Drawing Your Own Runes

So far in this series we have covered the rune forms, rune meanings, writing with runes, and learning the Futhark, so now it is time to draw your own runes.

Runes were originally cut in wood using a knife and they are made up of straight lines, because curves are hard to do with a straight blade. The lines are all vertical or angled, there are no horizontal lines.

Why is this? Well, try cutting a line along the grain on a piece of new wood and you will find out what happens. After a short while the cut starts to close up and becomes invisible, because hardly any of the wood fibres have been severed. To make the line permanent you have to break some of the wood fibres with the blade, so your line has to cross the grain of the wood. Thus, only vertical strokes and angled strokes were any good to the old rune carvers. Not much point in carving a message or a magic formula if you couldn't read it a few hours later!

As time went on and technology developed, it became possible to carve runes on bone, stone, metal and many other materials. In fact, most of the rune relics we have today are on these more durable materials, only a handful of ancient wooden rune carvings have ever been found. So when monument makers in the dark ages started to carve runic inscriptions with chisels, they were inclined to some artistic license. They would change the rune shapes slightly, incorporate a few curves here and there, and make their inscriptions a bit more attractive or fashionable.

But the pure form of the runes consists of straight vertical and angled lines, so that's where we will start. Feel free to use your own artistic license at a later stage.

To simplify things, we will use a grid made up of squares and draw any angled lines at 45o. Whether you are working on paper or using computer graphics, this means you can get the angled lines by joining up the corners of the squares.

The grid should be roughly in the proportion 2:3, in other words if it's 2 inches wide, it should be about 3 inches tall. This one happens to be 7 squares wide and 11 tall, but you can use any size you like.

Now let's draw our first rune, Fehu.

From Fig.1 you will notice I didn't use the whole grid because I wanted the angled lines to go through the box corners. In Fig.2 I have thickened the strokes, and in Fig.3 the edges have been tidied up. Finally in Fig.4 the grid has been removed leaving a perfectly proportioned Fehu rune!

When you are experimenting with the other runes, you will find that some shapes like Jera and Mannaz use the whole 2:3 grid, but others do not fit too well. For example, Dagaz is easier to draw using only  7 x 7 of the grid.

I sometimes wonder whether the old rune carvers used a similar method, because Dagaz often appears shorter than the other runes in ancient Futharks.

For computer graphics users, these stark geometric patterns can now be enhanced by applying color and various filters to the design, producing  more attractive, individual effects.

This is the same basic method I have used for composing bindrunes for many years. Of course, I have refined the method for speed and convenience by developing templates and a database of pre-defined objects in the Paint Shop Pro graphics program. But that's because I need to produce as many as 40 or 50 new designs every week.
 
Author Bob Oswald
Home Page http://www.runemaker.com
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Copyright 1994-2015 Bob Oswald

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