|Discovered||Ledberg, Östergötland, Sweden|
|Rundata ID||Ög 181|
|Text – Native|
|bisi sati sti þisi iftiʀ þurkut ... faþur / sin uk þu kuna baþi þmk iii sss ttt iii lll|
|Bisi placed this stone in memory of Þorgautr ... his father / and Gunna, both. Thistle mistle casket|
The Ledberg stone is a partially surviving runestone, similar to Thorwald's Cross. It features a figure with his foot at the mouth of a four-legged beast, below which lies a legless, helmeted man, with his arms in a prostrate position. This is thought to be a depiction of Odin being devoured by the wolf Fenrir at Ragnarök, the final battle in Norse mythology, in which several gods meet their death. The battle and death of Odin are described in the poem Völuspá from the Poetic Edda.
Some scholars, however, believe that the images of the Ledberg stone depict the final story of either Þorgautr or Gunna, who are memorialized in the runic inscription. If the images are followed in the same order as the runes are written, they seem to create a chronological account. The first image is of a ship; this depicts a journey abroad. Next, there is a figure walking to the left, carrying what is most likely a shield, in preparation for departure. In the third image, the figure is carrying weapons and a shield to the right, probably marching to battle. At the top of the second side of the stone, the figure's foot is being bitten by a wolf and finally, we see the figure legless with arms sprawled, likely lying dead on the battlefield. Wolves were often used in Viking art and poetry to signify combat, so it is thought to be unlikely that the figure fell in battle due to wounds caused by a wolf.
The warrior figures have shields, one carries a spear, and all have moustaches and beards, except for the Odin figure. The helmets are conical and similar in shape to those shown on the Bayeux Tapestry.
The runic inscription of the Ledberg stone is carved in the Younger futhark, and is dated to the 11th century. The last part contains section has been interpreted as a rhyming charm or spell (galdr), and reads:
- þmk iii sss ttt iii lll
which is to be read as:
- þistil mistil kistil
The three words mean thistle, mistletoe and casket respectively. This type of charm is found on a few other inscriptions, among them the runic inscription on the Gørlev runestone, DR 239, from Sjælland, Denmark. It has been noted that Pliny the Elder recorded that the Celts gathered mistletoe as a cure for infertility, and that singing a charm over herbs increased their power, which may have led to the þistil mistil kistil combination.
A transcription of the runic inscription into roman letters is:
- §A (b)isi * sati : st[(n)] : þisi : iftiʀ : þurkut : u----þi : faþur
- §B : sin : uk : þu : kuna : baþi : þmk:iii:sss:ttt:iii:l[(l)]l :
- Jansson, Sven B. (1987). Runes in Sweden. Stockholm, Gidlund. ISBN 91-7844-067-X. p. 152.
- Bellows, Henry Adams (trans.) (1936). Völuspá, stanzas 51-59.
- See Jesch, Judith (2002). "Eagles, Ravens and Wolves: Beasts of Battle, Symbols of Victory and Death". The Scandinavians from the Vendel Period to the Tenth Century: an Ethnographic Prospective. Boydell Press. pp. 251–270. ISBN 0-85115-867-6.; and Gräslund, Anne-Sofie (2006). "Wolves, Serpents and Birds: Their Symbolic Meaning in Old Norse Belief". In Andrén, Anders; Jennbert, Kristina; et al. (eds.). Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives: Origins, Changes, and Interactions. Lund: Nordic Academic Press. pp. 124–129. ISBN 91-89116-81-X.
- Lewis, Michael (2005). "The Bayeux Tapestry and Eleventh Century Material Culture". In Owen-Crocker, Gale R. (ed.). King Harold II and the Bayeux Tapestry. Boydell Press. pp. 181–182. ISBN 1-84383-124-4.
- MacLeod, Mindy; Mees, Bernard (2006). Runic Amulets and Magic Objects. Boydell Press. pp. 145–148. ISBN 1-84383-205-4.
- Ferguson, Robert (1883). Surnames as a Science. London: George Routledge & Sons. p. 63.
- Project Samnordisk Runtextdatabas Svensk - Rundata entry for Ög 181.