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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 

Mountings



Sword blades have usually been carefully preserved, but the same was not always the case with their mountings. These were subject to changing fashions and the same blade might be re-mounted with a new wooden scabbard, hilt and fittings many times.

For tachi (great sword) as well as katana (long sword), wakizashi (companion sword) and tantō (dagger) blades, scabbards are made of magnolia wood because it does not release any fluid that might damage the steel. They are made in two halves and glued together along the edge and back. Lacquering then creates a smooth, durable and beautiful surface. Hilts are also wooden and made in two halves, and are usually wrapped with the skin of the ray fish, which is strong and allows a good grip. Most swords, other than the tantō type, have a tsuba (hand-guard). Tachi sword mountings generally have more metal fittings than other types because they were worn suspended rather than through the belt. Their mountings vary for different occasions.

Shown here is the mounting for a tantō blade, dating to the Meiji era. The scabbard is lacquered black with sparse scatterings of gold powder. The maple leaf decoration was formed by making impressions with real leaves then applying coloured lacquer. All the fittings are of iron with inlaid depictions of maple leaves and cherry blossoms.