Day 322: Making Runes

Handmade runes around a horned skullcap...très witchy, non?

Handmade elder futhark runes around a horned skullcap…très witchy, non?

Roderick starts out his introduction to making runes by noting that there are very specific traditional methods for doing so.  However, I really think that should be taken with a grain of salt.  When it comes to rune studies, I look outside fluffy bunny sources and, indeed, all of Wicca for help.  Right now, I’m very comfortable with Diana L. Paxson’s work.  Paxson is currently the leader of Hrafnar, a heathen kindred in Berkeley, California who practice Ásatrú.  Among Paxon’s many literary efforts is a little volume called Taking Up the Runes, and its one of the best contemporary resources for rune studies.  In this volume, Paxson notes that most of what we know of the ancient German’s specific crafting of divinatory runes comes from the Roman writer Tacitus, who simply said they cast lots of fruitwood for divination.  These days, you can really make runes out of anything you like, just as long as they’re of small enough pieces to mix easily and to conveniently transport in a smallish pouch.

I’ve actually made rune sets from glass tiles, sea glass, polymer clay, ceramic clay, antler tiles, and wood.  My runaway preference is for wood.  The glass felt so artificial, and it was really hard to etch them cleanly and safely.  When I tried paint, the paint rubbed right off in just a couple uses.  The ceramic tile chipped and broke, the antlers were a little creepy and smelled really weird, and the polymer clay just felt plastic and fake.  To me, wood is warm and friendly and very forgiving of rough treatment.  Paint takes well to them, and it’s easy enough to etch into wood with an X-acto knife or a trusty boline.  I prefer to woodburn, but that involves finding a friend with the appropriate equipment for me.

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An old runestone in Stockholm that was placed into a building’s foundation.

There is one caveat to runemaking.  Most Scandinavian runestones have the runes engraved into the rock and then painted red, as shown in the image above.  This red color is evocative of the lifeblood that flows through all, and reminds us that the runes are part of our lifeblood.  Indeed, in crafting your runes, you may find it beneficial to not only paint them in red, but to use blood in the process.  Paxson cautions against using any b;ppd but your own, as you know without a doubt that it was freely given for this purpose and will also link you more strongly with the runes.  Very little blood is needed for this, and even less if you mix it into red paint:  a couple drops would be all that would be needed in that case.

For this series of Roderick’s studies, I am abandoning his text and exercises (and, in some cases, even the order of the days) entirely.  This is because I have found this section to be very poorly researched and edited.  I do not know upon what foundation Roderick is building his information from since no sources pertaining to runes are listed in his bibliography.  However, I suspect he swiped some of his information from Ralph H. Blum’s The Book of Runes.  Blum does perplexing things things as ascribing ansuz to Loki (when every valued rune scholar says it is Odin’s special rune) or raidho with communication (when that is so prominently ansuz) that Roderick duplicates, and Blum’s idiosyncratic spellings for the runes are also duplicated here.  The exact wording (and omission of stanza 140) of the poem Roderick offers in day 321 is also given in Blum’s opening pages.

If Roderick did take his information from Blum, I find that troubling not only in the fact that he did so without credit but also because of the source itself.  Blum’s Book of Runes isn’t a historically researched text:  pretty much all of it’s detail was derived through his own meditations.  If grounded information is what you want, literally any other rune book is a better source.  Blum also greatly switched up the order of his runes, which might explain Roderick’s odd ordering.  Roderick put them back into aetts, but the order within the aetts is certainly nonstandard.

Worst of all, this section suffers from the lack of basic proofreading, which is inexcusable when the section pertains to sigils that are not familiar to an audience.  One misprint here can be damning:  the number that persists is obscene.  For example, the chart of runes given for today duplicates the sigils for othala (where it is both othala and ingwaz) and wunjo (where it is both wunjo and laguz).  This mistake is repeated in the chart given for Day 354 (Using the Runes in Magic).  In the sigils given at the start of each day, day 345 (Ingwaz) shows the sigil for othala and day 349 (Ehwaz) omits the sigil entirely.

In lieu of Roderick’s text, I will be taking all my information from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.  It is not a perfect text, but it nicely summarizes the work of other rune scholars, gives solid historical backing, and contains plenty of ideas for exercises, rituals, and the like.  Even though Paxson is primarily coming from an Ásatrú background, her ritual suggestions and magical practices are not unfamiliar to contemporary Wicca.

As I am using Paxson’s text, I will be using her spellings instead of Roderick’s as well as her images of the runes.  The Elder Futhark runes are in the order with the names I will be using below:

The Elder Futhark as Diana Paxson has them ordered along with her standardized spellings.

The Elder Futhark as Diana Paxson has them ordered along with her standardized spellings.  The only major differences from Paxon’s preferred forms is that her uruz has feet that meet on the same level, and her preferred eihwaz is the mirror image of this one.  She does offer this orientation as an alternate, however.

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