How to make Runes

Runes are remarkably easy to make, in part because their originators crafted runes with straight, simple lines and rudimentary tools. Almost anyone can re-create the primitive look of the ancient symbols. Here are some ideas that you can borrow and adapt to make your own set of runes.

Clay Runes
Divide a handful of clay or clay-like material into 25 equal sections, and roll each section into a ball. Flatten the runes slightly, either with your fingers or a flat, smooth surface like the bottom of a drinking glass. Use the dull edge of a knife blade or a clay-sculpting tool to carve a single runic letter into each piece of clay. Fire or bake the clay until it’s hard. If you like, you can then color in each runic inscription. Historically, it’s thought that rune makers used blood to color their runes; today, most people prefer paint or magic marker.

Wooden Runes
Find a tree branch that’s at least two feet long. The branch should be the same diameter along its whole length, so that each rune will be roughly the same size. Some say you should use a branch from a fruit-bearing tree, while its still in its blossom stage. You might want to find a fallen branch, or if your political sensitivities allow, you can cut one from a tree. (Cutting live branches can be a touchy issue among some rune experts. Some say it’s acceptable, especially if you ask permission or leave an offering of some sort. Personally, I think it’s okay to cut a branch or two from a tree in your yard, particularly if your motives are pure and the tree needs pruning anyway.)

You can peel the bark off the branch, or leave it on for a more rustic effect. Cut the branch into 25 even, half-inch sections. You might want to cut the sections slightly on the diagonal, so you’ll end up with a larger, more oval surface for each inscription.

Alternately, you can use 25 small, evenly sized twigs, or buy pre-cut, pre-sanded wood pieces from a hobby shop or a hardware store.

Use a knife or a wood-burning tool to carve a runic letter on each piece of wood. When you’re finished carving your runes, you might want to coat them with a layer of varnish, shellac, or polyurethane.

Stone Runes
Go to a beach — some people say it should be an ocean or seaside beach, on Wednesday (Odin’s Day), as a storm approaches — and select 25 small stones that are roughly the same size and shape. Paint a runic letter on each stone, then coat them with clear varnish so the letters don’t wear off. Spray-on finishes work especially well with stones, and can even give them an attractive, lustrous finish.

Shell Runes
As long as you’re at the beach, you might want to make yourself a set of delicate shell runes, too. Just find 25 small shells, and paint a runic letter on each one.

Leaf Runes
You can make a beautiful, temporary set of runes by painting runic symbols on leaves especially colorful autumn leaves. When you’re finished, you can keep them with you for a time, like talismans, and then cast them to the wind for good luck.

Glass Runes
Visit your neighborhood craft shop or discount store and pick up an assortment of glass gems, the kind that are used in clear vases and bowls for floral arranging. Use a glass etching tool, paint, or a metallic ink marker to emboss each gem with a runic letter.

Paper Runes
Draw, write, or paint each rune on a small piece of card stock or heavy paper. If you like, you can embellish each rune with meaningful illustrations that symbolize that rune’s meaning and significance. You could even make collage-style rune cards, with pictures and images that relate to each symbol. You can decorate the back of each card, if you like, and laminate them so they’re easy to shuffle and impervious to everyday damage.

Tips and Hints

Here are some additional suggestions to keep in mind as you craft your runes:

The most powerful, most meaningful runes are those that you handcraft for yourself or for someone you care about, with natural materials that you’ve collected.

Don’t worry about making each rune “perfect.” But do try to make your runes roughly the same size, shape, and texture, so you can’t tell them apart by touch or feel.

As you create each rune, say its name over and over to imbue it with the full force and power of that letter. Repeating the names will help you memorize the runes, master their pronunciation, and help you connect to the archetypal energies of each one.

You may want to research color symbolism and design your runes accordingly, to imbue them with additional power and significance.

You might want to sew a storage pouch for your runes. You might like choose a rustic fabric, like burlap or muslin. You might even be able to stitch together a piece of leather and a rawhide drawstring. You can paint, embroider, and embellish the pouch however you like.

If you like, you can bless or consecrate your runes before you start using them. You can pray for guidance and enlightenment as you use the runes. You can envision them surrounded by pure white light, or you can bathe them in the light of a full moon. You can purify them by passing them through the smoke of burning herbs or incense, or you can sprinkle them with salt crystals.


Corrine Kenner.

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