Further Analysis of the Algiz Rune

Algiz

ᛉ / Z

Algiz is a rune with many meanings, names, and connotations. In Proto-Germanic, it goes by the name Elhaz or Algiz, both of which mean“elk”. This rune symbolizes the largest and most robust of the male deer, mirroring the antlers in shape and meaning. Algiz represents defense, vitality, strength, protection, health, fertility, and the entirety of the forest; that which the Elk overshadows. In reference to antlers, or horns, Algiz can be attributed to the Celtic god Cernunnos, the Horned One. In many pagan faiths, Cernunnos (Hurnaz) is the “Lord of the Forest” and the animals therein.

As with Cernunnos, Algiz can also be associated with hunting. The hunter must form a sacred relationship with these animals and their environment, studying them and meditating on them. The skilled hunter needs to not only have knowledge of these animals and their nature to be able to hunt them effectively, year after year, but also develop a deep respect and understanding of them; a dedication to observing their patterns and habits. The hunt is a sacred activity, whether for food or for sport. Algiz reminds us of this sacred relationship we must maintain with the forest and its’ beings to live in harmony amongst it; reaping rewards from it and giving back with reverence.

In Old English, this rune goes by the name eolh, meaning “elk or moose”. This is also reflected in Old Norse, with the word elgr, which also means “elk or moose”. This reverence of horned animals goes back to the root word of Algiz in the proto-Indo-European hel-, meaning “deer, elk, and elephant”. The “Old English Rune Poem” states:

“Elk sedge has a home oftest in a fen,

It waxes in water; wounds grimly,

Besmears with blood every man

Who lays anywise ahold of it.”

This is the only poem that refers to this rune as the Elk. Although here, its reference is regarding the sedge plant, which is barbed and sharp like the antlers of an elk. These sedge plants can cause one to bleed if grasped or stricken by its’ spines, as one would be by the antlers of the elk, if attacked. Sedge is commonly found amongst the “fen”, which is a type of marsh, bog, or swamp. This could be the allusion to the abundant life-force and robust natural energy associated with the elk, something our ancestors may have seen reflected in these natural environments.

It is safe to say that Algiz carries a certain masculine energy within it, separate from the other horned animal rune, Uruz. Algiz is more focused and less chaotic; fertility and health based on steady wisdom and not ancient fury. The grace of the elk or moose has long been an impressive force to behold, and they demand our respect. This beauty is inherent in the Algiz rune.

In the Younger Futhorc, this rune shifts names and sounds, being called in Old Norse, Madr, meaning “man”. This form of Algiz absorbs the Mannaz rune, taking it on as its focus and sound while retaining the core shape of Algiz. The “Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme” states:

“Man is an increase of earth;

Great is the grasp of the hawk.”

This poem invokes man as the “increase” of earth (dirt), something that refers to our transcendence over pure terrestrial matter. This points to mans divinity and difference from the rest of nature around him, as he has an “increased” awareness of his own existence. The second line alludes to the feet of the mighty hawk, who’s shape mirrors the rune in appearance.  

As with the Norwegian verse, the “Old Icelandic Rune Poem” echoes this rune as “man” as well, stating:

“Man is sport for man, and an increase of earth,

And the adorner of ships.”

This poem states man as “sport” for man, meaning competition, training, entertainment, and coaching. In short, we are pushed competitively by our fellow man towards greater heights, creating a “sport” out of life. The second part reflects the same notion as the Norwegian poem, referring to mans’ divinity. The last line, in my opinion, is a poetic reference to a fully armed ship, “adorned” with men as though decorated.

Although the name and focus shift drastically between the Old English and Scandinavian poems, they all resonate a tone of good health, virility, and power. This, we can say with confidence, embodies the “light” side of Algiz, while the “dark” side encompasses old age, degradation, and loss of health. This can be seen in the Proto-Germanic aldiz, which means “age, generation, lifetime”, and in the Gothic alþeis, meaning “old.”

There is no doubt that Algiz can also be attributed to the trees, as its shape mimics a tree (or man) with outstretched limbs. This is something that alludes to the Norse creation myth, where it is said that life was given to two posts of wood, creating the first two humans Ask (Ash) and Embla (Elm). Evidence can be found in our previously viewed proto-Indo-European root word hel-, which also refers to certain types of trees displaying a “bright” bark like alder, elm, and fir. Further evidence can be found in the Bulgarian elhá, meaning “fir, evergreen, or conifer”.

This brings us full circle in our journey through Algiz, as elk, moose and deer are all known for stripping bark from trees with their antlers. This implies a deeper connection between the hart (stag), the forest, and the trees themselves. This spirit, as stated before, can only be attributed wholly to one force: that force being Cernunnos/Hurnaz, the Horned One; the deified representation of life and the natural wilderness. Algiz, in this respect, can be viewed as a direct runic symbol for this god, as one would use Ansuz for Odin, or Thurisaz for Thor.

In conclusion, Algiz can be attributed many positive forces, such as good health, potency, vigor, and the ability to protect that which we care for. It can also take a darker form in the aspects of old age, bad health, and sterilization. Algiz takes the form of “man” in the Younger runes, representing divinity and power, something echoed in all forms of this rune, whether focused on man or elk. The majestic antlered beasts of the woods and plains have long fascinated mankind with their beauty and brilliance, and although we also hunt them, we have never forgotten that mystical energy that they carry within. A certain peace and stillness resides in these creatures, directly connected beneath their hooves to the spirit of the Earth itself, giving it expression through robust and vital presence and purpose.

Authority from Within

As the path of Odin, Shiva, Socrates, Lucifer, Buddha, and many others will reveal: authority, truth, and wisdom reside in our core, lying within us. Through the emulation and understanding of these most invulnerable and permanent forms, the essence of the Self stirring within every human incarnation, we get a glimpse into a higher, more focused, refined and crystalline sense of reason and awareness. Here is where all answers await, and where all questions of importance in time must be directed, as this is the only conveyer of truth, the eternal Self within all. This is the voice which calls the true seeker; drawing ever closer to its origin; striving to balance the earth and sky.

Hurnaz (Cernunnos) Bindrune

From ‘Runes, Bindrunes and Hahalruna : European Sorcery and Divination’ Page. 116

This bindrune reads Hurnaz and consists of the runes . This symbol is used to attract or invoke the Wild Spirit of the forest and all associated guardians therein. Hurnaz is a Germanic title for this force, meaning “Horn.” This is a direct translation of the powers represented by the Celtic god Cernunnos. Carve this on any tree near the perimeter of your property that borders the forest; it will invoke good luck and protection from the Forest Gods.

When used in ritual, place a talisman of wood, stone or bone with this symbol carved into it on each cardinal point of the work space. This will create a charged area of focus and intensity for you to carry out your functions in. In this space, you can be assured that no detrimental outside forces are granted access to you or your sacred enclosure. All powers of ill intent will be repelled by the presence of these runes around your work space. This can also be painted on the skin for the same purpose; being especially handy when working alone in the woods. Paint with whatever materials you have available to you. Ideally, use ash, blood, or both to create a usable paint.

Applying Cernunnos to Germanic Spirituality

Hurnaz idol protecting the spirits of the land.

Hurnaz is the Germanic form of the god Cernunnos, Lord of the Wild. There is some speculation as to the form and function of this god throughout history, ranging from being a simple god of commerce to being the leader of the Wild Hunt. However, from my understanding and experience with Him, I’m convinced of His role as a wild protector and progenitor of nature; a spirit of freedom and vitality. Some related concepts, ideas and gods would include Pan, Herne the Hunter, Mercury, Satan, Freyr and even Odin.

Hurnaz is a wild and masculine deity. He is indifferent to human affairs, unless His domain is in jeopardy. His domain includes the forest and all of its’ inhabitants; everything from the roots and leaves to the soil and blood. The animals, trees, and all the fruits of the forest belong to Him, bending at His will. The more respect we show His domain, the more freedom and bounty we attain within it.

Post Wild Hunt ritual,Waldgang/Cascadia, November 2019

Offerings to Hurnaz are reciprocated with protection, abundance, and rejuvenated spirit. Venerating this force directly combats stagnation and sloth; igniting the wild and robust nature within. His energy is of wild and chthonic quality, causing an Odinic like frenzy within the inhabitant; a hunter’s awareness and focus. In this hyper-aware state we are able to achieve things we might not be able to otherwise, such as enhanced vision, speed, strength, clarity and focus. These enhancements are all fruits of this power, hence His veneration as a shaman and hunting god.

Offerings to Hurnaz and the forest spirits may include: 

Blood – to activate the spirit and open a medium of communication.

Animal remains – to return the fallen spirit to Hurnaz in exchange for future abundance in hunts and foraging. 

Wood/Stone/Fungus – to offer organic material to the soil and animals; also to enable more objects to be inhabited by the spirit of Hurnaz.

Meat – to honor the carnivorous spirits of the forest, the natural hunting spirits.

Seeds – to honor the vital and fertile forest; to appease the spirits within His realm. 

Nuts – to please the spirits of the land and encourage new growth.

Fruit/Herbs – to appease the land spirits and promote future fruit to flourish. 

Feathers – to promote movement and motion of the spirits; allowing flight and a wider perception.

Present your offerings where you believe Hurnaz to be existing. This location can be a stone, tree, idol, grove, or simply the forest region in its’ entirety. State your business in His realm, and what your intentions are with His woods. Once you have been granted access to your desires, recite your prayers or galdr to enhance connection and protection, then carry about your forest business without worry.

Offerings from all over the USA.

Once you have established your sacred space to Hurnaz, and once you have connected your spirit with that of His and the forest gods, the woods will become your church. Here you can easily slip between the veil of worlds and into other layers of reality. The more often you visit this place, the deeper you can explore the boundaries of the spirit; for it is in our true nature to dwell within the woods. These sacred grounds will heal your ailments in this claustrophobic and chaotic world; guiding you to a place of wisdom, peace, and strength.

Experiencing and deciphering the language of nature is the most divine act, and as we learn its’ language we in turn unlock the secrets to our very own existence. The functions of nature mimic the functions of the body, mind and soul. The more balance we achieve in this Triskelion of realms, the quicker we can achieve a state of Eternal Awareness. May Hurnaz and the spirits of the forest bless you on your journeys.

Hurnaz, Lord of the Wild Woods.