Locked Inside a Nave Since the Fourth Century CE – Part II

9 September, 2014

This week On the Reading Rest I still have the article on the rune stone from Hogganvik, Mandal, in Southwest Norway. This stone was mentioned OtRR 9 January, 2012, but there is no point in looking it up since in the present entry the perspective from 2012 has simply been developed.

ILLU 01Schultze, Michael. 2013. The Norwegian Hogganvik Stone as an Emblem of Social Status and Identity. Journal of the North Atlantic 4:120-128. Acronym: MiSCHu.

The Hogganvik stone stands in a nave, i.e. in a place that attracts and radiates – a ‘focus’ and a ‘centre’ in the human landscape (6). In this nave the stone does something and it seems plausible that the reason why the stone does what it does rests with the man who calls himself Wolverine. This man in his turn is connected to someone he calls Chilver-Servant (a chilver being a ewe lamb). Since it is plausible that a wolverine meeting a chilver in meadows or mountains will kill the lamb and eat it, it seems reasonable to suggest that the 1st and 2nd elements of the dithematic names, naudi-, -gastiz and –þewaz (7) are chosen to convey a less brutal situation. Generally speaking combining a variety of first and second elements in dithematic names (their stems) are meant to explore the concepts of being a Guest or a Servant.

Contexts containing names or appellatives with -þewaz, servant, as the second element indicate that being a servant ranks high among the upper classes. King Hrothgar’s perfect queen Wealhtheow in Beowulf is a case in point and so is Virgin Mary in Hêliand, she who modestly says: Thiu bium ic theotgodes—‘I am the Folk-god’s maid servant(=thiu)’. In Hêliand shs is betrothed to Joseph, the man who presently occupies King David’s throne in Bethlehem, no less, and Mary is by no means a servant to anyone except God in his capacity as protector of the people (cf. OtRR 19 August 2013). Being a chilver servant is thus a most honourable ocupation that accords harmoniously with having a wolverine as a guest. Since there is a symbolic ring of devotion to the name Kelbaþewaz befitting a member of the upper classes, this devotion spreads downwards in the hierarchy to his guest Erafaz, the Wolverine, when he calls himself Need-guest.

ILLU 09Guest-names are common Old Germanic names and in their original form before 500 CE, they point out a male visitor to a social environment that accepts him as a guest (8).

The visitor, who is on his own and by definition comes from somewhere, has a dependent, albeit prestigious social position because he may have personal qualities or be useful and rewarded in certain situations as well as dangerous. Some guests cannot behave themselves, but others like Beowulf can, Being a useful guest, as well as lethal to the likes of Grendel and his mother, is no less than Bowulf’s road to success. To be a guest may thus be a career and guest-names may well refer to a role. Runologists often suspect that guest- and servant-names are based on a conventional variation of the first element making the semantics of the both uninteresting. However, in turbulent and formative periods such as the first half of the first millennium CE variation in the first element is obviously a way to investigate new concepts such as guest and servant as well as their social meaning in a society gradually becoming more and more stratified.

Proto-Germanic need-names are uncommon, MiSCHu knows of none except Hogganvik, but next to Naudigastiz from Mandal there is the broadly speaking contemporary Hnaudifridus from Housesteads across the North Sea (R(oman) I(nscriptions in) B(ritain) 1576; altar):


DEABVS ALAISIAGIS BAVDIHILLIE ET FRIAGABI ET N(numina) AVG(usti) N(umerus) HNAVDIFRIDI V(otum) S(olvit) L(ibens et) M(erito)—To the Alaisagae goddesses Boudihillia and Friagabis, and to the divine spirit of the Emperor, the unit of Hnaudifridius readily and deservedly fulfils its vow.

The name HNAVDIFRIDI is the Germanic name Naudifriþuz in Latinised genitive. The initial H is a misspelling, but it is conceivable for other reasons too that the Latin speaking composer of the inscription had difficulties analysing what he heard – or perhaps what Notfried said (9). The numerus Hnaudfrifdi—‘Naudifrid’s unit’, is this officer’s loosely defined group of mounted men. Rather than a Roman or a Romanised German like 1st c. Cerialis the officer Naudifridus is a German, and this indicates that he and this unit were mercenaries of the 3rd c. CE (10). A Friesian wedge-formatted mounted unit (a cuneus) was often stationed at Housesteads by Hadrian’s Wall and in inscriptions this unit referred to the Germanic deities the Alaisagae. Owing to these circumstances Naudifridus and his men were probably Friesian from Twente or at least German speaking. The long-term presence of the Friesians and Tungrians as well as their involvement in the Romanization of Northern England is attested not least by the tablets from nearby Vindolanda (11).

Similar to Naudigastiz, the meaning of Naudifriþuz is in all probability positive and the name/appellative would signify something like peace/protection when there needs be just that. His mother may have known him as Schtroumpfy, but we may think of him as a -friduz recognizing that sword in hand he once brought peace to a negative situation. Perhaps the name could be paralleled with the place name Gundralöv, which once contained the name Gunþifriþuz—strife + peace, i.e. he who brings peace to strife in some way or other (12). Analogically, Naudigastiz would signify a guest who is needed – an outsider loyal to his host, who is probably a hall owner or at least a person with some kind of wealth and a political agenda that might need support.

In their inscription, both Naudifriþuz and Naudigastiz recognize the hierarchies to which they belong, and given the troubled 4th century with the disappearing Western Roman Empire and the thousands of farms that were given up in South Scandinavia, it seems reasonable to construct Naudi-names or –appellative. Indirectly they would signify belief in a social order under pressure. This endangered order reflects a social stratification, which grew during the RIA and created an elite that was replaced in the 6th c. when the new South Scandinavian centres emerge (13).

Irrespective of their first element, there is no need to infer that names ending in -gastiz, -þewaz or –friþuz must refer to martial skills only. The concepts are broader although martial skills may be required. And although Naudigast acknowledges the supremacy of Kelbaþewaz, Like Naudifrid, who acknowledges the Goddesses and the Emperor, the central figure in the inscriptions is Naudigast and Naudifrid respectively. Both may be praised. While R.I.B 1576 is conventional the Hogganvik inscription is exceptional, partly because it refers to the monument in which it stands – a nave and seemingly a relatively sacred place. Today we must appreciate the fact that a rune stone happens to mention and illustrate a nave thus giving us a clue to its capacity as a spiritual site where chanting lexical nonsense or uttering alphabetical magic for those who can read or hear was a worthwhile perpetual occupation at least for standing stones.

Commemorating Kelbaþewaz or the Emperor was not the primary purpose of the monuments. Instead, in Hogganvik as well as in Housesteads devotion and the glory it lends to the devotee is the central theme. In Housesteads inscriptions live up to a formulaic standard while in Hogganvik an original formulation seems much more important, but that does not tell us whether Naudigast was more devoted than Naudifrid or vice versa. Nor do we know whether they ever met their masters. Given the small-scale Iron Age society, which we believe characteried Southwest Norway, we nevertheless hope that Naudifrid and Kelbaþewa knew each other, as hinted when the former calls himself Kelbaþewa’s guest. In Hogganvik the introductory I-formulation, which always sounds as if we were listening to someone taking an oath, creates personal presence, while dedication gives gravity and distance to Housesteads. It is the suitable expression and the blending of a moral spiritual and a practical social status that matters.

Far from being no more than inscriptions on stones that ‘reflect hierarchical societies’ the statements at Housesteads and Hogganvik are ritual formulations befitting sanctuaries. At Housesteads the stone is an altar at a temple in the vicus, at Hogganvik the stone stands in the nave. At both places there is probably a nearness to spirits or gods. In Housesteads the altar in the edifice sees to that, in Hogganvik the stone, the kerbstones and the elevated position of the monument creates or enhances a nave in the landscape. As pointed out OtRR 9 Jan, 2012: “the stone itself is not connected to any grave, but standing on an angular shelf at the very end of the cemetery. From this position we overlook the settlement below the cemetery“. We don’t know if the nave sanctuary had any other vertical elements other than the stone, but we may still speak of it as a small road sanctuary with a nave opening to the Northeast.


In the nave the stone, imbued with non-lexical runes, held an essential part of the ritual statement framed by a more worldly lexical explanation. As Naudifriþuz could have spoken the formulaic words later carved on the altar stone, Erafaz could have done the same in Hogganvik, not least why the inscription is direct speech. Like Naudifriþuz, Erafaz demonstrates his devotion, albeit indirectly, but there doesn’t seem to be any dedication in Hogganvik. A dedication may of course hide itself in the non-lexical expression – who knows?

The Hogganvik monument is very Norwegian and very 4th century CE, but it borrows the idea of the religious inscription and perhaps the idea of the constructed sanctuary from Roman civilisation. The stone didn’t last long and had I been a religious fundamentalist in the years around 500 CE smashing rune stones and opening chamber graves in the Mälar Valley in Sweden defending true religious values, I would have gone to Norway and toppled the Hogganvik stone. Since the road to Norway passed the Järsberg stone in Värmland I would have pushed that one over too and had a go at the Tune stone in Østfold when I passed by. But that’s another story.



(6) cf. Herschend 2009:139ff. Herschend, Frands. 2009. The Early Iron Age in South Scandinavia : social order in settlement and landscape. Uppsala. Uppsala University. http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:287406

(7) The names can be looked up in Peterson 2004, se note (5).

(8) Recently guest-names have been collected and discussed by Haubrichs 2008:53-79. Haubrichs, Wolfgang. 2008 Namenbrauch und Mythos-Konstruktion. Die Onomastik der Lex-Salica-Prologe. In: Uwe Ludwig and, Thomas Schilp (eds). Nomen et Fraternitas. Festschrift for Dieter Geuenich on his 65th Birthday. Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde – Ergänzungsbände 62. Berlin – New York. De Gruyter. See also MiSchu:125.

(9) There is an old but quite good discussion of the Germanic names of this innscrption by Theodor Siebs. See Siebs, Theodor. 1922. On an altar dedicated to the Alaisiagae 2. Archaeologia Aeliana. Vol 19:192-197.

(10) Bowman, Alan K. 2003. Life and letters of the Roman frontier. Vindolanda and its people. London. The British Museum. Alan Bowman gives an overview of the role of Friesians and Tungrians in the Romanisation of England pp 14-27 and specifically on Cerialis pp. 20f. See also the discussion on Hnaudifridus in: Birley, Anthony. 1980 The people of Roman Britain. Berkley. University of California Press.

(11) The Turingians emerged sometime in the early 1st c. CE when they became auxiliary troops (see Bowman 2003: 14-27. In Ceasar’s days they were but Gemani West of the Rhine in Northern Gaul. It would not be surprising if the Romans were instrumental in the ‘ethnogenesis’ of Tungrians and even Friesians, conveniently collecting a number of tribes or Germans under one heading. Skill was probably more important than blood for those who became auxiliary soldiers.

(12) See Peterson 2004:26 and Locked Inside a Nave Since the Fourth Century CE – Part I note (5) above.

(13). This development and change is the topic of chapter six, The Landscape of Warfare pp 331-81 and condenced at page 359 in Herschend, Frands. 2009. The Early Iron Age in South Scandinavia : social order in settlement and landscape. Uppsala. Uppsala University. http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:287406


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