• Elísabet Soffía Bender

First week of research: What are runes

In my practice for my MA in Digital Fashion at Leeds Art University, I am going to be exploring the history of my country and use runic letters by laser cutting them on to fabric different fabric along with the understanding fit of clothing within different shapes and sizes by using a software called CLO3D. In this blog, I will be exploring and understanding old Icelandic ways of writing that are known to be called runes.

Runes are a series of signs that make up a system of writing that is called runic alphabets that are made of many different Germanic languages. Before the Latin alphabet was adapted into European culture runes were dominant in Europe (Bergman 2020). The characters of runes consist of straight lines that are ideally engraved into wood, stone and bone. The actual word “Rune” really means to crave and cut. Runes were then back then perfect to mark or bless things and or cast spells. Runes were then hardly ever used to bring volumes on to volumes to the written word (Bergman 2020).

Iceland did develop their runic letters a little bit different way from the rest of Scandinavia. While Scandinavia kept their system of writing runes through the time period of the middle ages. Iceland adopted much quicker towards the Latin alphabet. Iceland did however not forget about runes but, kept their knowledge with manuscripts that Icelanders then copied and used over and over for many years (Svipdagr 2017). The art of rune writing is by most parts thanks to mysticism and aestheticism. The powerful and interesting imagery of runes was carved into doorways, weapons and different relics, surrounding blessings and mythical meanings that the Latin alphabet couldn’t provide Icelanders (Bergman 2020). Iceland has around a hundred archaeological examples of engraved runes that have been uncovered or preserved to this day. That includes Iceland’s most valuable wooden church door that was engraved around 1200 AD called Valþjófsstaðahurin that is now displayed at the National Museum of Iceland (Bergman 2020). In more present day’s runes are an important part of Iceland’s heritage and its identity and runes are an important foundation of the fellowship of Ásatrú in the ’70s. The fellowship is an association the believes and is devoted to the Norse Mythology (Bergman 202).

This was some background into the history of runes. Runes have their own alphabet that can be seen in this picture here.



But runes can also be signs that mean something like a symbol. There is a rune that is meant to be used to terrorise your opponent in a fight (Ægishjálmur) that is placed on a warrior’s helmet before a fight. Then you have also got a rune that prevents your butter from going bad (smjörrún). The runes I am talking about can be found amongst others in a YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1TWHN0aV98

In my practice, I would like to say something meaningful with the runes that I will choose to engrave it to the fabric. Knowing a bit more about runes now I feel more confident in my decision of choosing to bring some of the cultures that I was brought up with and learned through the years. I, however, feel more confused about what I would like to say with my runes. I believe that I will need to dig a bit deeper into the meaning of runes before I decide on what I would like to engrave into fabrics.

This week I have researched the history of runes along with learning more efficient ways of how to use Adobe Illustrator to draw technical flats and made some notes on how to use CLO3D. I feel like I need more time to understand the CLO3D software a bit more, but I am definitely very interested in the software and what it does. My next steps will be understanding the CLO3D software better along with researching what fabrics are allowed to go into the laser cutter and can be engraved on and the laser cutter can just cut through it. I will also be doing more research on the meaning of runes so the runes I will be engraving into the fabrics will mean something and not just be a reason of just because I liked to.


Here are my resources:

Bergman, S. A Guide to Icelandic runes. [online] Guide To Iceland, Available at https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/a-guide-to-icelandic-runes [9. October 2020]

Svipadagr. Icelandic runes and magical alphabets. [online] Amino, Available at https://aminoapps.com/c/norse-amino/page/blog/icelandic-runes-and-magical-alphabets/6PPG_j8gtzuGmPrLl27jQM1xYla217z7M2 [9. October 2020]

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