Algiz. The elk. The swan. A splayed hand. The Valkyries. The sacred grove. The sedge. The Bifrost. There are many symbols entwined in Algiz, but they ultimately mean the same thing, divine protection. This rune represents a sacred space where one cannot be harmed. The gods are watching from above, and this is your space to find connection to them.
Algiz is again a representation of Yggdrasil, namely the outstretched roots and branches. The branches of Yddgrasil are where the higher realms are located, those of Asgard, the home of the Aesir gods, Vanaheim, the home of the Vanir gods, and Alfheim, the home of the light elves. The roots are where the lower worlds dwell, that of Helheim, the world of the dead, Muspelheim, the realm of fire, and Niflheim, the realm of ice. In between lay Midgaard, earth, Svartalfheim, home of what is known as the dark elves, gnomes or dwarves, and Jotunheim, the realm of giants.
Where Eihwaz represented travel and movement through the trunk of Yggdrasil, Algiz is now the destination. Here we find pause in what we were seeking, though maybe we didn’t know that this is what we had been looking for. Perthro was a cast of the dice, a synchronous sign in the right direction, something that happened to lead us to where we need to be. We found ourselves within the womb and it is here in Algiz that we open our eyes in the safety and comfort of that womb. We can spend time here with that knowledge.
The gods have created this sacred space, this sacred grove where Yggdrasil grows that you have come to find
The stretching of the branches shows a direct connection to the gods. They have created this sacred space, this sacred grove where Yggdrasil grows that you have come to find. They watch over you, and by reaching out to them you can receive their blessings. There is a rainbow bridge, the Bifrost, that connects their realm of Asgaard to ours, and it is through signs such as these that you can find their presence. This is the closest rune to Heimdall, as he guards this bridge holding the Jallarhorn in his hands, the horn which will signal Ragnarok.
The Valkyries are women that deliver the spirits of the dead from the battlefield to Odin’s hall, Valhalla. They have been said to have wings, and their animal totem is that of the swan with white wings. Algiz is sometimes said to represent a swan in flight, and is thus linked to the Valkyries. This rune is used for protection in battle and for connection with the Valkyries so they may find you if you fall.
The most common representation that the image of Algiz is said to represent is that of an elk’s horns. The elk is a majestic creature, with long reaching antlers similar to branches, another representation of a connection to the gods. The times I have seen elk in the wilderness they have stood tall and proud and were quite the sight to behold, with a mane akin to that of a lion. I have also encountered elk multiple times within the spirit realm and can speak to their powerful otherworldly connection. Moose are known as elk in Scandinavia, where what I know of as elk are called wapiti. Red deer, closely related to wapiti/elk, are called ‘king deer’ in Flemish, reflecting how the Germanic peoples were in awe of these wonderful creatures. It can be said that although Algiz means elk, and may have originally been intended for moose, that any great antlered creature of the forest is represented by Algiz.
The shape has also been said to be that of a splayed hand, or of a person reaching their arms to the gods in praise. This is again in relation to protection through divine connection.
Algiz merkstave is a sign that you are in need of protection. You need to find your sacred space, which I often find can be easiest when connecting with animals. It does not mean that you won’t be protected, but it suggests that you maybe need to pay attention to what you need to distance yourself from at this time. This inverse position is also a focus on the roots, rather than the branches of Yggdrasil. There is a version of Algiz that has no merkstave, where there is not just three lines that reach upwards but two downwards that signify roots, but in the most common set of the Futhark we tend to look at the branches and roots separately.
The lower realm, the world of the roots, is seen as dark and unpleasant by many. This is where Helheim is, where the souls that did not die honourably were sent. The part known as Nastrond is where the dragon Nidhogg, known as “He Who Strikes with Malice” chews on the roots of Yggdrasil, and devours the souls of the perjurers, murderers, and adulterers. In shamanism, the lower realm is largely understood to be the source of creation. This is the source of knowledge, and where the souls of the animals exist, and where we can go to find our own well of power and insight inside of ourselves. Going downwards in the tree of life, though not as glamorous as a journey upwards, is just as important sometimes when we need answers or to find safety and protection.