Norse Mythology

Viking symbols and their meanings in detail

The Viking symbols or Norse Symbols are a very broad subject, there are several dozen of them often used for Viking tattoos.

History shows little evidence that they were all used in the Viking age, but the main ones are strongly influenced by the beliefs of the ancient Norse.

These symbols where often found on viking jewelries or their artifacts. Find below every single symbols and their meaning:


1.Thor’s Hammer viking symbol

It is difficult to talk about a Viking symbol without mentioning Thor’s hammer. Made famous and brought to the knowledge of all through Marvel’s films; Thor and its variations.

Different style of thor hammer relics from archeology

1.1 The meaning of the Viking symbol: Thor’s Hammer

Mjölnir, is the name given to this hammer with its particularly short handle.The meaning of this name would be “Lightning” Simek Rudolf’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Belonging to Thor the god of thunder and war son of Odin the Allfather and Fyorgyn.

Thor hammer necklace muscle man metalhead

Thor’s hammer is a viking symbol that symbolizes power, strength and bravery.

It is also an amulet of protection and luck (especially for the original wars). Today it also symbolizes belonging to a community, it is the symbol of a pagan ideology.

It is more widely remembered as a tribute to the ancient gods of northern mythology. The representation of this hammer as a symbol and amulet was widely used in the Viking age.

A number of historians defend the fact that this amulet had become a means of distinguishing itself from Christians who have become more and more present in their lives over time.

A very large number of these Thor hammers viking symbols of different styles were found in Viking tombs.

Different styles of thor's hammer archives

But then, what is the real origin of this hammer, where does it come from? How did it get into Thor’s hands? The answer is in the second part of the Edda called “Skáldskaparmál”.

1.2 How Thor’s hammer was made

The story begins, when Loki, in a teasing mood, made a bad joke to Thor’s wife named Sif, by cutting off her beautiful golden hair while she slept.

Of course, Thor entered into an unparalleled anger and threatened Loki to annihilation.


Loki, to apologize for his gesture and make amends, asked Thor for permission to go see the dwarves, being the best blacksmiths in the cosmos, and promised to bring back to Sif a hair even more beautiful than the original one, as well as other treasures for the gods.

It was in Svartalfheim that he went to meet the sons of the dwarf Ivaldi. They not only forged her golden hair for Sif, but also two other treasures:

    • A magical boat, the best of all, able to bend in a pocket and always offering a favourable wind for sailing. The name of this boat is “Skidbladnir” which means “Assembled from Thin Pieces of Wood”.
    • A powerful spear, also magical, with runes engraved on the tip. It is the deadliest spear in the universe. Its name is “Gungnir” meaning “Swaying”.

Loki’s mission was therefore fulfilled at that time, he could have returned directly and offered Thor the means to redeem himself. But Loki could not resist the urge to stay longer and try to get more treasures forged by these talented dwarves.


With this in mind, he approached the two brothers Brokkr and Sindri.

Using malice and treachery, playing on the pride of the two brothers, Loki told them that they too would not be able to create 3 objects as wonderful as those of Ilvaldi’s sons. Loki even went so far as to bet his own head on it.

-Of course they accepted the challenge-

While the two dwarves were working, Loki turned into a fly to sabotage their work in complete discretion. On three occasions, he stung them, affecting Brokkr and Sindri’s concentration:

    • He stung Sindri’s hand as he was coming out of the fire, a living boar with golden hair. It was “Gullinbursti” the boar capable of running better than any horse, on land, at sea and in the air. Illuminating the darkness with its golden mane.
    • He stung Brokkr’s hand while he was working on the bellows as Sindri pulled out a beautiful ring called “Draupnir”. This magic ring had the power to create eight new rings of equal weight every ninth night.
    • He pricked Brokkr again, this time on his eyelid, causing blood to flow into his eye, preventing him from seeing his work properly. This is how the famous hammer had a handle too short, it was Mjollnir, a magic hammer of unequalled quality, of formidable power, never missing its target and always coming back into the hands of its owner after being launched.

Despite Loki’s attempts to ruin their work, the dwarf brothers had achieved three new high quality wonders. Confident, they undertook to go to Asgard to claim their dues.
Loki preceded them and presented to the gods the wonders acquired during his journey:

    • Thor obtained the golden hair for Sif and the Mjolnir hammer.
    • Odin obtained the Gungnir spear and the Draupnir ring.
    • Freyr obtained the ship Skidbladnir and the boar Gullinbursti.

Here is an excerpt from the Edda telling of the handing over of the Mjölnir hammer to Thor:

“Then he gave the hammer to Thor, and said that Thor might smite as hard as he desired, whatsoever might be before him, and the hammer would not fail; and if he threw it at anything, it would never miss, and never fly so far as not to return to his hand; and if be desired, he might keep it in his sark, it was so small; but indeed it was a flaw in the hammer that the fore-haft (handle) was somewhat short.”

2. The Valknut Symbol

2.1 What is the viking symbol of Valknut?

If we had to summarize what the Valknut symbol The Valknut (pronounced val-knoot) is probably one of the most intriguing viking symbols the Vikings have left behind. It is also one of the most frequently represented symbols in our modern culture, when it comes to representing the ancient Viking culture. This norse symbol is also known by other names such as:

    • Odin’s knot
    • The heart of Vala
    • The heart of Hrungnir

No matter what we call it, these viking symbols are always linked to Odin and the death of the brave warriors.

These intriguing viking symbols, Valknut, has been found engraved on many northern tombs and monuments. It is composed of 3 triangles, sometimes drawn in a single line (unicursal), other times in a Borromean style and nowadays derived in many other ways.


There is also an important element to consider regarding Valknut. This symbol, made up of three triangles, has nine points. The number 9 is a very important number in Viking culture, especially because it is associated with the nine worlds of northern mythology.

2.2 The meaning of the Viking symbol: Valknut

To understand the meaning of the symbol of the valknut, which can be translated as “knot of the killed warrior” (name composed of two words “Valr” which in Old Norse means “killed warrior” and “Knut” meaning “knot”) it is important to immerse yourself in the beliefs of the Vikings.

Above all, they believed that it was necessary to die gloriously in battle to have the right of access to Valhalla, otherwise they would live a dark existence after their death.

Valhalla to simply explain it, it’s as a northern version of paradise. The Valkyries (or Odin) would come to take the souls of the brave warriors who died in battle to lead them there.

On the spot, he would be entitled to experience epic battles in their immortal state during the day and to celebrate every night.


The particularity of the Valhalla is that the warriors who are there will have to come down to earth on the day of the Ragnarok or “twilight of the gods”.

(a Nordic symbol version of Revelation to explain it simply too) to fight with Odin and the other gods, the forces of evil (especially Loki and his children) and face the darkness.

Odin being the god of death and war, is particularly interested in these brave warriors who died in battle, in order to form his own army and prepare for the day of the Ragnarok. This is why these viking symbols of Valknut is very often linked to Odin.

2.3 Valknut: The symbol of Odin

There remains the question of the evidence that history has left of the meaning of these viking symbols, important enough to have been associated with the main god of northern mythology, Odin the Allfather.

Unfortunately, there are few or none…It is almost impossible to define the exact meaning of this symbol and its uses. No research has identified this and the period of time it was used.

Archaeologists and historians were then forced to interpret its use from the relics on which it appeared.

Let’s see these relics together:

    • Stora Hammar or “the stone of Lärbro”

You can see this magnificent monolith on the island of Gotland in Sweden. On this relic of the Viking age, several scenes from Nordic mythology are engraved and coloured.

The second scene shows Odin descended to recover the warrior falling in battle. At least that is the interpretation that has been made of it, the spear and ravens leaving no doubt as to the identity of the central character.

Odin’s hands are in sign of blessing, lifting the warrior’s body from his grave to Valhalla and Valknut is represented in the sky.

    • Tängelgarda stone

Here again you can find this stone on the island of Gotland. This engraving is particularly intriguing and interesting for several reasons:

The first is the way in which the Valknut are engraved, unlike the “Stora Hammar” which presents a Borromean style Valknut with three distinct triangles, these are in a unicursal form (the three triangles are formed in a single line).

Secondly, you will notice that two Valknut are represented between the horse’s legs but that the third space is strangely completed by a simple triangle…instead, a valknut is engraved on top of the horse.

Finally, the scene represents Odin in the form of a simple warrior on horseback equipped with a shield accompanied by a troop of warriors. Maybe he’s driving them to Valhalla?

    • The Nene River Ring

It was this time in England, near Peterborough, that in 1855 a gold ring was discovered in a river; the Nene River. This ring is very special, it is composed of two discs placed opposite each other around the circle. On each side of the discs there are clusters of three granules.

This ring represents late Anglo-Saxon art and does not have the characteristics of a ring forged by the Vikings. The Vikings only very, very rarely used gold for their ornaments, they prefer silver.

From the end of the 8th century onwards, it is not uncommon to find the artistic influence of Scandinavian immigrants in the creation of rings, brooches and other jewelry from Great Britain. But then why did they choose to use the Valknut symbol for this ring?

The interpretation that is made is to make this ring a “protective amulet” against the evil eye in order to keep away evil spirits.


Photo sources 

There are many other relics that refer to the Viking symbol of Valknut, sometimes of Swedish or Norwegian origin, and other times foreign to Viking origins.

We can quote:

    • The famous burial of the ship Oseberg (tomb of an important Viking woman buried with a ship, the Valknut is engraved on the base)
    • 10th century tombstones in Yorkshire on which the Valknut is engraved
    • On urns found in East Anglia on which there are wolves and ravens accompanying Valknut and reinforcing the idea that this symbol is linked to Odin.

3. Aegishjalmur / Aegishjalmr or the Helm of Awe

3.1 What does the Viking symbol aegishjalmur mean?

Aegishjalmr is a magical runic symbol of protection and victory. It is composed of 8 branches resembling radiant tridents around a central point. The central point can represent the thing to be protected, the tridents being the offensive means of this protection.

If we look at the etymology, “aegis” means “shield” and “hjalmr” corresponds to the word “helmet” in Old Norse.


To begin with, I think you too have asked yourself the question: “how to pronounce Aegishjalmur? “.

But fortunately there is another way to name this symbol much more simply than learning to pronounce the Old Norse or Icelandic: we can call it “Helm of Awe”.

In reality, “helm” does not refer to a physical helmet or anything like that. It simply means “at the forefront”.

In fact, many Viking warriors painted the Aegishjalmur symbol on their foreheads, believing that it offered protection during battles and created fear in the enemy. Hence the name Helm of Terror is also used.

3.2 When does Nordic mythology speak of this symbol?

The description of this symbol is found in many writings, including the Völsunga sagas and a poem by Edda, Fáfnismál where the dragon Fafnir boasts of using the Ægishjálmur, making it invincible.

Here is an excerpt :

“The Helm of Awe
I wore before the sons of men
In defense of my treasure;
Amongst all, I alone was strong,
I thought to myself,
For I found no power a match for my own”

These viking symbols was also used later in Galdrabók: an Icelandic Book of Magic, it reads:

“Make a helm of awe in lead, press the lead sign between the eyebrows, and speak the formula:
Ægishjálm er ég ber
milli brúna mér!
I bear the helm of awe
between my brows!
Thus a man could meet his enemies and be sure of victory “
It is interesting to note that the branches also remind us of two runes together. The probability that this is voluntary is very high, given the link between magic and runes. We can see the rune “Algiz” and the rune “Isa”.

4. The Vegvisir, the runic compass

4.1 What does Vegvisir the viking compass symbol mean ?

This symbol is frequently confused with Aegishjalmur, as Vegvisir (pronunciation Vegg-Vee-Seer) also has 8 branches but each is different from the other, unlike the “helm of awe”. Even if it too is a symbol of protection, it does not have the same meaning.

It is often said that the Vikings used these norse symbols to navigate like a compass, the word “Vegvisir” meaning “findway”, however we do not know the exact origin of this symbol and the first time it was used.

Today, the followers of the ancient beliefs like “Asatru” for example, believe that the power of this runic compass is linked to the personal journey that each person undertakes in his life. It is seen as a protective symbol, guiding those who wear it in their life journey.

4.2 The use of the symbol as a compass by the vikings

Archaeologists have discovered that Vikings use a “sunstone” for their travels around the world, acting as a compass and allowing them to define the right direction. Some experts believe that this “solar compass” would be the initial inspiration for the “Vegvisir” viking symbols.


A modern vision of a solar stone

The 8 branches of this runic symbol would represent the cardinal and inter-cardinal directions (North, North-East, North-West, South, South, South-East, South-West).

With the help of a nail and the sun, it would then be possible for the Vikings to determine the direction to take thanks to its shadow.

This is still impossible to verify until today, but some legends suggest that the Vegvisir symbol was painted on the sails of boats to help them find their way home safely.

4.3 Which writings speak of this symbol ?

There are two sources that evoke the Nordic compass, but both were written long time after the Viking age.

The information contained in it must therefore be interpreted with caution, because even if some elements are based on real verified knowledge, others are interpretations of popular traditions and it is possible according to experts that this may be the case for the part concerning Vegvisir.

    • 1600: Galdrabók. This manuscript is a grimoire containing 47 spells. It was first published in 1921, then translated and published by Stephen Flowers in 1989 in its most famous version today. There is a mention about Vegvisir saying that this symbol would help to keep us from getting lost and to find our way back.
    • 1860: The Huld manuscript. In this book produced by Geir Vigfusson is gathered, an analysis of many symbols and related spells. Written 8 centuries after the Viking age, it was strongly influenced by the Christian religion and the practice of “modern” magic. However, there are official documents dating back to the Viking era inside, which makes it a reference work today.

Concerning Vegvisir we can read there:

“If this sign is carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known.”


Extensive research shows that a lot of folklore surrounds this symbol. There is no evidence that the Vikings ever used it.

Certainly some runes component this symbol are extracted from the Younger Futhark dating from 800 and the modified Danish Futhark dating from 1300 but many modifications of this symbol have been made in the contemporary era.

5. The Yggdrasil symbol / The tree of life

5.1 What yggdrasil means ?

Yggdrasil means “horse of odin” or “horse of yggr”, “Ygg” being translated as “the fearsome”, represents one of the many names given in Gylfaginning to the god so feared Odin; and “drasill” being translated as “horse”.


5.2 What does yggdrasil symbolize ?

Yggdrasil or Yggdrasill is presented as an evergreen ash tree, the largest and most perfect of all trees (in some versions of the Nordic myth, such as in Sweden or Denmark, Yggdrasil is a “yew*”).

Its branches cover and integrate into heaven and earth. This norse symbol is the cosmic tree, the tree of life, the center of the world.


Yggdrasil symbolizes the life of everything, it is not only one of the most important symbols of Viking and Scandinavian culture but also the founding element of the Nordic faith itself.

It is the pillar-axis of the Nordic cosmogony (system of formation of the universe).

Around him the ancient texts say that there are 3 or 9 (3×3) worlds. The 3 of which these texts speak are Asgard, Midgard and Utgard, the latter integrating the 7 additional worlds (we see this just after).

The old versions never give the names of the other 7 worlds, even when they speak of 9 worlds. However, tradition has come to identify them as we will see.

*It is interesting to note that in Old Norse, “yew” is sometimes called Barraskr, which literally means “needle ash”.

5.3 Who lives in yggdrasil ?

This Axis Mundi, is the seat of the gods. There is their Asgard sanctuary meaning “Abode of the Ases” located above the human world.

There are also the other worlds:

    • Midgard meaning “the middle enclosure”, it is the place where the Men reside. Everything outside Midgard is called Utgard.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Create at the beginning of the world with the eyelashes of Ymir the primitive giant. Midgard is both the name of the place and the palisade that surrounds it.
    • Helheim meaning “Hel’s Domain” (Hel which means “other world” or “hidden domain underneath” is the name of the goddess, daughter of Loki and the giant Angrboda.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It is the place where the dead who did not have access to Valhalla (usually men who died of illness and old age) find themselves.
    • Niflheim meaning “Dark World” or “Fog World” it is the ice domain, it would be located in the north* opposite Muspellheim the fire domain. Ice and fire, shadow and light, between them, they form the two poles of northern symbolism.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          There is a subpart of this world called Niflhel “Hel’s Nebulous Part”, it is the place where the souls of evil men reside, it is often represented in the underground of the cosmos.
    • Muspellheim meaning “World of Fire” and as we have just seen, the opposite of Niflheim. This kingdom is located in the south* of the world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It sends burning sparks melting the ice of Niflheim and causing the birth of Ymir, the primitive giant.
    • Jötunheim meaning “world of giants” who have been transformed into demonic beings. The giants are in reality, the raw forces of nature. This kingdom is located in the East*.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It is important to note that these are two giants; Bor and Bestla are the ones who gave birth to Odin. (Anecdote: Jötunheim is the name of a 2470m mountain range in Norway)
    • Álfheim or Ljösalfheim meaning “world of the Alfes” (Elves) is one of the many divine residences. The home of the light-elves and Freyr’s residence, this place had been given to him by the gods Ases since the appearance of his first tooth.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        (Anecdote: Álfheim is the name given to the territory located between the rivers Götaelf and Glom between Norway and Sweden)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The only possible link that can be made with the Alfes is the people of the Alfar who lived there, being known to “be more beautiful than all the other peoples” with for ancestor “Haraldr-fairhair”.
    • Svartalfheim, meaning “world of the Black Alfes”, is the place below the earth, where Alfadr (one of the names given to Odin) sends Skirnir, Freyr’s messenger, to meet the dwarves and ask them to make Gleipnir, the only link that can hold the Fenrir wolf.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It is at this same place that Loki goes to have the magic objects we saw above made, especially Mjollnir. It is interesting to note that very often it is the dwarves who are mentioned in this place and not elves.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Snorri Sturluson speaks of “the dwarves’ underground dwelling place”, which suggests that for him, black elves and dwarves are the same thing.
    • Vanaheim meaning “world of the Vanes”. The Vanes are the second largest family of gods, they are closer to the population. These are the gods linked to the fertility of beings and the fertility of nature.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The most important Vanes are Niord and his children Freyr and Freyja. This kingdom is located to the west*                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          [IMPORTANT] Although this world appears in most representations of Yggdrasil, it appears in no other text than Snorri’s “Skaldskaparmal”. It is often concluded that he invented this place to create a counterpart to Asgard.

*There are many variations concerning the arrangement of the nine worlds around the Yggdrasil tree. The “Norse” sources never talk about it and never say which world constitutes “the nine worlds”.

It is for this reason that it is preferable not to affirm an exact nominative disposition, it must be understood that absolutely all the representations that can be found of Yggdrasil with the disposition and names of the nine worlds on the Internet and in books remain interpretations and do not constitute the truth. 

The whole of Nordic mythology and religion are made up of ambiguities and sometimes even contradictions.

To illustrate this point, there are according to some texts in which variants to this division of the nine worlds are described. Helheim and Niflheim are one and the same world, and the dwarf world called Nidavellir appears.

We can also notice that the names of these worlds all end with the suffix “heim” or “heimr” which means “world, kingdom” and on the other hand “gard” or “gardr” meaning “enclosure”.

Some research guided by ancient sources suggests that the nine kingdoms once all bore the terminology “heimr”, so Midgard is called “Mannheimr” and Asgard “Godheimr”.

The multiple translations over time would have led to confusion between the names of places and worlds themselves, leading to the loss of these terminologies.

5.4 What is yggdrasil in mythology ?

We have seen that Yggdrasil is a gigantic ash tree norse symbol, considered as the cosmos itself, welcoming the nine worlds and all that it contains.

We can now talk about the foundations of Yggdrasil, this cosmic tree is supported by 3 roots, each connected to a source :

    • The first root is found under Asgard, it dives into the very sacred source called “Urdhr” derived from “Urdarbrunnr” meaning “well of fate”. It is at this source that the Ases cross the Bifrost Bridge (also called Àsabrù) every day to hold their council.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This source is guarded by 3 women called Nornes “Urd, Verdandi and Skuld” meaning respectively “what was, what is becoming and what should happen” (i.e. past, present and future) who have the role of fixing men’s destiny.                                                                                                                          They sprinkle the root of the great ash tree with the mud from the Urdhr spring every day so that it does not rot.
    • The second root is connected to the source “Mimir” literally “memory”, it would be located under the world of giants. This well buried wisdom and intelligence, its guardian takes a sip every day and became a very wise man.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Odin, one day he went there to ask to drink a sip of his water (called mead by the poets) but he had to leave his eye in exchange to get access to it. Here is what the “völuspa” tells of this story :
“I know exactly, Odin,
Where you hid your eye:
In Mimir’s source,
Very famous among all.
Mimir, every morning,
Drink the mead
From Valfadhr’s pledge.
Do you know more, really?”
  • The third in the “Hvergelmir” spring meaning, “thunderous spring” or “roaring cauldron”, it is the mother source of all rivers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 It is located in the heart of Niflheim, it is also here that the cosmic serpent Nidhoggr, meaning “one who strikes hatefully”, gnaws at the root of Yggdrasil and devours the world from below.
Yggdrasil is also the host of several characters who have taken the form of animals:
  • Hraesvelg being translated as “the one who devours corpses”. Located in the northern sky, this eagle-shaped giant is the one who creates the wind when it takes flight, because its wing flapping is so powerful that it sets the sea in motion and fuels the flames.
  • Heidrun meaning “bright” is a goat on the roof of the Valhalla. It grazes the young shoots of the Laeradr tree* and produces mead from its udders, filling huge inexhaustible tanks every day.                                                                                                                                                                                              This Mead is served at will to the Einherjar or Einheriar “those who fight alone”, those warriors who died in battle, brought to the valhalla by the valkyries.
  • Eikthyrnir is “the one who has oak antlers (horns)”, this deer is also found on the roof of the valhalle/valhalla to graze on the young leaves of the tree*.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            From these horns no water flows drop by drop into Hvergelmir, the mother source of all rivers.
  • Ratatoskr meaning “tooth that drills” is a squirrel that travels through Yggdrasil’s trunk to exchange what is said between the eagle perched in the branches and the nidhogg dragon found in the roots to sow discord.
  • Vedhrfölnir means “who fades under the effect of the storm”; is perched between the eyes of the eagle.

*Again, there is a great controversy on the subject. The edda talks about a tree on the roof of the Valhalla or valhöll called “Laeradr” or “Lérad”, it says that the Heidrun goat and the Eikthyrnir stag are found there.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Nordic mythology does not report the existence of two mythological trees, therefore, Laeradr is assimilated to Yggdrasil the world tree.

Finally, Nordic mythology tells us another fact about Yggdrasil, finally, more particularly Odin. It should be known that the consecration to Odin was mainly done by hanging. (Odin is also called Hangagudh or Hangatyr “god of the hanged”).

Odin sacrificed himself to himself, in order to acquire knowledge of the runes.

His self-sacrifice is told in the “Havamal” :

“I know I was hanging
To the tree beaten by the winds
Nine nights sentences,
Sorry for a spear
And given to Odin
Myself to myself given
To this tree
Of which no one knows
Where do the roots come from?”

Odin will stay hung from a branch of Yggdrasil for nine nights, pierced by a spear.

5.5 What happens to Yggdrasil during ragnarök ?

During the ragnarök “destiny of the powers” also translated as “the twilight of the gods” 5 major events will lead to the end of the worlds.

Only a man and a woman survive by hiding in the hollow of a tree, and will bring life back to the world. There is nothing in the myth of ragnarök that the tree in question is indeed Yggdrasil.

That said, it is also not mentioned that yggdrasil is destroyed during this event, some people think it is the protector of life during ragnarök.


Svefnthorn – ‘sleep horn’ in Old Norse – was a spell that the Vikings used to place someone into a deep sleep.

The symbol used to represent the spell varies from source to source, and it is unclear if the symbol played a physical role in the spell, or simply represented it.


This variation may have indicated variations in the application of the spell, which sometimes seems to have been used in jest, and at other times to disable serious adversaries.

Odin, the master spellcaster, uses Svefnthorn to place the Valkyrie Brynhildr into a deep slumber from which she can only be awoken when a hero crosses a formidable circle of fire that Odin has created around her.

Queen Olof ‘sticks’ King Helgi with a Svefnthorn in order to render him unconscious for just a few hours so that she can play a trick on him and his men.

Valhjalmr similarly ‘stuck’ Hrolf with a Svefnthorn, which seems to have been a physical thing, as Hrolf only awakens when it is shaken loose by a horse.

One old Icelandic spell book advises the user to carve the symbol into a piece of oak and place it under the person’s bed.

Meanwhile, another spell makes no mention of the symbol, and instead describes the spell as using a dog’s heart that has been placed somewhere that the sun does not shine for thirteen days.


Gungnir, the spear of Odin, was obtained for Odin from the forges of the dwarves. Since Odin was the god of war, it is little surprise that Gungnir was a symbol of war for the Vikings. Odin is almost always depicted in contemporary works with the spear in hand.


The war between the Aesir and Vanir gods of Norse mythology is described as officially starting when Odin throws his spear over the assembled Vanir gods.

In honour of this, the Vikings too would often throw their spears over the heads of their enemies to signal the start of the battle.

When the Vikings made human sacrifices to Odin, they would also do this with a spear, just as Odin stabbed himself with Gungnir in order to gain knowledge of the runes.

Gungnir is described as being so well balanced that it could strike any target, regardless of the skill of the thrower. It also seems to have magic runes carved in its tip, the purpose of which are never specifically revealed.

The spear seems to have been associated with the military might of the Vikings, which will only fail at the end of days.

Odin is portrayed as using the spear to engage with Fenrir during the battle of Ragnarok. At this moment it is prophesied that the spear will finally fail Odin, and he will fall to Fenrir.

The death of Odin is the beginning of the end as the Aesir gods are wiped out and the nine worlds of Norse mythology destroyed.


While the Swastika has taken on a very different meaning today, among the Vikings, it represented prosperity, power and protection.

This is because among the Vikings the Swastika [and also the Sun Wheel] was used to represent Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir.


The Swastika often appears alongside representations of Thor’s Hammer, or used interchangeably with the symbol for Mjolnir. The Swastika has also been found carved into many Viking Age hammers.

For the Vikings, Mjolnir, and therefore the Swastika, represented power and protection, as Thor was the protector of both Asgard, the realm of the Aesir gods, and Midgard, the world of men, and used his hammer to defend them against the chaotic forces of the giants.

These symbols also represented the sun and sky, as Thor was the main sky god in Norse mythology.

As well as representing force and strength, Mjolnir also protected the Vikings by representing order.

Mjolnir was used to hallow important events, such as births and marriages, which reinforced the social order that protected communities. Thus Mjolnir, and in turn the Swastika, were symbols of order and safety, whether achieved by force, or community consensus.

Web of Wyrd

The Vikings believed in fate.

The fact that even the gods had a prophesied fate that they could not escape, in the form of the Ragnarok apocalypse, reflects the power that the Vikings gave to the idea of fate.

web of wyrd

The Norse symbol known today as the Web of Wyrd represented the matrix of fates, as crafted by the Norns, who controlled the fate of everything in the Norse cosmos.

The symbol was made up of nine interlocking staves, nine being a sacred number among the Vikings: there were nine worlds, and Odin hung off Yggdrasil for nine days to learn the secrets of the runes.

The way that the staves interlocked represented the inextricable connection between past, present and future, and how one influences and flows into the next.

It was a reminder to the Vikings that where they are today is a result of their past actions, and that their present actions will shape the future.

Troll Cross

In Sweden and Norway the Troll Cross, or trollkors, is a bent piece of iron worn as an amulet to ward off malevolent magic.

Toll cross

The symbol seems to have fairly modern origins, created by a Swedish smith in the late 1990s, which she claims she copied from a protective rune that she found on her parent’s farm.

The symbol does bear a resemblance to the Othala rune used in Elder Furthark, but which is not part of the Younger Furthark commonly used by the Vikings.

It seems to have been linked with ideas of heritage and inheritance, and may have been linked with ideas of calling on the protection and help of ancestors.

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