"Dawn Ravenwind is a fantasy artist, author, and mother of one, aka. “Mother of Dragons.” She is a Metis artist born in Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada. Dawn grew up off-grid without electricity or hot water and is very connected to nature. After graduating with Honour’s and distinction with a BSc from the University of Victoria she wrote her master thesis on climate change.
Dawn has studied the Elder Futhark runes for over 10 years, and uses them regularly as part of her daily practice. She is excited to be contributing to the field through a unique illustrated art book that she hopes will inspire a new generation of runesters.
Dawn also designs intricate fantasy scale mail apparel which is available through www.dragonheartart.com her pieces have been used in film, circus, burlesque, theatre, and of course many festivals and flow jams.
When she is not toiling away in her workshop focused on creative endeavours, Dawn enjoys the outdoor life in the Kootenay area of BC with her son, little Ragnar (who also loves dragons and swordplay)."
We are so excited to be carrying Dawn's book 'The Illustrated Book of Runes'.
Gaia: Hi Dawn! Can you tell us a bit about yourself. What's your background like and what are some interests of yours?
Dawn: One thing I found really interesting out of this book writing experience is that the most common thing people comment on who have read it is my bio and that I’ve had an interesting life. I could maybe make a whole book on that one day, but the short of it is that I was raised in northern BC 45 km down a logging road without power on a small homestead. I did regular public school as we had a bus that took us to town, and ended up going to university and getting my Bachelor of Science with Honour’s in Biology at UVic. Life (some maybe call it fate) took me in a different direction when I had my son, Ragnar, while finishing up my Master’s and I moved to the Kootenays and started working on DragonheART, my art and costume business.
My interests include a lot of ecological outdoor things like hiking, bird watching, animal rescue, plant foraging and gardening. But I also have a very artsy set of interests like music festivals, painting, mythology, fantasy novels, board games, and other nerdy things. I think it’s a pretty balanced way of being.
Gaia: Your “Illustrated Runes” book is very interesting because it is a combination of valuable information & beautiful artwork. What inspired you to create a book that features both of these components?
Dawn: Thanks for that feedback! Honestly, it just started with the art. I had the idea to paint the runes with their symbology for quite a long time, as I hadn’t really seen anyone make really detailed images with how the shape of each rune related to a physical image (for example, the shape of Wunjo is said to be a flag so I wanted to show how that looks like a flag). In 2020 when everyone was cooped up there were a lot of art challenges going around and one was a rune contest by a tattoo artist that said to create a rune art image in your style.
So I did, and that was Fehu, and when I saw it I thought maybe it would be cool to make a book out of these, as I’d been thinking my watercolor style would make great illustrations for some time. I posted it on the Asatru Community page (Asatru being the name for the modern following of Nordic faith) and asked if people would support making a book with this art. It received a lot of attention and I thought well I better make this then.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) all my regular events were cancelled and so I turned my focus onto the art for the book. And each time I did a painting I would just sit for an hour and channel whatever thoughts I’d had for that week into written form and it would just sort of flow. It turned out I had a lot to say about all of them, the book ended up about twice as big as I originally anticipated!
The intro and everything else I used my research skills for and sourced a lot of outside information. But all the writing about each rune is just a channel of my thoughts about them, after having read some books a while ago and worked with them daily for several years.
Thankfully, due to raising around $12,000 on Kickstarter I was able to fund all of the art and words into the result that you have in stores now. A big shout out goes to my editor and publishing helper Stephen Aetherphoxx of Thoughtweft Publishing for helping me bring it together in such a meaningful and impactful way.
Gaia: How did you get into studying Runes?
Dawn: That’s a good question I don’t have a straightforward answer to. There’s an aspect where it just seemed to resonate with me, I studied German in high school and university and that part of the world has just always called to me in some way. I received my first set of runes as a teenager from a friend and dabbled then but never really ‘got into them’ until after Ragnar was born. I made myself a goal to do a daily rune pull and through that was able to really learn them; it’s a bit like learning a language where you have to work with them regularly to become fluent in them. Maybe I made that goal as something to keep my brain busy and learning in that dip after university, but I felt like once I really started to learn about the philosophical aspect of each rune it became less of an intellectual pursuit and more of a personal development one.
Gaia: In your bio on your website you mention that you have been studying the ‘Elder Futhark Runes’ for over 10 years. How do the Elder Futhark Runes differ from what we commonly know as simply ‘Runes’?
Dawn: The Elder Futhark are what most people first think of when they think of runes. They’re an old Germanic alphabet we know from the 1st and 2nd centuries that was revived in the past couple of centuries and has been used for divination since then, but they’re only one of the alphabets we call runes. The Elder Futhark are known as the Viking runes but they predate the Icelandic runes, Younger Futhark (Scandinavian) runes, Anglo-Saxon runes and many other that came after. The newer branches are each their own alphabet which evolved from the Elder Futhark (which we think may have developed from Roman origins). The word ‘rune’ in general covers an even much broader category that can include things like the Ogham used by the old Celtic peoples or Glagolitic script of Slavic origins, neither of which came from the Elder Futhark.
Gaia: As far as the art component in your book goes, do you take inspiration from traditional sources of imagery to guide your art, or is it totally personal interpretation of the runes?
Dawn: I went with imagery based on what we believe historically the representation was (eg. Fehu looks like a cow with its two horns). I’d use that for the starting place and focus, as the main purpose was to show this historical image in a modern and detailed way. Then from there I would also include some of my own interpretation images, like with Laguz. Laguz translates to lake, but the shape of the rune is said to be that of a leek. So leeks appear in my imagery, as well as a lake, but I also included ducks as was more of an intuitive thing which brought the image together as more of a whole.
Gaia: For people that are just starting out, besides your book, what other books or resources would you recommend?
Dawn: For runes, I’d say it’s important to read the classics. Freya Aswynn’s ‘Northern Mysteries and Magick’ is a good intuitive book and Edred Thorsson’s ‘Handbook of Rune Magic’ is a good scholarly source with lots of details like body positions and galdr (shamanic rune chants). Some of the more easily readable books have come out more recently though, so if you want a book that is more approachable for light learning I’d go with Paul Rhys Mountfort ‘Nordic Runes.’
There are some great online resources as well, The Rune Site (http://www.therunesite.com) and Rune Secrets (https://runesecrets.com/) are both worth checking out. I’ve heard there are good apps out there for learning, but I don’t like to use them as I don’t really think electronic algorithms are the best way to generate randomness.
You should also definitely do some reading on Norse mythology to get the full picture. Some great resources on this that I enjoy are the site Norse Mythology for Smart People (https://norse-mythology.org/) and Daniel McCoy’s associated book ‘The Viking Spirit’, any of the translations of the Poetic and Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson and ‘D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths.’
Gaia: In your opinion what is the best material for runes to be made out of?
Dawn: I tend to stay away from saying there is a best anything, especially for something as personal as runes. There might be a best for someone that is not best for another person. For example, bone is the most historically correct substance and it comes imbibed with some energy of the animal it came from. But for a vegan, a carved crystal set on quartz would be a better match. The only thing I will say that is the best is if it has the best intention that goes along with it. If someone is purchasing a set of runes for someone else, it comes with intention as part of the gift but you should keep in mind trying to source and support a small business person and not a large manufacturing company. If you’re crafting a set for yourself, really taking time to find a material that feels special to you is the best.
Gaia: People who first get into tarot are often told ‘You have to be given your first deck or it’s bad luck’. Many tarot readers and enthusiasts I have spoken to would disagree with this. Are there any myths about people beginning with runes that have been circulated?
Dawn: Not so much, though I’ve definitely heard it said. I’ve also heard people claim a set of runes can only be used a single time and then cast away, though there is no historical record of that. People get all kinds of ideas about what is ‘the way’. The most particular people will say you should craft them yourself, but I think a gift is a great way to get someone started on learning them.
Gaia: Which rune resonates with you the most?
Dawn: Well that’s a bit of a tough question, there’s runes that make me happiest, runes that come with the most intense feeling, runes that just show up for me all the time. As they’re all fairly well integrated parts of my psyche it’s almost like asking if I resonate more with my feet or my hands, or if thinking or feeling is better. Having to pick one is really hard so maybe I’ll just go with a few.
For positive things I want to manifest and get excited when they show up we have Fehu (wealth) and Ehwaz (partnership). For one I use a lot I would pick Kenaz (creativity). For personal growth and development I would pick Dagaz (dusk/dawn, for riding out bad times and remembering all is temporary) and Hagalaz (chaos).
Gaia: What is your sun sign and do you feel you relate to it? If you know what your moon and ascendant signs are, do you feel like they reflect in your personality? If you aren’t into Western astrology, are there other systems you follow, maybe through runes, to learn about yourself?
Dawn: My sun sign is a Pisces. I do relate to it in the emotional and creative sense for sure. My moon is a Taurus and my ascendant is cusp Capricorn/Sagittarius. I think overall I feel a lot more of those earth signs (most of my other planets are Capricorn) where I like practical things, physical comforts and structure.
There’s also a calendar Freya Aswynn designed, as the runes make a cycle like the months do. You can find it in her book or in my tables starting page 137. This gives you a birth rune, said to relate to your destiny. My birthday falls under the rune of Tiwaz, meaning my destiny is related to that of a warrior. You can use your name for personality traits too, D (Dawn) is Dagaz, meaning I have a lot of intense mood shifts and I tend to see the world as more black and white.
Gaia: Can you tell us about more about the readings you offer and other products or services you offer?
Dawn: I don’t actually really offer readings except to people close to me. I feel like runes are more of a self development journey, and I’m not always keen to pry into other people’s states of being. Sometimes you also find things you or them aren’t ready for and it’s not a comfortable service, the runes are really blatant sometimes and that lack of sugar coating can outline a harsh reality. The one thing I will offer is a single rune pull when I’m running my booth, it’s more like a message for the day and something to reflect on than really getting deep into an issue.
I do have my DragonheART business as my regular service offering. I run an Etsy store and take my art to events like music festivals and comic expos. I’m known for and specialize in scalemail, a form of chainmaille that uses rings and scales to make costume pieces and accessories. I also do leatherwork and can make custom just about anything.
Gaia: Where we can find more information about accessing your products and services?
Dawn: My Ravenwind Illustration website is set up for my artwork but also has a page where you can read my write ups on each of the runes.
Social Media is:
And if you want to check out my DragonheART (the shop where you can buy my book and all my other art)
Gaia: Are there any other personal spiritual practices you have? Do you mind sharing about them?
Dawn: In university I spent a lot of time doing Zen Buddhism and I still do meditations that way. As a Metis person, I also have some Native American practices like thanking plants before I harvest them. I’ve also studied tarot, astrology and Kabbalah. So I have a sort of mesh of different beliefs from a number of places. I also like learning the psychology/science behind myths so there is a practical side to that spirituality too.
Gaia: Are there any spiritual philosophies, beliefs or paths you are drawn to that you would like to learn more about?
Dawn: Slavic mythos seems really rich and unsurfaced, I definitely want to dig more into that. There are a lot of Celtic ideologies that interest me also that I feel I want to spend some time learning about. And, as there is always learning to do and more to know, there is still a lot of Asatru/Nordic path stuff I want to keep learning.
Gaia: How do you think you have grown as a person in the last year?
Dawn: I’ve gotten more confidence in my crafts and myself over the last year. I was about to give it mostly all up for a Shopify tech support job that was offered to me (they even sent me a computer!) but the BC government funded me with a COVID recovery grant last year. It’s helped me get to a point where my store is so busy I hardly have time to restock for summer events. So I think I made the right choice there!
Gaia: What is one thing you would like to grow about yourself in 2022?
Dawn: I’d like to keep focusing on my art and business development. I have plans to get more printed merchandise happening, like a calendar with my artwork and maybe mugs and water bottles. I’m posing around some ideas for illustrated kids books with Norse myths but I can’t make any promises I’ll get to that! I have a lot of leather and a new sewing machine from the grant I’d like to do more neat things with too.
I guess that’s all more tangible things to do rather than about myself in particular. I’d say it all relates to building up more confidence and continuing to put myself out there, coming up with new ideas, focusing on creativity and continuing to learn new things as I go. I’ll throw in a goal for some travelling too, as getting out of your comfort zone is always a good place to keep growing in new ways.
Gaia: What would be in your shopping bag at Gaia Rising?
Dawn: All the crystals! A whole dragon horde worth! Also some cool statues, pleasant smelly things like essential oils and incense, interesting books, pretty oracle cards and maybe a little instrument like a chime or two.