Inked Mag Staff
June 8th, 2021
Viking-Inspired Tattoos and the Symbolism Behind Them
We've all seen amazing tattoos inspired by Vikings, but do you know what all of those sigils actually mean? Get ready for a history lesson you'll actually want to learn.
Vikings were arguably the most influential groups of people in the early middle ages. The Norse seafarers had a reputation as feared and fearless warriors, but they did more than just conquer and plunder. They also brought their own culture, mythology and symbolism, much of which survives today. In particular, Vikings would ink these symbols onto their bodies, making them among the earliest tattoo artists in Europe.
To this day, Viking inspiration comes across in many different forms from festivals, games such as the Viking Voyage Slot, TV shows and much more, but only real Viking fans are ready to put Viking symbols on their skin. If you count yourself among them, here are the best tattoos and Vikings symbols you can wear with pride.
We cannot start anywhere else, this traditional Viking compass is far and away the most popular Viking tattoo design. The word Vegsivir is Icelandic and means “That which shows the way.” Whether it is entirely of Viking origin is open to debate, but those early seafarers almost certainly played a role in bringing it into Icelandic culture. A Vegvisir symbolizes guardianship and protection, especially among travelers, a little like the St Christopher symbols in Christian culture.
Another hugely popular and famous Viking symbol. Thor’s hammer was the ultimate weapon, bringing chaos, destruction and natural disasters like earthquakes and storms. A Thor’s Hammer tattoo is worn as a symbol of strength, courage and willpower. The image is also as awesome and unmistakable as the legend that surrounds it.
This symbol depicts the tree of life and makes a fabulous tattoo. It is represented by an ash tree as the center of existence, and it can be complemented by other Viking-themed symbols. Viking warriors believed they carried the image of Yggdrasil through life as it represented balance, stability and empathy.
Here’s another image that looks incredible as a sleeve tattoo. Fenrir was a wolf of monstrous proportions and ferocity who, according to the Viking legends, was bound by the Gods to a rock with a magical chain as if let loose, he would devour the Gods, the sun and everything else in existence. The symbolism attached to Fenrir is interesting, however. Despite being cast in the mythology as the ultimate villain, he has come to be a symbol of revenge and justice – after all, the only crime that led to his being bound was that he was born and he looked so fierce and powerful.
Of course, not all of us are looking for something so complex as a sleeve tattoo depicting a ferocious wolf. If you’re thinking of something simpler but still meaningful, you can’t go wrong with a Valknut. It’s a triple knot design, but is quite different from the Celtic symbols that this might bring to mind. The Valknut is a reminder of those who have fallen. It represents honor and courage, and is a great way to incorporate a tribute to a lost loved one as part of your tattoo design.
Helm of Awe
At first glance, the Helm of Awe looks a lot like the Vegvisir compass. However, while there are certainly similarities, this is more about staying on the right path in a spiritual sense, while the Vegvisir is literally connected with physical travel and seafaring. Viking warriors wore the Helm of Awe to give them courage in battle and to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies. It’s quite a complex design, so while it makes an amazing sleeve tattoo, it will take some time and expertise to complete.
As the supreme God of Viking mythology, there is no tattoo with greater power and meaning than the image of Odin. Odin famously has one eye, as he sacrificed the other to gain enhanced perception. He is usually depicted with a beard, helmet and an intricate eye patch that in itself shows other Viking symbols.
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