B.L. Freeborn © December 2022 (PDF version here.)
The Shugborough Inscription is a sequence of letters ‘OUOSVAVV’ on the first line and ‘DM’ spaced far apart on the second line. It is on a monument built between 1748 and1756 commissioned by Thomas Anson. Above it is a relief by sculptor Peter Scheemakers which is a variation of the Poussin painting Et in Arcadia ego. The famous painting by Nicolas Poussin displays this inscription on a tomb. It translates from Latin as ‘I am also in Arcadia.’ This inscription has eleven letters on top and three on bottom. The Poussin painting was done in 1637-1638. He did an earlier version in 1627. Previous to this, Guercino painted a similar but different version in 1618-1622. The original inspiration is a poem by Roman poet Virgil known as Ecologues. In this poem from 40 BC the inscription on the tomb of Daphnis is described. The tomb is in ‘Arcades.’ Daphnis was a shepherd in ancient Greek mythology.
Although the number of shepherds changes from two to three as the work progresses they all include a tomb. At some point in time the full phrase ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ was developed. The fact that Anson invokes this phrase and adds several elements to it suggests there is more to it besides his still undeciphered cipher some 270 years later.
It would seem he saw something in Et in Arcadia ego that others had not and added the lower inscription as a clue to revealing what is in the original phrase which is most definitely a cipher as well.
Indeed, his efforts resulted in creating a perplexing mystery. The solution to Anson’s ‘OUOSVAVV’ and to the riddle concealed in Et in Arcadia ego follow.
Part I: OUOSVAVV DM
Before solving it, note what the image gives us:
• A woman on the left stands tall but looks down.
• The sky is tumultuous. On the upper coffin is a round wreath.
• Her right arm is bent and rests on her hip. It forms an arc.
• There are 3 shepherds each of whom has a staff. One leans to the left by the woman. The other two lean to the right. Two of the staffs seem to join at the bottom in a very large V.
• Two of the shepherds gesture at the inscription. Their thumbs are out creating V’s. It is said they are pointing at the N and R but in fact they frame the letter A.
• The third shepherd rests his arm on the tomb with 3 fingers together. This also appears in the Poussin version.
• Their arms form two arcs. The Poussin uses a shadow to depict a third arm /arc.
• While the other three look at the inscription, the shepherd on the left looks directly at the observer with a smile on his face.
Is he laughing because this is a riddle? With those images in mind, the solutions move forward.
Cipher #1: O U O S V I V V – D M
For background purposes:
Many alphabets have numerical equivalents for their letters called gematria. Hebrew, Greek and Futhork are three which have gematria. Hebrew and Greek gematria are still in use today. Then to complicate matters, just slightly, do not forget there are also Roman Numerals which are letters as well. The solution requires the Hebrew gematria – first.
The gematria used by Anson is:
- O is A or 70. U is Vav or 6. S is S or 60.
- D is D or 4. M is M or 40.
- The I is both 10 and /or Roman numeral 1.
- V is Vav or 6, but then again it is also a 5 as in a Roman V.
The O and U are reversed. There is only one S. The I is in the correct position but there is no N. However, there is an M just below. In Hebrew gematria M has value 40 and N has value 50.
There are two V’s where there should be an N. Two Roman V’s equal 10 and 40 + 10 = 50 ⇒ N. Missing N found. ✓
It is convenient that the UO is reversed because then by putting the D in front the word DUO can be spelled. An S follows. Perhaps he meant a DUO of S’s. Missing S found. ✓
The first letter is O and as stated previously it has value 70. The P in Hebrew has value 80. Once again add two V’s or 10 and find 70 + 10 = 80 ⇒ P. ✓
Notice that the DO creates the word ‘do’ which refers to Poussin. He did it. Similarly, if the V’s are replaced by N the last two letters spell NM which sounds remarkably like ‘name.’
The inscription then simply reads: DO POUSSIN NaMe. – – One mystery solved. ✓
By creating this exercise, Anson has shown us several clues to resolve the riddle in the original inscription. Note that it required two numeric systems to solve it (Hint #1) and more importantly, fixed the value of the O’s at 70 (Hint #2).
Before going further, see this puzzle in a new way – as an image. It has 3 V’s. (This is similar to the V’s and three formed by the shepherds’ hands.) It has a pattern OUO. Recall this used Hebrew gematria and the name of god in Hebrew is Yahweh spelled יהוה. It portrays the same alternating pattern. The numbers in Yahweh are 565 10.
We must pause for a moment for a bit of seemingly irrelevant information. In drafting, when drawing an image of an object, two versions are often shown: the plan view – as if one is looking down; and the side view – as if one is looking at the side. Now – in your minds eye – look at the O’ and U’s as if they are plan and side views of an object. This will be called Anson’s Big Hint.
These -3- letters are followed by an S. Recall S often represents the word South. This idea will repeat later.
Cipher #1 Numbers
This requires numbers for a while…distasteful to many… lovely to others.
- Yahweh or יהוה or 565 10 can be seen in the last four letters. The V is 5 and then VI is 6. Two V’s is 10. In the fifth and sixth position from the left is V and I. This is 5th and 6th then 5 and 6.
Fully substituting now for the phrase but using only Hebrew gematria it equates to:
70 6 70 60 6 10 6 6
- Find 76 twice at the start. And it repeats again with 70 60. It repeats again with 60,6,10.
- If the last four are seen as Roman numerals 5 1 5 5 = 16 and 60. Together 16+60 = 76.
- The last four as shown sum to 28. The pattern of the layout is 2 letters and 8 letters or 28. The product of 4 (on line two) and 70 is 280.
- The 4 repeats in the 40. They sum to 44. The top line sums to 234.
- If the I is seen as a Roman 1, then the top line sum is 225 and 4 x 225 is 900.
- If the I is seen as a Roman 1, the sum from 60 right becomes 79. The remaining numbers sum to 190. See this as a series 79,190…..or…. 7919.
- There are four 6’s or 24.
Let’s give some of these meaning.
- The period of Halley’s comet is 76 years.
- There are 24 hours in a day and 24 hours of longitude mark the planet.
- Each hour has 60 minutes.
- The number of seconds of longitude is 86400. This is also the number of seconds in a day. Half of this is 432,000 or 432 for short. Reverse this number and find 234.
- The 900 reminds one the pole lies at 90̊.
- The diameter of the planet is 7920 miles.
- The 28 is repeated twice so it must be important. Indeed, a 40 is present and a square of sides 40 has a diagonal of 56.56 which is a number similar to that just seen above.
All but two of the numbers reference time and/or longitude. One reference is to God and the other is to a comet.
How many of these numbers will repeat in that first phrase ET IN ARCADIA – EGO?
Cipher #2 ET IN ARCADIA EGO
To continue, we convert these lines to their numeric equivalent in Hebrew.
- Each line begins with 79. (70+9) and (70+3+6). T to A (9+10+50+10) is also 79 and it is followed by 200. This is 79200.
- Sum of top line (376) minus second line (79) is 297. A jumbled 792.
- IN (10+50) provides 60.
- NA (50+1) provides 51.
- I to R (10+50+10+200) provides 270.
- N and O (50+6) provides 56. The number of letters on the first line is 11 and on the second is 3 so together as 113 it is twice 56.5.
- From C to A (20+1+4+10+1) is 36.
This much shorter list gives us 51, 36, 376 and 270 that are new.
- There are 360̊ in a circle.
- Due west is at 270̊.
- The Greenwich Meridian is at latitude 51.51̊.
- 3 76 should be seen as 3 and 76. We have seen the 3 in the Big Hint OUO.
Evidently then, these numbers do relate to longitude and latitude.
The following important note is made. Normally E should equal 1 and A should equal 70. If this arrangement is chosen, nothing is found. Anson did the same manipulation in his riddle. ‘O’ normally has value 6 but he changed it to 70.
The original phrase Virgil used in his poem was only ‘Arcades.’ Someone in turn added the ET IN and EGO with the latter on the second line and changed ‘Arcades’ to ‘Arcadia.’ Presumably this was done in the same manner we say American for someone from America. The endings are just a change in suffix.
Let’s make it worse. After all, Hint #1 suggests two gematrias may be in play here. Having tried Latin and found nothing, the next one attempted was Futhork. This alphabet is used primarily only by the most northern peoples. This inscription is very reminiscent of their style of runic riddles except in Latin letters. Since positioning is of great importance to runic riddles, it is likely the E was aligned under or almost under the I when this was first written. Furthermore, since it is in Latin and Hebrew gematria provides numbers of interest, it is likely the writer was extremely well educated. So, we proceed by using the Younger Futhork. (E and I share value 9. See chart at end.)
This seems random except the 5 and 6 follow each other. So we begin there:
- RC is 56.
- NGO is 864.
- Sum from R to end is 43.
- Sum of phrase ‘In Arcadia’ is 70. There are two 9’s one above the other and to the left is (9+12) or 21 so…70, 9,21 or… 7921.
The letters IN provide 98 which reminds one 89 x 89 = 7920.
- Sum from first I to last I is 60.
- Sum from first I to R is 32. Sum of ADIA is 32.
- Sum from first I to D is 51.
- Sum from C to last I is 28.
- Sum of A above O is 14.
- 9+9 = 18.
- Sum of the top line is 91 and of the second is 19. Note 91 in reverse is 19.
A few of these are new but actually repeat the same ideas.
- 14 is half of 28 which is half of 56.
- 32 is 5.65 x 5.65.
- There are 180̊ degrees of latitude.
- There are 19 lines in the Easter table. (See below.)
Evidently, it is far from random! Indeed, it can be summed as follows to find something else of great interest.
When was ‘he’ in Arcadia
This is a date. All the runic riddles, as shown by Alf Mongé (1967), are dated via the Easter Tables. This form of calendar was invented in 525 AD by Dionysius Exiguus but was in use in other forms since 390 AD. In the Easter Tables (used to place Easter – a moveable holiday) each year is identified by three numbers: Line #, Golden Number (GN) and Day Letter (DL). There are 19 lines for 532 years and then the calendar recycles. Each line represents 28 years by GN and DL. Each DL tells what day of the week the year started. (The period of years during which these runic riddles were being written is covered by the appended chart.)
Above we see how a year date is implied by the riddle master. The date should appear twice. Once literally and once at least by confirmation with Line #, GN and DL. One must proceed somewhat by trial and error. Notice the 15. If this is a Line #, it begins with year 1000. Numbers 1010, 1011 and 1012 are present. The first, 1010 has GN 4, DL 1 which is indicated by the 4 next to the 15. Year 1011 and year 1012 are indicated by GN’s 5 and 6 which appear just above them. They have DL’s 7 and 5,6 (leap year) respectively. The DL’s for 1012 are just above. There is no 7 or sum to 7. This gives a span of years from 1010 to 1012 which is very significant. The Spirit Pond runestone SP-3 from Maine dates itself to 1010 and 1011. Also part of the same collection, the amulet stone clearly states Vin 1010; and the Map Stone states Vinland 1011. It can be said then there is support for this interpretation. But it gets better….
Who Wrote It
We know Virgil wrote the original phrase ‘Arcades’ about the year 40 BC. The age of Rome and widespread Paganism. We know Poussin and Guercino both immortalized it around 1630 in its present form. The era of the Pilgrams and witch trials. The above dating suggests that before or in the year 1010 ‘someone’ added the Et In /Ego to the phrase. The era when northern kings of Norway, Denmark and Sweden chose Christianity and began to oppress Paganism earnestly. Anson added his own two lines to those words around 1750. The age when freedom of religion was beginning to take shape. Who then added those three words during the era of Pagan oppression in the north?
Fortunately, many of these encrypted riddles do include the name of the author. Often it is concealed in the telestic/acrostic lines. These are the end letters running down or up the left and right sides of the inscription. In this case EE/AO reveals nothing. Now one should check the letters from both ends as noted by the word count for each line. In this case there are three words on the first line and one on the second. The third letters in, on the first line, are I and D. The first letters on the second are E and O. This is IE from the left and DO from the right.
The letters tell us two things. Anson also found this since he repeated the same ‘DO’ in his riddle. The name of the writer is then IE. But, this is a problem. It is not a name but the Latin phrase ‘ie.’ which is still in use. It essentially means ‘to restate’ or ‘as stated.’ The name then is obvious. ??? It turns out EGO is a male name of Swedish/ Danish/ Norwegian origin. But the text also uses the word ET which means in Latin ‘and.’ Interestingly, another name is also apparent at the same point in the inscription: IN and below it GE – Inge. So it reads:
INGE ET EGO DO – IN ARCADIA – 1010 – 1012
Inge and Ego wrote this – who were in Arcadia in 1010 to 1012
Another mystery appears. Where was Arcadia of the myths and was it a real place in 1010?
Conceal and Anagram
It has become blatantly obvious something else is concealed here. As it happens often in these riddles when an acrostic or telestic requires a letter in a certain position something will be misspelled or words will be compressed together. Let us look at it again. Perhaps if the D is used twice and EGO becomes AGO then it reads:
ET IN ARC / A D / D I / A AGO
Now note: ET spells ‘eat’and AD means ‘fire’ in Old English. It means ‘hell’ in Russian. DI can be taken to mean ‘die’ and ago means ‘in the past.’ Now the phrase becomes: Eat in arc, fire, die, A – a long time ago.
It was eaten in an arc. By fire died A – a long time ago.
The letter framed by the shepherds hands was A. This then is a tomb in memory of ‘A.’ Sound strange? It is about to get even stranger.
We have just assumed the word spacing was compressed. What if this contains anagrams? What words do we see? Die, eat, go, roc(k), net, near, gore, dare, tear, gear, care, gone, ran. And then there is that Big Hint Anson gave…cup or was it a can?
Perhaps this says: ET I I CANADA GORE
No? We can be relatively certain this is the intended meaning by looking at the gematria in Hebrew:
ET I I CANADA 70 9 10 10 20 1 50 1 4 1
GORE 3 6 200 70
These are found: 7920, 40, 60, 51, 51, 56, 77, 141 and 36, 270, 279. All of which were seen above. But again we have compressed CANADA into one word. Should it be CAN 141? Or CAN AD A? Either way, the whole thing becomes strange. Were Ego and Inge actually in Canada in 1010? Was it even called Canada then?
Virgil used the word ‘Arcades’ and it was where ‘Daphnis’ the shepherd was from. In Latin: ‘arc’ is arc, ‘cade’ is fall, ‘ad’ is to, and ‘caed’ is kill (the root of cadaver). It ends in S. Together it is: arc-fall to death-S. Whereas, Daphnis is not quite so obvious. It is four words together as well: hid-pan-I-S or hid-pan-eye-S. The ending ‘nis’ is remarkably close to ‘N is S’ and English ‘ness’ seen in other runic riddles. A study of many of the names Virgil used are like this. Perhaps the common theme here is Paganism.
It was eaten in an arc. By fire died A – a long time ago.
Inge and Ego wrote this – who were in Canada in 1010 to 1012
Remember – history is written by the victor.
The remainder of the secret is now easy to grasp, if the mind is willing.
Similar Articles by the Same Author
** For numeric background see:
**Freeborn, B.L., Validating North American Runic Inscriptions, noahsage.com, November 2022.
Freeborn, B.L., Ancient Riddles to Test Our Wits: The Secret Chamber, noahsage.com, January 2016. (Post)
Freeborn, B.L., Deciphering the Spirit Pond, Nomans Land and Narragansett Runic Inscriptions, noahsage.com, November 2022.
Freeborn, B.L., Et in Arcadia Ego – OUOSVAVV DM – Deciphered, noahsage.com, December 2022.
Freeborn, B.L., Kensington Rune Stone: A New Translation, noahsage.com, February 2023.
Freeborn, B.L., Runic Riddles: Time Capsules, noahsage.com, December 2022.
Freeborn, B.L. The Long Debated Bourne Stone, noahsage.com, January 2023.
Freeborn, B.L., The Nomans Land – Leif Eriksson Inscription, noahsage.com, December 2022.
Freeborn, B.L., The Narragansett Inscription: A Translation with its Date of Dedication, Author and Inscriber, noahsage.com, October 2022.
Freeborn, B.L., The Newport Tower: Finding the Date of Dedication, its Designer and Builder, noahsage.com, October 2022.
Freeborn, B.L., The Runic Riddles: Younger Futhork, noahsage.com, December 2022.
Gordon, Cyrus, Riddles in History, Crown Publishers, Inc. New York, 1974.
Landsverk, O.G., Runic Records of the Norsemen in America, Erik J. Friis, Publisher, Rushford, MN, 1974.
Mongé, Alf & O.G. Landsverk, Norse Medieval Cryptography in Runic Carvings, Norseman Press, Glendale, California, 1967.
Derogatory article by Aslak Liestol of Alf Mongé’s work: http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/41/v41i01p034-042.pdf and….
…Landsverk responded to these comments in Ancient Norse Messages pg. 126-129; and often in Runic Records of the Norsemen in America.
Wikipedia articles on: Guercino ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ ; Virgil ; Poussin ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ ; Shugborough Inscription ; and many others.