Belief and superstition
We know of some 30 tablets made of lead and inscribed with runes in Norway.
They are Christian amulets with Latin or garbled Latin text. The powerful religious word AGLA (an abbreviation from Hebrew) occurs often. Standard texts are Pater noster (the Lord’s Prayer) and Ave Maria. About a third are not comprehensible or consist of only rune-like signs.
Lead tablets are sometimes shaped like crosses. Lead tablets could be folded so that they could be carried in a pouch or sewn into the hem of a garment.
Christian amulets could also be made of wood. Their texts are often Latin or pseudo-Latin, but Old Norse also occurs.
There are also examples of superstition. A magic incantation from Bergen begins: ‘Tell me the name of the person who stole’.
1. ‘Pater noster ... [the entire Lord’s Prayer in Latin]. John, Matthew, Matthew, Mark, Luke.’ Lead tablet from Ulstad. 1200s/1300s.
2. ‘aaa.þþþ.(aa)aaaaaa. AGLA. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Raguel. Omnes angeli et arkangeli/ All angels and archangels. Pantaseron/???. Gunnlaugr. P(ater) n(oster)/ Our Father, a(men).’ Lead tablet from unknown location. 1200s/1300s.
3. Runes, complicated bindrunes and rune-like signs. Lead tablet from Tønsberg. 1300– 1375.
4. ‘May God take care of the one who carries me and ??? the one who you [?].’ Wooden amulet from Oslo. 1200–1300.
5. ‘Ave Maria ... mulieribus/Hail, Maria, full of grace. The Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.’ Wooden nail from Tønsberg. 1300–1375.
6. ‘Kales Fales [pseudo-Latin rhyming words] AGLA’ / [‘+ AGLA’]. Wooden amulet from Oslo. 1175–1225.
All photos: Eirik Irgens Johnsen © Museum of Cultural History