Who were the Vikings?
Vikings were the groups of warriors who came from Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Denmark and Sweden between 700 AD – 1100 AD (known as Viking age) in order to raid and settle in Europe, Asia and North Atlantic . Vikings were famous for their sailing and navigational skills. The name ‘Viking’ came from a language called ‘Old Norse’ that means ‘Pirate Raid’. They used to sail in their longboats and raid the coasts of Britain and nor-west of France for centuries.
Did Vikings have Tattoos?
History tells that the Vikings were covered in tattoos from the tips of their fingers to their necks. Viking tattoos were consist of ancient Norse symbols, various knot patterns or dark green symbols of trees. No one can really confirm the symbols or the patterns or designs that the Vikings used to use for their tattoos but it is likely that they would have used symbols from Norse mythology and the ancient designs found in their artworks on the jewelries, carvings on bones, boats and other artifacts.
Modern Viking Tattoo Designs
These days Viking tattoos are very popular among the people with Norse heritage who like to show their pride by carrying Viking tattoos on them. Others get Viking tattoos fascinated by the Norse mythology, culture and beliefs.
Modern Viking tattoo designs are not actually from the Viking age but mostly inspired by the Norse mythology including mythological objects, animals, symbols and weapons.
Popular Vikings Tattoo Designs and the meanings of Viking symbols
Aegishjalmur – The Helm of Awe
The Norse word Aegishjalmr/Aegishjalmur/Ægishjálmr pronounced “eye-gish-hiowlm-er” means The Helm of Awe or The Helm of Terror. Aegishjalmur is meant to be a magic rune and the most powerful symbol in the Norse mythology. The symbol represents protection. Aegishjalmur is made of protection runes rotated around a circle so it is also called the circle of protection. Many Viking warriors used to paint, tattoo or crave this symbol on their forehead between the eyes or arms before going into a battle believing that it will protect them or make then invincible and create fear into the heart of their enemies.
The Valknut – Odin’s Knot
The Valknut is a mysterious Norse symbol consisting of three interlocking triangles. The word Valknut came from the Norse words valr “slain warriors” and knut “knot”. According to the archaeological record the symbol was found on several rune-stones and carved on various objects found in Viking ship burials so it is often associated with the idea of death in a battle and symbol of Odin in Norse mythology.
The Valknut is also known as Hrungnir’s heart, the knot of the slain warriors and Heart of Vala.
The Horn Triskelion – The Triple Horns of Odin
Triple horns of Odin is a Viking symbol made of three interlocking drinking horns which is a symbol of the Nordic god, Odin. Triple horns of Odin also referred as a symbol of Wisdom.
The Troll Cross – Viking symbol for protection
Troll cross is a bent piece of iron worn as an amulet by the Scandinavian people for protection from black magic and trolls. No strong evidence that supports that it was used by the Vikings.
Yggdrasil – The Tree of Life
Yggdrasil is the tree of life. In Norse mythology it is believed that Yggdrasil is a giant tree that connects the nine worlds and held them together. Its branches stretch out over all the nine worlds and extend up and above the heaven. Yggdrasil is also known as the frame of the universe and the spine of all existence because it holds the worlds together.
Vegvisir – The Viking Compass
According to the Norse Mythology Vegvisir is a magic stave that helps the bearer to find his way through storm and bad weather. In Icelandic language Vegvisir means way finder. It is also known as Viking compass that is made of eight rune staves. It is the symbol of Protection and Guidance so people tattoo this symbol as a reminder not to loose their path in life.
Mjölnir – The Hammer of Thor
In Norse mythology Mjölnir is Thor’s magical hammer. Thor is the god of thunder, lightning and storms. He is also the protector of the mankind and also the god of war. People believe carrying symbol of Thor’s hammer provides protection, strength and power to its bearer.
Gungnir – The Magical Spear of Odin
Gungnir is the powerful magical spare of Odin and also referred spear of heaven in the Norse Mythology. It means “Swaying One”.
Huginn and Muninn – The Twin Ravens of Odin
Odin’s ravens Huginn and Muninn used to fly all over the world and bring information to him. . Huginn is thought and Muninn is memory. People believe these ravens are the projections of Odin’s consciousness.
The Web of Wyrd – The Matrix of Fate
The web of wyrd also known as Skuld’s net is the Norse matrix of fate. This net was supposedly woven by the Norns. The Norns were the Shapers of Destiny (or the fates) in the Viking mythology. The emblem is consist of nine staves arranged in an angular grid, contains all of the shapes of the runes and represents all the possibilities of the past, present, and future. The web of wyrd is a reminder that the actions of the past influence the present and the present actions affect the future; all timelines are inextricably interconnected.
Good article, however the Vegvisir is not viking. This is an icelandic symbol first heard of in the Galdabrók (late 17th century). So it’s not so much a viking tattoo, the Aegishjalmur however has it’s first mention in the Fáfnismál, so it’s likely to be viking. Although we cannot be sure that it was used in this visual representation.
Great article, thank you very informative
William, you do know Iceland was populated by Vikings. The symbol showed up long before the 17th century. It is indeed a Viking symbol.
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