing doctoral work at the University of Oslo has deciphered one of the runic codes used by Vikings and discovered a message, sent between two men, that reads “Kiss me.”

Vikings often wrote in “runic” code on wooden sticks for what scholars believe was a variety of purposes, even if many of them remain obscure to this day.

K. Jonas Nordby cracked the “Jötunvillur code,” which is present on over 80 Norse inscriptions and has long baffled scholars. One of his finds was a 700-year-old stick in which two men, Sigurd and Lavrans, carved their names and wrote a brief message that read “Kiss me.”

Nordby told the Norwegian website forskning.no that those who believe that “deep secrets” will be revealed by his efforts will be disappointed. “We have little reason to believe that rune codes should hide sensitive messages, people often wrote short everyday messages,” he said.

But Jonathan Hsy, a professor of medieval literature at George Washington University and the author of Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature, told Raw Story that these “everyday messages” may, in fact, be quite important.

The “Kiss me” message, for example, may mean that although the Vikings have a reputation “for violence and destruction…apparently they could be flirty — queer? — cryptologists as well.”

Nordby acknowledged that there is a playful element to these runes, many of which, when cracked, amount to their authors boasting how difficult their ciphers are to crack.

["Ladoga Festival Will Bring To Life A Viking Age Old Harbour" on Shutterstock]

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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