Habdur runes example

For my Reimagined Culture Project, in addition to a new language I decided I'd need a new script. My reasoning is mainly aesthetic: I want visitors to my ten acres to feel as if they're entering another world, and one of the simplest ways to achieve that is with an arcane alphabet.

I wanted something runic—something that could be easily carved or engraved. Rather than inventing a new alphabet from scratch, I decided instead to curate a new flavor of old Norse/Anglo-Saxon runes (AKA Futhorc/Futhark), curated from the five variants of the script that are represented in the Runic block of Unicode. This makes it relatively easy to write and manipulate text in my script on a computer. It also reflects the ancient past of my English/German/Norse heritage, before Roman culture colonized those regions and Norse runes were replaced with the Latin alphabet.

So, I looked at the letters across these five variant scripts (Elder Futhark, Anglo-Saxon runes, long-branch Younger Futhark, short-twig Younger Futhark, and Scandinavian medieval runes) and selected a rune for each English phoneme (sound). (I knew my language would be limited to English phonemes so it would be easy for English speakers to pronounce.) I was guided by the following criteria:

  • to make the resulting writing feel arcane and "magicky"
  • to use only letters with straight lines for ease of carving into wood or stone
  • to avoid letters that look like Latin letters but signify entirely different sounds (e.g. in most of these old scripts, what looks like M sounds like "ay")
  • to make runes represent the same or nearly the same phonemes as they did originally
  • to have only one phoneme per rune and vice-versa
  • where available, to choose versions of the letters that approximately resemble their Latin counterparts
  • to avoid versions of the letters that do not extend from the top to the bottom of the line

That last criterion was for aesthetic reasons: I like the style of writing seen on ancient runestones, with each letter extending from underline to overline:

Ancient runestone

I call my variant script Habdur Runes, or, in my language of Habdurspak, "Habdurrun". (More on those names, and Habdurspak, later.) Anyway, here are the results, listed in alphabetical order—the order in which they appear in the Runic block of Unicode, i.e. in your computer's character map:

Table of Habdur runes

The greyed-out rows are runes that represent phonemes not present in Habdurspak. They're only used for writing in English (e.g. English names). Thus they don't need transliterations.

For punctuation, I use a single centered dot to separate words, and a colon-like pair of dots to separate sentences.

The font pictured is Norse by Joel Carrouche, but with a few tweaks I made using FontForge to represent each rune exactly as I prefer. I still haven't managed to get underlines and overlines properly aligned with the font.

To aid in typing I created a keyboard layout for Linux. The keyboard layout more or less aligns with the phonetics of the standard QWERTY layout, so I got the hang of it quickly, within an hour or two.

Keyboard layout for Habdur Runes.

My next steps for the script are:

  • Developing my own fonts or font variants—in particular, I need a fixed-width font to easily write code that manipulates Habdur runes.
  • Giving a name (in Habdurspak) to each rune, inspired by both its sound and its appearance.
  • Creating a rune poem in Habdurspak that teaches the alphabet and possibly serves some other function, e.g. a story, calendar, or guided meditation.