Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Rune doodles and sun cross troubles

Last night I was sketching on some symbols, trying to find one I could use as my signature. The idea being that with large works it's easy to sign with your whole name, but with smaller items like jewellery, a small logo or registered name stamp (as used by gold- and silversmiths) is pretty much the only thing that fits. And if you've seen east-asian art, a logo stamp can become an intergrated part of the artwork.

Now, as I'm interested in history/archaeology, mythology/folklore and symbolism, one of the first places I go to find inspiration for a symbol is my local and regional history. That leads me to something universal and something that's more or less a symbol of the Nordic countries. The former one is the sun cross, which among other things can be found in bronze age carvings (and you know how I love the bronze age) and the latter is runes, a type of alphabet mostly associated with Viking Age but in use both before and after it.

There might however be a small problem here, which I never thought about until right now... For me, runes and sun crosses represent my interest in mythology and (bronze age/iron age) history. However, the major issue is that those insufferable idiots known as nazis/neonazis used and still use these symbols and to people who aren't interested in history, they might have only ever seen magic runes like Ägishjálmur and the sun cross on neonazi banners and flyers. While the sun cross is slightly less tainted than the swastika -- another positive and universal symbol they corrupted for their own purposes -- especially outside Scandinavia, you really don't want to use a symbol that many people will interpret as nazi. On a scale it seems like a sun cross is, at least in Sweden, more likely to be interpreted as a symbol of nazi or white nationalism sympathies than the Thor's hammer, which was the major symbol of those groups in the early 90's (at time when they began to grow, especially among teens) but which now is more commonly used by viking reenactors, history buffs etc. Not a good sign... It bums me out because I just know that there will be someone who will start sending hateful e-mails about me being a nazi if they spot anything remotely like swastika, even if it's just a spiral cross or a four-winds symbol. Don't thing people confuse such different symbols? Think again! Bleh, I was in such a good mood about this, and then I start googling...

But then again, maybe I'm just worrying for nothing. Most peole are smarter than that. After all, my idea isn't to use a simple sun cross or existing binderuna or rungalder. I'm creating my own version, which looks more like a magical seal, astrological or alchemist sign or plain old hobo symbol. I hope you agree with me, when I say most of my versions look more like folkloristic symbols (be it from a nordic rune staff or sami ceremonial drum) than anything that would be instantly associated with nazism. Because it's that sense of history, time immemorial, old symbols, fascinating mythology and a nature filled with magic that I want to capture in my symbol. The kind of style and feeling you get when seeing it in Johan Egerkrans' personal take on skogsfrun/skogsrået/skogssnuvan here (pdf file) -- or in his Nordiska väsen website for that matter where a version is used as favicon.

So for the time being, I'll put those worries aside and keep playing with my rune and sun cross doodles. I will check so they aren't too similar to other existing symbols. Perhaps not so much nazi symbols as existing rungaldrar as you don't want to use symbols some will recognize as black magic signs either... "Oops, I accidentally used a rune used to cast back luck on your enemies and now my sis/friend/costumer thinks I hate her." Want to avoid that sort of thing.

But why not look a little closer on my doodles? I first made a page with sun cross variations, which I didn't take a photo of (but you can see the traces of them in the first page as the runes where drawn on the page of the sun cross page). After that I began playing around with my initials in the form of runes for K and I (which also means J). I focused on viking age runes as K and I lack staffs in the older fuþark, but I did do a few doodles using the older runes too. In the case of K and I, the medieval runes are rather similar to the viking age runes so I never used them. And the anglo-frisian runes (popular among neopagans and "rune magicians" today) wheren't used as they weren't used here.

 Notice that I did make a couple of symbols fusing the runes with a sun cross.

The runes that look like wrought iron nails are so called staveless runes. I quite like the "carnations" where I used vänderunor, mirrored runes. (Hopefully it doesn't look too much like a christian cross -- compare the shape to, for example, maltese crosses.) At the bottom are a few more or less failed attempts at binderunor, two runes fused together.  The long lines on the left are my names (real one, Kristina, and then my online persona, Maneki) written using so called samstavsrunor. They're pretty neat in my opinion and I probably should use them more often.

And for those of you not familiar with runes, here's a key to the runes K and I/J in various runic scripts.

The first one is from the elder futhark (which has a seperate letter j), followed by the viking age younger futhark (which can be sorted into three different alphabets called long-branch runes, short-twig runes and staveless runes). After that you find the anglo-saxon or anglo-frisian runes, sometimes called the futhorc, and then back to the Nordic countries and the medieval runes. The latter is more different from the younger futhark than the letters K and I/J let you see here as it was influenced by the latin alphabet. There is also another type of runes called dalrunor, which were used in the northern part of the swedish province of Dalarna (Dalecarlia) from the 16th to the 19th century. They were originally a version of medieval runes, but as time went on they became more and more influenced by the latin alphabet. You can find a pic of that runic script here.

Of cause there were also ciphers developed using runes. They might sound like something interesting to use, but they do take up space and aren't that useful in a logo. But why not show you what they could look like in the Viking Age?

Isrunor, ice runes (second row), sounds cool until you realise it's a boring cipher that looks like bar codes... There are a few different variations of  a cipher called kvistrunor. Here, you can see the three versions I found in Lars Magnar Enoksen's book Runor (the one you see in the first photo of this blog post and my go-to source for information on runes). Ran out of space so with the the last two versions I just wrote a K instead of KJ. The last row is just a very simple substitution cipher where you write down the letter before or after the letter you intend. In this case HA (example A) and RN (example B).

Now, if returning to my own design woes and logo attempts, I have weeded out a couple of favourites among my rune doodles, as well as a couple of variations on the sun cross that I like (cf. pic below). But I haven't settled for one as my signature stamp yet. The sun crosses are cute and simple, easy to scale down or up depending on what's needed, but on the other hand they might be so simple that I've picked symbols already in use by others (historically or contemporary). A rune symbol like the circular ones in my first doodle page are prettier, but harder to scale down if going with a more intricate version -- and those are the versions I like the best.

For the moment, I'll keep doodling and playing with symbols. If nothing else, I'll soon have a good library of signs to use as motifs if nothing else. But fingers crossed I will find a symbol to use as my signature too!

And if you do like runes, I want to end with a good tip: don't believe everything you read online -- most of it is new age bs, based on ideas made up by occultists in the 20th century.

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