The Norse Civilizations, aka, the Vikings were Seafarers and a warrior clan from the Scandinavian regions who lived by means of plundering and raiding fishing towns and villages. They had their own sophisticated religious ideas and concepts like any Religion out there, and these were generally accompanied with a lot of fascinating Viking symbols , Viking tattoos, and motifs. Symbology is in itself a fascinating field as symbols are often our only glimpse into a civilization such as the Norse, existing in the 8th to 11th centuries AD. In the absence of historical documents, artifacts and symbols are our best means of recreating a culture’s belief systems.
Many of motifs and symbols of Norse Culture have seeped into the popular imagination because of the appeal of their unapologetic and rugged warrior lifestyle. Thor, for example, is a great example of a Norse God that’s come to the popular imagination via Marvel, ditto for Loki.
10 Viking Symbols based on Norse Mythology
So here’s a couple of fascinating Viking symbols and meanings based on Norse Mythology and an exploration of what they’re believed to mean.
#1. Mjölnir – Symbol Of Purity
This is likely the most popular Norse symbol out there, and it stands for ‘Thor’s Hammer.’ Yes, the hammer that Chris Hemsworth is always seen to wield in the Avengers movies.The word Mjölnir literally means ‘lightning’ which is indicative of Thor’s power over the elements of thunder and lightning, making him one of the most popular gods out there.
Thors’s hammer is a symbol of purity and is used as an Instrument of Blessing, Consecration, and Protection. It is used formally in ceremonies like marriages, births, and funerals , thus making this a weapon for protection against forces of evil and violence and for the safeguard and well-being of the whole community.
#2. Swastika – Symbol of Good Luck
This symbol has come to become one associated with one of the most repugnant groups or people in all of History, that is, the Nazis. However, Hitler didn’t come up with the motif himself but actually derived it from Norse Mythology, wherein the symbol originally stood as a ‘Sunwheel’, representing luck, holiness, power, and prosperity. However, thanks to the Third Reich all the original meaning has been twisted into something wholly ugly.
As per Norse mythology, this is a symbol of good-luck-charm. It is believed that the bearer of these Viking symbols will be moved from the state of chaos, the mundane, and weakness to that of sacred order and strength.
#3. Yggdrasil – Symbol of Time And Destiny
This is a giant mythological tree which has the burden of holding the realms of the universe altogether. The concept of the Universal tree, however, is one which is in common to a lot of different cultures. As per Norse, this tree connects the nine worlds in Norse cosmology. In this case, at the top of the tree an Eagle is said to reside, and a Dragon at the bottom, both of which hate each other. The Nine Worlds held together by the tree is guarded by a Serpent.
Yggdrasil, in fact, doesn’t exist in a single physical location, but rather dwell within the invisible heart of all the things. This image represents the concepts of time and things that are happening now.
#4. The Valknut – Symbol Of Death
This is a triple triable, with each side embedded into the other, linked in a chain. It stands for the transition of life and death and is closely associated with Odin, the supreme god of Norse Mythology.
There is also another conflicting explanation to this symbol which says that it could be representing Hrungnir’s heart. Hrungnir’s heart was believed to be made of hard stone and was in triangular shape. But the more accepted belief is that this symbol is related to Odin and his power to bind and unbind.
#5. The Helm of Awe – Symbol Of Protection
This is the Symbol for Protection. It is said to prevent diseases and illnesses, and when worn between the eye it can frighten enemies and prevent abuse of power.
The ‘awe’ here can be interchangeable with terror as it is supposed to invoke both fear and reverence. This symbol was intended to produce overpowering might and supreme power to the bearer by invoking fear in the mind of enemies . Thus guaranteeing protection against enemies.
#6. The Svefnthorn – Symbol Of Sleep
This comprises four spears like stick figures with various grooves and ridges running across them. But this particular symbol and its usage keep changing from source to source. Hence no correct explanation or impact of usage is still clear for this symbol.
However, the common thing is that it is supposed to have the capacity to put anyone into a deep resonant sleep. But for how long the adversary will sleep or whether he will awaken on his own is still not clear.
#7. Huginn And Muninn – Symbol Of Thought And Desire
These Viking symbols are the twin ravens that eternally stand to look at opposite directions, and they are supposed to stand for ‘thought’ and ‘desire’ respectively. There is an alternate explanation which says that Muninn stands for ‘Memory’ .
According to the mythology, they are servants to Odin, and according to mythology every morning they soar out into the world and return in the evening to give their reports of the happenings around the world.
#8. The Vegvisir – Symbol Of Protection during Journeys
This is an easy Norse Symbol which was supposed to help one find his/her way when lost. It comprises four straight intersecting lines meeting at a center, with various grooves and ridges running through them.
It is believed that it is a kind of runic compass which when carried no one will get lost due to adverse weather or unknown reasons.
#9. Web Of Wyrd (Skuld’s Net) – Symbol Of Fate
This is also called the ‘Matrix of Fate’, and is an intricate pattern of intersecting straight lines which are said to be woven by Norns, this is, three wise women who are the personification of Fates themselves.
They are also referred to as the ‘Shapers of Destiny’ as it is their responsibility to decide what happens to whom. As such they are afforded a lot of reverence and power. However , it is believed that though everyone is subject to destiny everybody has the power of their own to change it to an extent. Some use this power passively while others alter their destiny to a greater extent by using their power. Hence no life is entirely decided by the Norns alone but no life is neither free from them.
#10. The Triple Horn Of Odin – Symbol Of Wisdom
This is made up of three drinking horns interlocked within the curves of the others. It is associated with the Norse God Odin.
Odin is said to have gone on a quest for the magical mead, which is made from the blood of Kvasir, another wise god. The three interlocking horns represent the three draughts of the magical mead which was procured over a 3 day period.
These are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring the rich culture and Viking symbols left behind by the Norse civilizations. So let us know down in the comments section which one of these Viking symbols fascinates you the most, and why?