Learn the Viking Runes: Algiz

A silver pendant with a viking symbol on it.

Algiz is a rune of protection and self-defense. There are several strongly competing theories about what the shape of the Algiz rune is meant to represent. It could be the figure of an elk – the outstretched arms representing an elk’s antlers, lowered to fend off predators seeking an easy meal – or the rune could be fashioned after the elk-sedge, a type of sharp leafed plant that grows along the edges of wet marshlands. Their leaves can easily cut the careless traveler; the elk-sedge forms a protective barrier for all the creatures who live among the reeds. 

The example we have of Algiz in use is from the Anglo-Saxon rune poem appears to favor the plant-based reading: 

The Elk-sedge usually lives in the fen,

growing in the water. It wounds severely,

staining with blood any man

who makes a grab at it.

Algiz as Life Rune/Death Rune

Over the course of time, people have used runes in ways that are not connected to how that rune had previously been used. Algiz is a prime example. During World War Two, in Germany, the use of Algiz to represent life or birthday, and Algiz reversed to represent the date of death, developed. This usage has largely tapered off, although Algiz as life rune still persists among far-right nationalist groups, with Algiz reversed as death rune adopted by some heavy metal bands. 

What Does Algiz Mean When Casting Runes?

Algiz in a rune reading is a sign that strong protective energy surrounds you. Some times you’ll hear Algiz referred to as the Swan Maiden – aka the Valkeries, the fierce female warriors who would bring those who’d fought quite well before dying to a place of honor at Odin’s table. This is a sign that you should never be afraid to do your best.

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