Alu and hale

Mees, B 2009, 'Alu and hale', Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, vol. 5, pp. 107-131.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Alu and hale
Author(s) Mees, B
Year 2009
Journal name Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association
Volume number 5
Start page 107
End page 131
Total pages 25
Publisher Australian Early Medieval Association Inc.
Abstract 'Be thou hale' is a traditional form of greeting in both Old Norse and Old English. Hale itself, though, is usually held to be a key member of the Old Germanic religious vocabulary; it has traditionally been considered to be related, for example, to both Modern English holy and Old Norse heill (omen, auspice, talisman). Yet cognates to hale are surprisingly rare in the earliest Germanic sources: hale and its congeners are relatively marginal terms both in runic epigraphy and in the Gothic Bible. In Gothic, hale (in its religious sense) seems to have been usurped by weihs (holy) (cf German Weihnachten [Christmas, literally 'the holy nights']), whereas runic inscriptions more commonly feature other magico-religious terms such as the etymologically controversial 'charm word' alu. This paper examines the use of the various descriptions for 'blessed', 'lucky' or 'holy' in the earliest Germanic sources and proposes an explanation for their differing usages in light of the widespread appearance of runic alu in magico-religious contexts.
Subject Language in Time and Space (incl. Historical Linguistics, Dialectology)
Studies in Religious Traditions (excl. Eastern, Jewish, Christian and Islamic Traditions)
ISSN 1449-9320
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