Viking symbols and their meaning show a deep expression of everything related to protection, love, superstition and religion. These symbols were used by the Nordic people who lived in Northern Europe between the 8th and 11th centuries.
Most of these symbols are closely related to history. Because many of the events that happened during the Nordic mythology are represented. As well as their characters and in particular the gods they worshipped.
Because Vikings symbols and their meaning are still very much present in Europe. They tell us about adventures, they tell us about love and traditions. Thanks to the historians we can know these symbols of the Viking civilization. As well as what is spoken of them in the manuscripts that are still preserved.
Tabla o índice de contenidos
- 1 The role of Viking symbols in their daily lives
- 2 What does Valknut mean?
- 3 Mjolnir or Thor’s Hammer
- 4 Gungnir
- 5 Vegvísir and its magical meaning
- 6 Aegishjalmur or ægishjálmur in tattoos
- 7 Triple Horn of Odin
- 8 The monster Jörmungandr
- 9 What is Yggdrasil?
- 10 The popular Troll Cross
- 11 Shield Knot
- 12 Sleipnir
- 13 The Viking symbols of Hugin and Munin
- 14 Tapestry of Fate
- 15 What did Drakkar mean to the Vikings?
- 16 Ottastafur
- 17 Hraethigaldur
- 18 What did the horned Triskel look like?
- 19 Kaupaloki and trade
The role of Viking symbols in their daily lives
The use of Viking symbols by the Nordic people has a superstitious connotation. The Vikings were an extremely superstitious civilisation, like many others.
Therefore, they used these symbols as amulets for many purposes; to improve their performance during war, to succeed in business or to scare away trolls and elves…
These representations had some magical, religious, protection, celebration or luck and love purposes. A symbol was used for almost everything. In most cases, as we have mentioned, they were used as amulets.
The Nordic people valued the protection they provided, especially in times of war. In other cases, they were attributed a religious and spiritual meaning. Some of these amulets have gained popularity again in recent years. Especially due to the new neo-pagan religions or the famous “Viking” series.
All these Viking symbols we know that appeared on rune stones, engravings and some weapons during the battle. Nowadays, this symbolism, just like the Celtic one, is a source of inspiration for tattoos.
What does Valknut mean?
Valknut symbol is made up of three interlocking triangles. It is a Viking symbol that was related to fighting and death. This is a macabre drawing, of war. For this reason, it is obviously a symbol that is related to the god of death, Odin.
There are several geometric variations of this symbol. The most common form consists of three different triangles that intersect. It is also known as the “Heart of Hrungnir”, in relation to the giant Hrungnir in Nordic mythology.
Valknut symbol can be named in several ways. For example “knot of the warriors”, “knot of Odin”, “heart of the fallen” and “heart of Hrungnir”. The latter is named after the giant who died at the hands of Thor, whose heart was shaped like a triangle.
On the other hand, according to the line we can distinguish two types of valknut:
In Valknut unicursal you can draw in a different way, by using a single line. As far as we know, historians have found it engraved on the Tängelgårda stone (Gotland, Sweden) in the 7th century.
The tricursal valknut
This variation of the valknut has a wider layout and little else is known about it. The tricursal valknut has been found in the stone of Stora Hammars (Gotland, Sweden). Also in a ring found in the river Nene (England).
Triceps is a variation of the Valknut symbol and is a symbol of protection. It is currently used by the followers of the neo-pagan religion Asatrú. The Triceps represents the belief in the Asatrú faith. It is created in a similar way to the troll cross or the ller three oldal runes.
Mjolnir or Thor’s Hammer
Mjolnir is the hammer of the god Thor, son of Odin. The hammer of the thunder god is a symbol related to strength and protection. It represents one of the most fearsome weapons in Norse mythology. That’s why it’s so appealing to wear in tattoos.
Thor’s possession of the hammer symbolises his mastery of lightning and thunder. This weapon, like a boomerang, had the power to return to Thor’s hands when he threw it. As we see in Thor’s hammer from Marvel movies which represents the weapon of this all-powerful god.
But… what does Mjolnir mean? The word Mjolnir has a Germanic origin and means to crush or pulverize. According to Nordic mythology this hammer was made by the dwarves Brokkr and Eitri to be given to Thor.
Within the Viking symbology we find the Gungnir. This represents the Odin spear known by the same name. This spear was made by the dwarves and given by the god Loki to Odin.
The Gungnir spear had the property of always hitting the target and returning to Odin’s hands once thrown, as if it were a boomerang. A power he shares with Thor’s hammer.
Vegvísir and its magical meaning
The symbol of Vegvísir was used by the Vikings as an aid to navigation, as a kind of compass. That’s why it’s known as a Viking compass. It has a design similar to the compass rose.
According to some legends, this symbol was magical. It was used on Viking ships to ensure their future return home. With it, the ancient Nordic sailors could find their bearings on cloudy days.
This representation bears a certain resemblance to another important Viking symbol, the aegishjalmer. Today it has gained popularity again as a tattoo. It is the equivalent to straight path and avoids losing one’s way in life. It represents balance, the compass, pursuing your dreams without getting lost on the way. Very inspiring.
The Vegvísir is known thanks to its appearance in an Icelandic manuscript from the early 17th century. An ancient book known as Galdrabók that records its form and use. This book is known as a grimoire or magic book. Very common in the Middle Ages. It contains incantations, invocations or medicinal remedies.
Aegishjalmur or ægishjálmur in tattoos
The symbol of aegishjalmur is also known as Spell of Terror or Mask of Terror. It was used by the Viking warriors in order to give them protection during the war. Thus, during the battle, the Nordic warriors wore it on their foreheads.
It was supposed to look like a third eye to give them extra strength and try to scare off the enemy. It also appears on the Galdrabók.
It is considered a sign of protection of Icelandic origin. And it is currently used among the followers of the neo-pagan religion Asatrú along with the Triceps.
Triple Horn of Odin
Triple horn of Odin symbol is formed by 3 horns that the Vikings used to drink. Probably mead. As its name suggests, it is a symbol related to the god Odin.
According to Norse mythology, there is an interesting anecdote. Odin insisted ceaselessly for three nights on the giant Gunnlod to give him a drink. He wanted to take the mead contained in the horns.
According to Nordic mythology, mead is a symbol of wisdom and poetic inspiration. Just like Awen in Celtic symbolism. Anyone who drinks it will become a wise poet. That’s why Odin got a great inspiration for the poems after getting the desired drink.
This symbol appears on Snoldelev’s Viking rune stone. A stone from the 9th century found in Denmark.
The monster Jörmungandr
Jörgmungandr is a snake-shaped monster from Nordic mythology. He is said to be the son of the giant Angrboda and the god Loki. It seems that in the prosaic Edda, also known as Edda Minor or Edda of Snorri, the god Odin threw him into the ocean to avoid the catastrophes that such a monster could cause.
Under the ocean the snake continued to grow until it surrounded the whole Earth and bit its own tail. Mythology says that Jörmungandr will remain there until the day of Ragnarök. Then he will face the god Thor, his main enemy.
Jörmngandr is also known as the Midgard serpent or snake of the world. It’s often depicted biting its own tail, like an urorbos. I’m sure you’ll recognize him in some of his tattoos.
What is Yggdrasil?
Yggdrasil is the giant tree that allows the correct union between the nine worlds of Norse mythology to work. Several creatures from Nordic mythology inhabited this magical tree; such as dragon Nidhug, the squirrel Ratatosk, or an eagle. Because the Viking symbols could not be without their beloved trees.
The meaning of Yggdrasil can be translated as “Odin’s horse”. Yggdrasil has three main roots. One of them brings the world of the gods to Asgard. Another root passes through the land of the giants, Jotunheim, while the third reaches the Niflheim.
The popular Troll Cross
The Troll Cross is one of the favorite symbols for historians. It also appears in different fantasy games or series. It is attributed with a power that is very typical of the magic cards.
Troll Cross symbol was used as protection against evil creatures, such as trolls and elves. It was an amulet in the shape of one of the letters of the rune alphabet: the odal. Protection or love amulets were common in any family.
Knot Shield symbol is, as its name suggests, a symbol of protection. It bears a certain resemblance to the solar cross. The knot, of whatever type, has been used by many different cultures throughout history, including Celts and Vikings.
Related Topic: Celtic symbols and their meaning
As with The Cross Troll, the Knot Shield was a token of love. It offered hope and security to the family waiting for the return of one of its members.
According to Nordic mythology, the god Odin rode an eight-legged horse called Sleipnir. The figure of this horse has been found inscribed on different rocks of Viking origin. The eight legs of the horse represent its ability to travel through land and air. They also represent the eight directions of a compass.
The Viking symbols of Hugin and Munin
Hugin and Munin are two ravens of Nordic mythology. They were on a mission to gather news from around the world to inform the god Odin. The two crows flew around the world every morning and returned at night to explain the events they had witnessed.
Hugin represented thought and Munin represented memory. A very interesting duality.
Tapestry of Fate
The tapestries of destiny were woven by female deities. Very prominent figures in Viking mythology called nornas. The nornas represented past, present and future.
This means that all times lived and to be lived are contained in this mystical and esoteric symbol. The tapestry of destiny contains all the runes of the runic alphabet.
What did Drakkar mean to the Vikings?
Drakkar is a recurring emblem. It was inscribed on many Viking funerary remains and refers to their long ships, known as Drakkar.
These symbols have been interpreted to represent the journey into the afterlife. There is a clear relationship with the Viking tradition of sending the dead to this new life. They traveled aboard a burning ship.
Who hasn’t seen these mythical Viking ships in some movie or TV series? The Vikings also travelled on them to seek out and conquer other lands in Europe.
Drakkar word comes from the same word that was used in the ancient Scandinavian languages to refer to dragons. Since Viking ships were often decorated with dragon heads on their bows. Eventually the same word was used to refer to these ships.
The Ottastafur was a sign that was placed on shields and other weapons to frighten. One of those Viking symbols used to arouse fear in enemies. Also highly sought after for tattoos.
Like Ottastafur, this symbol carved into Viking weapons was meant to instill fear in others.
What did the horned Triskel look like?
The Horned Triskel, which in some ways can be likened to the Celtic triskel. In this case it consists of three intertwined horns. It is a sign to represent Odin or wisdom and poetic inspiration.
Three were the mead horns that Odin drank to obtain divine inspiration with poetry. As we explained earlier. The horns are called Odroerir, Boðn and Son. The symbol is carved in the Snoldelev stone (Denmark), among other rune stones.
Kaupaloki and trade
Vikings were not only warriors, farmers and navigators, but also famous traders. That is why they also had the Kaupaloki, a talisman that favoured commercial transactions. Although, for the bad tongues, even the swindle.
As you can see, there are many different Viking symbols that we know.