Welcome back to Rune-of-the-Month Club! I am sticking to my resolve to finally, after around 3 or 4 years, finish the series as soon as possible and move on to the next stage of my runework: a list! Elhaz is the seventh Rune of the second aett (group of eight). Its name means "elk," in the European sense of the word. The European elk is essentially the same animal as the North American "moose." The North American elk (wapiti) is a part of the same species as the European red deer. The phonetic value of this Rune is an odd sort of "r" sound. It is usually transliterated by a capital "R" even at the end of a word. It may be the French "r," with Raidho being something like the one-trilled version of the Spanish "r." It may also be a sound between "r" and "z." In writing modern English with Runes, it usually is used to represent the sound of the English "z" as in "zoo."
Elhaz has an alternative name, "Algiz," which means "protection," which is indeed one of the meanings of this Rune. The Gothic letter corresponding to Elhaz went by the name "Algis." Others include deer other than moose, hunting (what humans usually do to deer), hallowing (Elhaz is commonly used to ward/bless sacred space prior to a blot), anything regal (think of the dignity of a stag, or the fact that all the deer in England once belonged to the king), honor, and grandeur.
Hunting is something that tends to separate Heathens from other Pagans. I once camped out with a bunch of fellow Heathens on a Yule-tree farm. The owner let friends hunt there. One came out of the woods carrying a nice plump young buck. The average Pagan would have been upset to put it mildly. We Heathens, however, started chanting "Meat! Meat!" In many places, hunted meat rounds out the winter food supply even today. Our ancestors certainly continued to hunt even after the introduction of crops and livestock. I'd rather be a deer than a factory farm steer anyday! If you hunt, be sure it's a clean shot. Learn to use your firearm well first. Offerings to Ull and Skadi before the hunt, and to the spirits of the slain animals afterwards, are most appropriate. Those folks who kill for a trophy and leave the meat to rot are LOW. By the way, in a very real sense you "pay" for the animals (and plants) you eat by your own eventual death and decay, which makes room for and nourishes new life. There is no life without death. Bon appetit anyway!
The only surviving verse for this Rune is from the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, since Elhaz did not carry over into the Younger Futhark. The verse names this Rune "Eolh-Secg" = "Elk-Sedge" and refers to how sharp the leaves of this plant are. This ties in, of course to the Rune's protective aspects. Sedges grow in marshy places, and moose are particularly fond of grazing on plants that grow there. Thus elk-sedge is, among other things, moose-chow! It is interesting that the Anglo-Saxons remembered this long after moving to mooseless England!
Thorr and Audrey Sheil, my teachers, seldom agree with Edred Thorsson, who translated the version of the Rune Poems I usually use. All three poems, by the way, in the original languages and in English translation, are now linked from my webpage, http://users.aol.com/jordsvin/kindred/kindred.htm; feel free to check them out, along with other recent additions to the runic section of my page. When the Sheils and Thorsson agree, I pay attention! On this Rune, they agree that this Rune represents not only protection, but also the connection between the Human and Divine realms. This latter aspect of Elhaz derived is from its meanings of regal things, honor, and grandeur.
The Sheils ascribe the protective function of Elhaz to its fire/solar connections. They mention that antlered beasties are traditionally seen as symbolic of fire and the sun. Though Elhaz, Sowilo (the Sun-Rune) takes form in Midgard (our world). Elhaz creates a circle of protective white and blue light. Remember that unlike most traditions, the Sun is seen as feminine in the Norse tradition. The Northern sun is a gentle, warming, life giving force quite unlike the harsher effects of the sun further south! Quick theology lesson: it is NOT a question of the Norse being right and the Greeks and Romans being wrong! The sun and moon both have both masculine and feminine energies. Due to factors of climate, culture, etc., some cultures picked up on one instead of the other. Elhaz is the male pole of solar energy. Only male deer (with the exception of reindeer) have antlers! Frey is definitely a solar God. It is perhaps not coincidental that he fights with an antler at the Ragnarok. Elhaz can indicate that you need to be on your guard, but can also mean that a means of protection is at hand.
Both the Sheils and Edred Thorsson understand that there is a connection between Eihwaz (Yew) and Elhaz. Combined as a Bind-Rune, Elhaz and the Younger Futhark form of Eihwaz look like a tree with branches and roots, respectively. The two Runes have a polarity relationship well worth exploring. The Sun above and the Earth below are both sources of magickal power. We dwell between them and partake of both.
Heathens usually invoke the Gods facing North (sometimes West for the Vanir) and with our arms raised in the shape of the Rune Elhaz. This is contrasted most clearly with the kneeling, prostration, and other gestures of groveling seen in many other religions. Elhaz represents Humanity as Asgard and Vanaheim see us: without "original sin" and meant to stand upright; tall, free and joyful. Heathen worship partakes of the Rune Wunjo. Many other religions have Deities who treat Humanity as if we were manifestations of the Rune Fehu (cattle, means to an end, possessions). Norse Heathenism sees the matter quite differently. We are valuable, worthy friends of our Gods and Goddesses, who want worship that is freely given, not extorted by threats of hellfire!
The Elhaz posture can be used to increase self-worth and help undo previous, more negative religious conditioning. This is NOT, however the same thing as the nontraditional, alien "Runic Yoga" advocated by Thorsson and others. Active application of Elhaz can heal mental wounds and remove guilt, self-condemnation, and low self-esteem. Most Christian sects seem to see these as an essential part of their view of Humanity and its relationship with the Divine. Elhaz can drive away gloom and replace it with a healthier attitude, but start with a lower-intensity application of the Rune and gradually increase it. While not a difficult or dangerous Rune, too much of it out of the blue, so to speak, can unbalance the person to whom it is applied. Elhaz can also help you rid yourself of character flaws and unwanted vices.
Magickally, Elhaz both protects and exalts the person, place or thing to which it is applied. It not only keeps out "baneful wights" and other unwanted external influences, but also creates a positive energy within the ritual space. While essentially a protective Rune, it can be used a tad more aggressively to scatter nasty, negative people. Folks who choose to embody wrong cannot stand the energy of this Rune!
Elhaz is connected with Frey and Freya, both Solar Deities of course, and as previously mentioned with the Rune Sowilo (Sun). It is also connected with Asa-Thorr, one of Humanity's greatest Divine friends. These three Gods, even more than the rest of the Germanic Pantheon, are connected with the grandeur of life and the dignity of the Human Condition.
Let Elhaz continually remind you of your link to the Divine and to your inner Divinity. The awakened Human is in a sense a God or Goddess on a much smaller scale; remember the oft-neglected Monotheistic doctrine of Humanity being made in the "image of (their) God." Get out and stay out of the rut with which most folks content themselves! Our religion encourages, even requires, human evolution. Freedom and integrity are, or should be essential parts of the Human Condition. Elhaz will improve both you and your relationship with our Gods and Goddesses. Use it frequently and often!
Works Consulted: At the Well of Wyrd by Edred Thorsson and The Road to Bifrost Vol. III: the Runes and Holy Signs by Thorr and Audrey Sheil.
last modified 01/13/2004