Lesson 1) Welcome to Ancient Runes

Welcome
Hello and welcome to Ancient Runes, students. As the more observant of you will have deduced, I am you professor. My name is Professor Wessex and this is the Room of Runes. Not only is this the room where you will learn about magical scripts and writings, but it also houses some very important historical collections relating to the research and study of ancient runes, as well as original materials. About myself, I will not include personal details in your lesson, but if you have an interrogation you would like to subject me to, you may stay after class to speak with me. Suffice it to say that I have a deep and abiding respect for ancient magical scripts such as runes, hieroglyphics, and Naxi -- to name a few -- from my years working with them and I intend to see to it that you leave this class with a similar appreciation.

The Room of Runes
On every wall, atop every shelf, you will find hundreds of manuscripts dating back thousands of years, all in dead languages rarely used today. The exception is in magical texts where the old words often have more power than our relatively young English language used today. As you will find yourself frequenting the Room of Runes, I will require you to  be very careful with the books. Many are quite old and prone to fall apart at the wrong touch. Carry only one book at a time when you remove it from the shelf, and lay it in a book holder to prevent the spine from bending too much.

We have no windows in here due to the potential for light damage to the books, so I have taken the liberty of lighting the lamps on your desks. The lamps are lit with witch light1 and you should only light them with such. The pages in these old books can curl and singe from too much heat, so fire should never be used. If you have an accident with a book, leave it where it is and contact me immediately. My office is located on the upper floor of this room and to the left.

Viewing the Runes in your Browser:
Unfortunately, due to the way different browsers resolve individual letters, users of Safari and Chrome may not be able to see typed runes. For this reason, it is recommended that you use Firefox (or Internet Explorer, if you want to, but we all know it’s not ideal) if you want to type the runes for your assignments. Otherwise you will have to either create images of the runes and upload them somewhere to put them into your submissions, or copy and paste already created images from sites on the internet, neither of which works for short answer assignments. Alternatively, you may use the rune names to tell me which runes you are using where necessary.

If you cannot use Firefox for some reason, the following two workarounds may be able to help you:

For Safari users:

You need to install one of the following fonts:
http://www.dafont.com/ancientrunes.font
http://www.dafont.com/tolkien-dwarf-runes.font
http://www.dafont.com/maeshowe.font

Once you have installed the font, refreshing the page should allow you to see the runes properly. This does not work on iOS; unfortunately, I have not yet found a way to make typed runes show up on iPhone or iPad.

For Chrome users:

Try installing one of the fonts above, but this may not work. An alternative font which does not appear to work with Safari but does work for Chrome, at least on my computer, is Junicode:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/junicode/files/

This is a font created specifically for scholars of ancient scripts and languages, and it includes both runes and normal letters. To make the runes show in Chrome after installing this font, you need to go into Settings → Advanced settings → Web content → Customize fonts and then select Junicode as both your standard and sans-serif font. It might be helpful to also adjust the minimum font size a little, as Junicode runes appear on the smaller side compared to other letters and may be hard to read otherwise.

Required Books
Now, there is a textbook you will need for this first course. You should have received the title on your supply list, but if not, it is the Rune Dictionary. While it is possible to pass this entire course without reading this book, your grade -- and overall understanding of concepts mentioned in this class -- will improve significantly with the help of this textbook. There is most definitely some overlap in information, but some bits of knowledge are only referenced in your textbook, so I recommend at least skimming the indicated chapters.

Age Recommendation
Because of the challenge of this course, I would like to suggest an age minimum of 16 for the first year of this course, and potentially a bit older for your O.W.L. year and beyond. Moreover, everyone, regardless of age, should think long and hard about whether you are ready to put in the time necessary to learn a runic script (alongside all your other courses). Properly learning translation, the culture the languages and the fundamentals behind its creation can be particularly difficult and will practiced every successive year, culminating in your O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s for this course.

Syllabus
In your first year studying Ancient Runes, we will focus on the Elder Futhark, the eldest of the scripts properly referred to as runes. Over the next nine weeks, you will learn about its history and study the individual letters; learning their meanings and interpretation, as well as the ways they are used in spellwork and in magical texts. The focus this year will be on learning to translate runes accurately depending on, and in relation to, their context.

The following table gives you an overview of the topics covered each week and the assignments for each:

As you can see, the next two weeks will be an introduction to runes in general: looking at the history of the Elder Futhark in Week Two and discussing the letters and their phonetic values (sounds) in Week Three before we delve deeper into the meanings of individual runes. We will be studying them in groups of eight over the course of the following three weeks. Your midterm will take place in Week Five, and will cover all the runes studied up to that point as well as transcriptions based on the whole runic alphabet. Once we finish our study of individual runes, we will spend one lesson on the issue of translating the runes as ideograms, before finishing the year with a look at rune uses in various areas of spellwork. Your final lesson will consist of a review of the material we studied and your final exam will have three parts: a quiz, a translation assignment, and an essay.

At the end of most lessons, you will find a section entitled “Vocabulary,” where I will explain any terminology and expressions that might be unfamiliar to you. Hopefully this will help you understand both the course material and any outside research you may wish to do in the course of your studies.

Grading Advisory
Unless otherwise noted, essays in this course follow the grading rubric below:

      • 70% - Contents
      • 10% - Spelling/Grammar
      • 15% - Word Count and Effort
      • 5 - Identifying Marks (unless otherwise specified)

Extra credit will be available for work that goes beyond expectations on all assignments if they show exemplary attention to detail, effort, creativity or research, though on some assignments, extra credit is much more difficult to earn.

Now that we have all the administrative matters out of the way, let’s get started with our content.

What are Ancient Runes?
Now, as you will know from the course title, this class is going to be about ancient runes, but I’m sure many of you won’t know exactly what this means. The term “ancient runes” is used to refer to writing systems that are no longer in common use, but were used in previous times to write down magical texts or used in spellwork, and which may still be used for magical purposes to this day.

If you are reading this lesson, then most likely you will be reading it written in the letters of the Latin alphabet. The Latin alphabet is the writing system most commonly used in the modern western world. Other modern writing systems include Chinese, Japanese and Cyrillic just to name a few. Modern alphabets like the Latin alphabet, but also Cyrillic and the Germanic runes – which we will study this year – are part of a tradition that reaches back more than 3,000 years. An alphabet is a collection of symbols that are used to represent the sounds of a language in written form, such as consonants and vowels. Other writing systems may date back even further, and throughout this course we will study descendants and branches of some of them.

What are the Uses of Runes?
All writing systems share one common purpose: to fix the temporary and fleeting products of thought and speech. By writing down a thought, you can capture it and share it with others, not just for a moment, as you would when voicing it to another person, but in a form that can transcend time and space. A word written down can travel to another place, and to another time. For, once written down, it is recorded in a state more stable than speech or thought.

This is an important characteristic, because the fact that writing fixes thoughts and ideas means that we can study them now, even when they may have been first thought or voiced many hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Once wizardkind realised the benefits to this permanence, it wasn’t long before they applied that concept to make magic more stable and longer lasting.

Runes are used in magic for a variety of reasons. They are not the flashiest kind of magic, but their effects can be stronger and longer lasting, depending on the way they are used. We will look at this in greater detail towards the end of this year, when we discuss applications of runes in spellwork and enchantments.

Testing Runes for Magic
For now, we will conclude our lesson with the Enchantment Revealing Charm, which will tell you the status of a rune, whether it be magical, mundane, active, inactive, or damaged. The spell itself is simple, although it can sometimes be a bit tricky or misleading when dealing with more complex enchantments. For activated runes, however, it is relatively dependable. To cast the Enchantment Revealing Charm, point your wand at the rune or rune design, and say the incantation Specialis Revelio (Speh-cee-AH-lis reh-VEH-lee-oh).

You may also want to use this spell after deactivating runes when they are no longer wanted, in order  to ensure that they are harmless before touching or discarding of them. There are many tales of unsuccessfully deactivated runes that have led to injury and worse when encountered by an unsuspecting Muggle, or simply a witch or wizard who did not think to cast the Revealing Charm before handling the object.

The Enchantment Revealing Charm will have one of four results:

  • No result: If you see no impact on the runes at all and they do not begin to glow, this means that either the magic has been drained from them, whether by purposeful deactivation, magical or physical damage, or due to the Activation Spell never working to begin with. If this happens occasionally when you begin to work with activated runes, do not worry: sometimes it can take a little while before you begin to get consistent results.
  • Amber or bronze glow: If the runes begin to glow bronze or amber, congratulations: this means you have a successfully activated rune or set of runes.
  • Red glow: If the runes begin to glow red it means that the runes are activated; however, there is something wrong with the rune or rune set. This could mean that it is magically compromised, or that there are other severe issues with the activation. You should never use runes that appear to be compromised in some way, especially as a beginner, as it can be very dangerous. Instead, please consult a runes expert who will be able to help sort out the problem, and remedy it as needed.
  • Pale blue glow: This means that there is some form of enchantment or spell on the runes, although it is not clear what it is. If the runes are not glowing amber or bronze, however, it is in your best interest to consult with an expert and proceed cautiously if at all. It may indicate a milder enchantment of some sort has been placed on the runes, or it could indicate a far more insidious spell at work.

Conclusion
And with that, we have come to the end of your first lesson. You will have a short quiz on the content of this introduction after this lesson. This shouldn’t take you long to complete if you have paid attention to what I told you today. In addition, I would like you to complete a brief introductory essay, just so I can start to get to know the students in my course, and to learn about your expectations and hopes for this course.

Next week, we will begin our study of the Elder Futhark with an introduction to its shape and history. Until then, I recommend you take a look at Chapter Two: History and Characteristics of the Futhark in your textbook.

Footnotes:
1. The spell for witch light is Lumos Permaneo (LOO-mos per-may-NEH-oh) - literally, “permanent light”. The movement is the same as for Lumos -- move the wand forward, then perform a backwards loop --  and is essentially a bubble of trapped light. To extinguish the light, simply use the multi-purpose Wand-Extinguishing Charm, Nox. For those of you with memories like a leaky cauldron, the wand movement for Nox is simple: just a flick or jab in any direction will do.

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Vocabulary
Alphabet: A writing system where both consonants and vowels (the sounds of the language) are symbolised (derived from the words alpha and beta, the names of the first two letters/symbols in the Greek writing system).
Ancient runes: Writing systems that are no longer in common use; used previously for magical texts and spellwork
Latin alphabet: The set of symbols used in the western world to record language in a visible form. Also the alphabet in which this lesson is written.
Writing system: A code used to make language visible and fix it in a durable form.
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Original lesson created by Professor Genesis Starfight

 

Have you ever come across strange markings in old, worn books and wondered what they said? Do you have a love for languages and writing? Would you like to learn some of the world’s oldest magic? The study of Ancient Runes is a course concerning itself with ancient magical scripts from around the world, their history, their linguistics, and the spells they were used to compose. This year, prepare to enter the world of the Nords, the councils of the magi, and the halls of Valhalla. Enroll