EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
I'd like to join Jens in thanking you for translating Mr. Daehnhardt's beautifully explained discussion on these often seen numbers that occur in variation on so many many blades. It has always amazed me that over the years so many swords that were clearly 17th and 18th century weapons, were described in catalogues as having blades dated 1441, 1414 etc. by writers who certainly should have known better.
The application of numbers associated with talismanic symbolism is of course well known from early times, as numerology has had quite ancient beginnings. It is interesting to note that from the 16th century, hunting swords were often inscribed with calendars of 'saints days' in sectioned circle separated with signs of the zodiac ("Hunting Weapons" H.L.Blackmore). Presumably such devices were employed to promote good hunting, and much the same concept was likely applied with numeric symbols on blades to offer protection and good fortune in dangerous circumstances.
In anthropology it is known that early man used crudely stylized symbolism in his artwork found in caves to promote good outcome in key events such as hunting. It seems amazing that this simplistic superstitious perception from mans darkest prehistoric age developed rudimentally into intricate occult systems still recognized in varying degree and form to this day. During the Dark Ages, though illiteracy and ignorance were prevalent, the crafts maintained these traditions and allegories, and they carried through the Renaissance despite the advent of knowledge and science.
I think one of the key elements in the esoterica behind these various markings and symbols found on weapons was alchemy. It was primarily this psuedo-science, heavily laced with theosophical allegory and arcane symbolism such as numerology and the Cabbala that led to the markings and motifs we are discussing, in my opinion.
In the bladesmiths craft, the secrets he employed in forging of the metal in his weapons were many, especially in the most important aspect, that of tempering the steel. All manner of bizarre concoctions were created in which the blade was quenched and presumably would imbue the steel with the virtues and properties that would be needed in a weapon of strength and protection. In the plethora of ingredients in such mixtures were many of the elements signified and included in allegorical symbolism, and some of these may be among marks or motifs on blades.
While these are simply thoughts I have had as I have continued researching this topic, they seem at least to form some ideas to continue reviewing such possibilities and more examples of the esoterica on blades.
With all best regards,