Thursday, June 3, 2010

Crafting your own runes

A comment made on a post has been floating around in my head as perhaps something I should blog about. So here I go.

When making your own set of runes (main for divination purposes) there are a few considerations that go with it. To me, I see them as:


There are many materials you could make runes in. From a historical perspective, the main materials would be wood, metal, bone and stone. The modern perspective opens up that a little by including in clay, plastic, and precious stones. Each has their users, their proponents and their opponents. I myself chose wood.

When it comes to wood, lore-based information indicates a fruiting tree (so anything that bears fruit, including nuts). But, in this day and age, where there is a multitude of wood available, even to the amateur wood carver making his own set of runes, you might want to visit a specialty woodshop and see what is available. When I did this, I choose a piece of rosewood. It doesn’t produce fruit (at least nothing edible) although it is known being rich with volatile oils, and can be steam distilled to release them. As I was working with it, I realized why it was called rosewood. One of them is that, when the wood is freshly worked, it’s pink. The other one is that there is a faint odor that is realized from the wood, that is vaguely floral and rose-like. I really quite enjoyed it.

I did make a set before this one, with simple basswood that I purchased at an art supply store. The basswood is excellent to learn on, as it is very forgiving and easy to work with. The rosewood, well, not so much. Fortunately, I had already done it once before, so I was somewhat prepared for the experience. That is one of the lessons I found with wood. Depending upon the wood, carving can be very easy, or challenging. If you want to know about the kinds of wood you can choose from, I have found an internet search to be a font of information. You could also burn them into the wood as well, but I find that leaves out the option of coloring them later.

Stone is plentiful and readily available medium. While historically, stone was reserved for marking important sites or memorials, I have met quite a few people with stone runes, usually the rune being painted on. One was even made of small river pebbles, with the runes sharpied on. They were quite nice, and very durable. You could also get larger stones used in gardening, and then paint or mark runes on them. If you really wanted to develop a unique skill, try stone carving. There are even simple power tools that can do this, but they need to be handled with skill and safety.

Bone is also a good medium and traditional. While I have never personally seen a bone set, I have some listed for sale online, and suggested it to others. Finding bone that you can cut and carve, well I am not very sure where to get that. If you had a connection with someone perhaps with a farm, or in a slaughterhouse, you might try getting a bone. A good consideration is the animal that it is taken from.

Metal, while a good idea, is also not the easiest of materials to work with. Having taken a jewelry class, you will need a great deal of specialized equipment to make a decent working set. It will also way as much as a role of quarters. Depending upon the metal, it might also cost you a great sum of money as well, as silver is rather expensive, and if you want a gold one, well, um yeah. You might look into stainless steel, or copper or brass, but keep in mind that you might need to clean them periodically to keep oxidation off, although an oxidized copper rune set might be very aesthetically pleasing.

Clay is readily available and using some modern version, you might create some really nice runes, all in the safety of your own home. If you are taking a ceramics course, you could even create something really spectacular with a kiln and some glaze, but that can be hard to come by. The only problem I have with clay/ceramic is fragility. The first set of runes I had was ceramic. They were very nice. Because I took them everywhere, and used them fairly often, they had a tendency, when exposed to certain stresses to break. I would be as gentle as I could, but even then, sometimes, it would break. So, if you aren’t going to be traveling with it, and will keep it in a padded container, ceramic/clay can be a very nice medium.

I have seen plastic “runes” of other types. I have never seen one made of the runes used in Scandinavian countries. I am not ever sure where you could get plastic to make those types of runes. You would probably have to buy them.

The final type is crystal. This is much like stone, except for the structure of the crystal itself, which you might have to consider if you are carving into it. It would also require skill and specific instruments to carve it. Unlike some stone, it does not lone itself well to sharpie or paint unless you have already carved out the area. Most of these are usually going to be store bought.

After the choice of medium, it is a choice of how to and what to color your runes. You may choose not to color them at all, but I have found that by using a color, it makes the runes vivid and easily seen, especially when working with natural materials. The traditional color to use is shades of red, generally darker. The most traditional coloring was blood, which has a distinctive brown-red hue when it dries. Other traditional pigments I have read about are red ochre (a type of mineral) alder sap (which is also red) and any other natural red pigment. You could also just use paint. As you can see, red is the traditional color used for runes. That is the color I used, and I highly recommend it. I have read that one could use blue, and in Edred Thorsson’s books, he give color values for each rune. You could color each rune a different color, given those values, or any other color value that you might determine, from other texts, or personal insight. Most ceramic runes I have seen were colored red, while the precious stone runes typically used a metallic pigment or leaf to color in the carvings. If you are using paint or liquid pigments, you could add essential oils, drops of fluid condenser or personal concerns, to add power or special connection to the runes.

The final question is finish. With some mediums, that will be an automatic step, namely clay/ceramic and metal. It is required to color the runes to make them stand out. The only time it would not be needed for clay is when you are using the kind you can bake at home in your oven at low tempatures, which do not require a glaze. But you might want to give it a finish anyway, afterwards, just to seal it. With wood, you don’t need to seal it, but I found that even a clear seal changes the appearance of the wood dramatically, and also makes the rune stand out more (especially in red). It also gives it a very nice finish that gives it a completed look. Stone does not necessarily need a finish, and neither does crystal, except perhaps over the painted or inked on rune, although if you are using a sharpie on granite, it will be fairly enduring even without it.

Once you have completed creating the rune set, you might wish to consecrate it. I personally find that the process of carving, coloring, and finishing actually consecrates it quite well. Once the finish dried, I would then go back, and chant/sing the name of each rune, placing them in the order given by the aettirs or in other symbolic arrangements, perhaps in an eight-pointed star, or a circle with the runes in the circumference. You could also use any of the methods recommended by other rune authors to consecrate and empower/awaken your runes.

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