The story behind my news runes collection begins with a song! In this blog post I look the history of runes and how I became inspired to create my new runes collection.
My New Runes Collection
What are Runes?
Runes are letters that form something called the runic alphabets (of which there are three). They were used in various Germanic languages for writing before the adoption of the Latin alphabet. As well as having a sound connected to them, as we would with the alphabet we use today, runes have meanings.
Runes were first used around 150AD. There are three runic alphabets:
- The Elder Futhark;
- The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc; and
- The Younger Futhark.
When first used, runes would be carved in wood or stone. Then gradually they appeared on written manuscripts.
But runes were used for far more than writing. In their early use they were deemed to have magical properties and even to this day they are used as a source of divination. Indeed, quite a few years ago I designed a set of runes based on the Elder Futhark alphabet as a commission for a rune readings website.
Inspiration For My New Runes Collection
My new runes collection was inspired initially by a haunting song I heard when browsing through YouTube. It was purely random that this song came up and I had never heard it before but was entranced by it. The song is called ‘My Mother Told Me‘ and it featured in the TV series The Vikings. I confess without a television I had never heard of the TV series either! Here are the lyrics:
My mother told me
Someday I would buy
Galleys with good oars
Sail to distant shores
Stand up on the prow
Noble barque I steer
Steady course to the haven
Hew many foe-men
Hew many foe-men
I found the song stirring and it gave me goose bumps so I set out to find out more about it which eventually led me to runes!
Researching The Origins Of The Song
It turns out the song is written based on the writings of Egill Skallagrimsson, who was, and I quote from Wikipedia “a Viking Age war poet, sorcerer, beserker and farmer”. Sounds like quite a lad! For those who have not come across the phrase, a ‘beserker’ would fight in an uncontrollable, trance-like fury. Eeeek! He must have been fun at a party.
Egill was considered a mighty warrior so I found it interesting that this side of him was tempered by his poetry.
The song ‘My Mother Told Me’ is based on an extract from one of Egill’s poems which literally translates as follows:
Thus spake my mother
That for me should they buy
A barque and beauteous oars
To go forth with vikings.
Stand in the stern,
Steer a dear vessel,
Hold course for a haven,
Hew down many foemen.
But what I found really fascinating was that this man of many talents (and a considerable temper by all accounts) was also a scholar of runes. By carving runes it is said that he could cure sickness and influenced the outcome of battles.
The Vikings relied upon these symbols for writing but also to tell fortunes (divination), cast spells and provide protection. They left behind a large number of documents carved into stone, wood and metal, all written in the runic alphabet.
By the time I had discovered all this I had the concept for my new runes collection.
Creating My New Runes Collection
I based the runes on the Elder Futhark alphabet, which has three sets of eight runes (24 in total). My concept, the vision for the runes if you like was as follows.
Imagine out of the mist of time, a piece of wood from a shipwreck drifts along in the ocean, surrounded by the smoke of conflict. On that piece of wood there is a carved symbol waiting to be discovered. But what is it? And what does it mean? Mystic and mysterious, that is the premise behind my new runes collection of images, a series of digital paintings depicting all 24 runic symbols.
For each rune, my write up includes the meaning behind the rune. I have also included the birth dates for each one, as individual runes cover particular calendar dates.
For example, the rune above is Wunjo, representing the letter w. It means ‘joy’. Wunjo is the birth rune for the period 13 October – 28 October, so it is my own birth rune. Imagine how cool it would be to have your birth rune on your wall at home – plus it would make a great, unusual, gift for someone. You can see a list of birth runes here.
Where You Can Buy My Rune Collection
You can see my new runes collection and buy prints/gifts at:
My Pictorem store – with prints available in a variety of formats with free shipping in the USA and Canada.
My RedBubble store – prints and a variety of products with worldwide shipping.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!