Viking culture is full of mystical symbols. They used them to represent their faith, to invoke their gods, both to gain their protection and to instill fear in their enemies. Some of these pagan symbols have survived to this day. If you are curious and want to know the Viking symbols, here are the most important and the meanings they had for the Norse peoples:
Valknut, the knot of Odin
From Odin’s abilities it can be interpreted that the symbol could mean power in battle, the ability to instill fear and madness in enemies. Since it was also found in funeral gifts, it is interpreted that it also had to do with religious practices related to death. As can be seen in the symbol, it is made up of three interlocking triangles. The nine angles of the triangles are commonly related to the nine worlds in Norse mythology.
The tree of Life. Yggdrasil, is the large tree that supports the 9 worlds or kingdoms of the universe of Norse mythology among its branches. It is a very important element of Viking symbology. It is the symbol of the connection of all the elements of the universe.
Yggdrasil, the tree of Life
Two of its roots are nourished by the sources of Hvergelmir and Mímir, the third and last rests in the House of Norns, Destiny. Several animals also inhabit its branches and its fruits provide youth to the gods.
There are several Viking symbols of protection, Aegishjalmur being one of them. Some warriors have painted it on their foreheads as a sign of protection and to instill fear in opponents, which is why it is also known as a terror or fear spell.
Currently the Aegishjalmur is tattooed as a symbol of protection or to be recognized among the members of the Ásatrú religion, followers of the beliefs of Germanic paganism.
It is sometimes confused with the Aegishjalmur symbol. It is actually related to the previous one, but it is a different sign. This is a runic pattern. Its origin is not very clear nor, in fact, if it is a symbol of the Viking era, since it is mentioned in few resources.
It is also known as the Viking compass or runic compass, and was believed to serve to ensure that a person did not get lost. For this reason, it was usually drawn on Viking ships before leaving to ensure a smooth return.
The triple horn of Odin or Triskelion horn This symbol is made up of three interlocking horns. It represents Odin’s search for magic mead or poetry mead. According to Norse mythology, Odin convinced a giantess to allow him to take a sip from each of the horns that contained the precious liquid.
The god, with every sip, completely emptied each of the horns and ran away, transforming himself into an eagle. It is used to represent wisdom and inspiration, especially poetics.
Mjölnir, Thor’s hammer
The hammer of Thor is probably the most important Viking symbol and known by all. It was built specifically for the god Thor and gives him the power to control lightning and thunder. When Thor threw the hammer at his enemies, he had the ability to return to him.
It is considered a symbol of protection. Viking warriors hung him around his neck as an amulet that sought Thor’s protection during battles. Even during the Christianization of the Vikings, many people still used the amulet hanging next to Christian crosses.
Of all the Viking symbols, this is the one with the worst reputation. Nazism appropriated this symbol by completely emptying it of its original meaning.
For the Vikings, it was a symbol of blessing. The consecrated person with this amulet would be holy and would have good luck.
It transformed a desperate and chaotic person into a prosperous, strong and orderly person.
It appears in numerous Viking sagas with slightly different meanings. However, in all of them, the Svefnthorn allowed the enemies to sleep. For this reason it was used by men and gods to make their opponents sleep soundly.
Huginn and Muninn, the ravens of Odin The two ravens are the messengers of the god Odin. They are represented in various works of art next to the deity or resting on his shoulders. According to Norse mythology, these birds roam the world during the day looking for news to explain to Odin at sunset. Huginn and Muninn have the ability to understand and be able to speak in the language of humans.
Hugin means “thought” and Munin “mind” or “memory”, for this reason, some scholars suggest that they would be projections of Odin’s consciousness. The two birds are considered symbols of Odin and his powers.
In Viking culture, ravens were worshiped. Various kings and earls, such as Ragnar Lothbrok, used his figure as an emblem. Crows were also used to find land while navigating unknown waters. The animals were released and if they returned to the ship it meant there was no land nearby. Otherwise, they were flying to the ground.
This Viking symbol represents the interconnection of past, present and future. According to mythology, the tapestry is woven from the 3 Norns. These female beings live in the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, and their function is to weave the destiny of all men. All the runes of the runic alphabet are represented in the symbol.