Runic Riddles: Time Capsules

B.L. Freeborn © December 2022               (PDF version here.)

Runic riddles are riddles written in runes. Runes are alphabets that were in use in northern Europe, Britain and other northern areas. They were used for centuries but died out with the coming of Christianity.

There are a certain group of inscriptions from this period that are either difficult to interpret, very short, have unexplained symbols, use bindrunes (letters stuck together), and/ or are unusual for some reason. Here is an example from Norway (Lomen No. 2; Norges Inscrifter Med De Yngre Runer, Vol.1, Pg. 216) deemed to be a magic incantation. It is simply a riddle. The solution is at the end of the post.

These unusual ones are where the riddles hide. Primarily they were created for amusement, in the same manner as crosswords are today. Besides providing unique puzzles for people to solve, they often contained phrases and ‘secret messages’ that we find strange or incomprehensible today. They are little windows into a bygone era before the cleansing of facts by ‘modern’ teachers, internet myths, and the Catholic church. The latter worked especially hard via genocide and threats to stamp out Paganism. Throw the Black death into the picture which killed half the population of these areas and it is not surprising that the information these riddles reveal seems …. surprising to say the least.

Sadly, the numbers of inscriptions still in existence are declining with each passing year. They were once abundant. Many now only exist in photos. The few remaining tell us something of importance.

Many preserve the concepts of Baal and Paganism. This religion can be traced back 12000 years. The remaining practitioners faced with the power of the Catholic Church found a way to preserve some hints of it in these riddles. Others tell us of extraordinary journeys. They reveal an important part of our lost knowledge.

The following posts bring a few of these riddles to you. Others are available as pdfs at the bottom of the posts.

Hopefully, they are both enjoyable and educational to you.


This is called a magic formula – ISTIL form. The number of duplicated runes varies. This one uses triplicates and to match the three makes bindrunes of the six initial runes. The transliteration of the three bindrunes and duplicated runes is RT UÆ KN III SSS TTT III LLL. This is an anagram for ‘stlis’ in Latin which means ‘quarrel’ or ’cause’ and/or ‘tellus’ meaning Earth or region. This implies a ‘global difficulty.’

The three bindrunes and the triplicates suggest 3. This is equal to Th (or D) rune. Simplify and add the Th:    Th    R T U Æ K N    I S T I L. As numbers this is: 3   5 12 2 4 6 8     9 11 12 9 15.

The group ISTIL has four notable values. 9,11,12 sum to 32✓; then 9,15 sum to 24✓; then 12,9,15 sum to 36✓; and the total is 56.✓ All of these numbers are important. (For checked ✓ number meanings see below**. See next table for rune/number equivalents.)

The first group containing the bindrunes has no meaningful sums except for the total with the 3 (Th) included which is 40. A square of sides 40 has 56.56 as a diagonal. This repeats the ISTIL sum. The group does have the significant series 4 6 8 which in reverse is 864.✓

From Wikipedia

There are several elements of the riddle missing. The author and year are often stated and the number 792 (always present) is missing. This is long enough to contain both. Mongé derived the name KanutR from the first six runes. His solution is different than what is presented here. (Landsverk, Ancient…, pg. 127-138) However, by inspection the name Thorniut is found. (The Æ includes the sound O. Also, the I rune can be an E.) The only letter missing is an I and a K is left over. There are two I’s in the last group, so this implies letter sharing. If the K shifts to the last group notice this list of small abbreviated words can be formed: KIL (kill); I TIL (I tell); I LIS (I lies); S (south); I TI LI S (I tie lie South). When taken altogether the following is suggested:

I Thorniut tell. The I tie lies South where it was killed in the global upheaval.

This is a typical Baalist statement including the name of the author but the number 792 is still missing so the solution is incomplete. If Thorniut is converted to numbers as given (without the I) one finds: 3 4 5 8 2 12. Now the following sums are noted: 3,4 sums to 7; then 4,5 sums to 9; then 3,4,5,8 sums to 20 so that we now have 7920.✓

The year would complete the picture. Some indication of the year and three other numbers is sought: the Golden Number (GN), the Day Letter (DL) and the Line #. These numbers are used to find dates on the Perpetual Easter Table (here). A complete discussion of this is found in any of Landsverk’s books listed below.

The letters as bindrunes were anagrammed for a reason so returning to those runes/numbers we have: 5 12 2 4 6 8. These can somewhat change order since there is no way to tell which rune of the bindrune should go first ie. 12 5 4 2 8 6 etc. Note the 1224 looks like a year and in fact, Line # 4 in the attached chart begins with that year. The 4 is present in the series. But year 1224 has GN 9 which is not present in this group. Since 3 is prominently noted by the triplicates, if taken to mean GN 3 then on this 4th line, year 1237 is indicated. It has day letter 4. The sum of this series of numbers is 37 confirming the date.

Other dates for similar reasons can be found. But after much searching 1237 seemed to have the most in its favor. Mongé dated this to 3 March 1199 using just the 3’s. There is good reason to accept his date except that all versions of Istil riddles repeating 3 times would then imply the same date. The reader is free to search for other plausible dates using the attached Easter Table.

I Thorniut tell in the year 1237. The I tie lies South where it was killed in the global upheaval.

Earlier Riddle Posts      Next Post

Similar Articles by this Author (pdfs uploaded as available)

* Easter Table pdf

** For numeric background see:

**Freeborn, B.L., Validating North American Runic Inscriptions,, November 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., Ancient Riddles to Test Our Wits: The Secret Chamber,, January 2016. (Post)

Freeborn, B.L., Deciphering the Spirit Pond, Nomans Land and Narragansett Runic Inscriptions,, November 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., Et in Arcadia Ego – OUOSVAVV DM – Deciphered,, December 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., Kensington Rune Stone: A New Translation,, February 2023.

Freeborn, B.L., Runic Riddles: Time Capsules,, December 2022.

Freeborn, B.L. The Long Debated Bourne Stone,, January 2023.

Freeborn, B.L., The Nomans Land – Leif Eriksson Inscription,, December 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., The Narragansett Inscription: A Translation with its Date of Dedication, Author and Inscriber,, October 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., The Newport Tower: Finding the Date of Dedication, its Designer and Builder,, October 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., The Runic Riddles: Younger Futhork,, December 2022.

Book References:

Landsverk, O.G., Runic Records of the Norsemen in America, Erik J. Friis, Publisher, Rushford, MN, 1974.

Landsverk, O.G., Ancient Norse Messages, Norseman Press, Glendale, California, 1969.

Mongé, Alf & O.G. Landsverk, Norse Medieval Cryptography in Runic Carvings, Norseman Press, Glendale, California, 1967.

Syversen, Earl, Norse Runic Inscriptions: with their Long-forgotten Cryptography, The Vine Hill Press, Sebastopol, California, 1979.

Derogatory article by Aslak Liestol of Alf Mongé’s work:  and….

…Landsverk responded to these comments in Ancient Norse Messages pg. 126-129; and often in Runic Records of the Norsemen in America.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.