Analysis and meaning of Vegvisir (or Viking compass)

The Vegvisir is a Viking symbol from ancient runic magic. Concretely, this rune was reputed to have the power to ensure its wearer never got lost.

Since the Vikings were great navigators who often traveled by sea, the promise of finding one's way back was something extremely valuable.

The Vegvisir also has a few nicknames whose meaning you will now understand: “ Viking compass ” or “ Vegvisir compass ” are two examples.

In short, together we will now discover an ancient Viking symbol linked to orientation, both in the physical world... and in other more spiritual ones.

Contents :

Mythological origin of Vegvisir

The Vegvisir in runic magic

Archaeological traces of Vegvisir meaning

Some runic magic grimoires which analyze the Vegvisir!

Was the Vegvisir really a Viking compass then?

The Vegvisir might not be a Viking symbol

Vegvisir's compass today

Statues of Viking gods armed and protected by the symbol of Vegvisir

Mythological origin of Vegvisir

To the Norse, runes were more than just a writing system or a way to represent their ideas. They believed that runes (especially that of Vegvisir), when used correctly, had the power to bring these ideas to life.

For them, runes were not “invented”. Rather, it would be something that is part of the very fabric of the universe. More precisely, they were discovered by Odin, the god of wisdom and war and ruler of the other gods of the Viking pantheon.

According to legend, Odin voluntarily clung to the tree of life Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights, pierced by his own spear. It was only at the end of this ordeal that the secrets of the runes were revealed to him, the meaning of Vegvisir being thereby taught to him. Secondly, he decided to open the secrets of the runic alphabet to Midgard (the world of men).

Let us also clarify: according to some, the runes were contained in Yggdrasil because it is directly connected to and nourished the nine worlds of Norse mythology.

This is the origin of all the lucky charms using the Viking compass, such as this ring showing the Vegvisir accompanied by numerous runic inscriptions or a pendant of this type available on our site.

A set of Nordic runes, two lucky jewels engraved with runic symbols

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The Vegvisir in runic magic

The ancestors of the Vikings already practiced runic magic. The Romans notably reported such practices among the Germans, around a thousand years before the Viking epic.

In one text, for example, they describe members of a Germanic tribe carving runes on sticks and throwing them to the ground in a sort of divinatory ritual. The same practice is described in many sagas under the name " rune drawing ". Weapons, shields and jewelry bearing such symbols have also been found almost everywhere the Vikings traveled.

As for the Vegvisir (or Viking compass), it was most used as a protective jewel or even engraved on longships. Indeed, when we analyze the meaning of Vegvisir, we understand without too much difficulty why associating this lucky charm with ships was a (very) good idea.

Ruins of Viking buildings

Archaeological traces of Vegvisir meaning

Tools, jewelry, amulets, weapons... Vegvisir was in fact used almost everywhere. Archaeologists and historians have found examples throughout Scandinavia, but also in Normandy, England, Russia and all along the great rivers of central Europe, and even in North Africa.

No doubt: the Vikings were great travelers, fierce conquerors and unparalleled traders ( this article talks about them quite well). However, it is in Iceland that the concentration of Vegvisir is greatest.

In reality, where runic magic gradually lost ground almost everywhere in Europe, the Island was able to preserve its traditions until the beginning of the 19th century. It is in fact not rare to find traces of the Viking compass that are only 300 or 400 years old!

Icelandic runic magic is actually based on "Galdrastafir", sticks on which various mystical symbols were engraved (Vegvisir being one of the most important).

Often made from animal bones, these are objects that have stood the test of time, and therefore constitute a gold mine for researchers and historians of all stripes. However, it is in the grimoires that the most precious information has been transmitted to us…

Jewelry and lucky charms bearing Viking symbols, with powers derived from Nordic magic

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Some runic magic grimoires which analyze the Vegvisir!

As with most Viking symbols from runic magic, the Vegvisir sometimes had several possible interpretations.

Whether we represent the Viking compass in a round or square or whether we associate it with Christian mysticism, the ancient pagan gods or magic... all this ultimately has little importance. The real meaning of Vegvisir is almost always the same.

In short, the symbol that we associate with the Vegvisir rune is found in particular in three Icelandic grimoires from the 19th century that we are going to present to you. You will see: what they say about it is rather interesting.

Huld Viking and Icelandic book talking about Vegvisir

1st grimoire of runic magic: the Huld manuscript

The first and most important of these is the Huld Manuscript. It was composed by Geir Vigfússon (a Scandinavian sage) in Akureyri in 1860. The manuscript presents us with a total of 30 symbols of runic magic.

The Vegvisir (or Viking compass) is represented on page 60. On this page is the note:

Take this sign with you and you won't get lost in storms or bad weather, even in unfamiliar surroundings. »

Other symbols with similar meanings and aspects that can be found in the Huld manuscript include the “Seal of Solomon” (Salómons Insigli) and the “Sign Against Thieves” (Þjófastafur).

Runic grimoire opened on a seer's table

2nd grimoire of runic magic: the Book of Spells

The second grimoire of runic magic is known as the " Book of Spells" (Galdrakver). It was written by Olgeir Geirsson (1842-1880 during the years 1868-1869.

This grimoire contains 58 pages describing the powers of the runic alphabet and Scandinavian deities, one of which is dedicated to the Viking compass. The drawing of the Vegvisir rune is accompanied by a text partly written in Latin, partly in runes translating as:

Take this sign with you and you will not get lost in storms or die from cold and bad weather, and you will easily find your way in the unknown. »

Grimoire of runic magic of Nordic origin and explanation of the meaning of Vegvisir, or Viking compass

3rd grimoire of runic magic: Book of spells (bis)

Yes, the third work we are talking about has the same name as the second!

Although its author, place and time of creation are unknown, we are certain that it was written in the 19th century in the Eyjafjord region.

The text accompanying the representation of Vegvisir's compass is quite unique, and the translation that we are going to offer you is the only one known to date since the discovery of this grimoire of runic magic in 1993.

To avoid getting lost: keep this sign under your left arm, its name is Vegvísir and it will serve you if you believe in it, if you believe in God and in Jesus. The meaning of this sign is hidden in these words, so you will not risk perishing. May God give me luck and blessing in Jesus name. »

Here we can clearly see the influence that the Christian religion had on Viking customs and traditions. If this link between the majority faith in Europe today and the beliefs of the past speaks to you, here is some additional information which shows that, yes, bridges can indeed be made.

Viking magic book, the Galdrabok, open to a page containing spells.

4th grimoire of runic magic: the Galdrabok

The Galdrabok is an ancient Icelandic book dealing with magic and witchcraft. For many historians, this is the most important work for understanding the esoteric and occult practices of late Middle Ages in Iceland.

Some of the Galdrabok's spells may seem a little "nice", or even downright silly. This impression is undoubtedly given by the combination of softened elements of magic and prayer from the Christian tradition. While the divination techniques and magical traditions of the past could prove (very) violent, this is not the case here.

Obviously, if we're talking to you about it, it's because Vegvisir is found in this book. Certain spells use it as a glyph, a traced symbol that allows certain forms of energy to be channeled.

In any case, whether the spells it contains work or not, the Galdrabok remains a wonderful expression of Viking and pagan folklore, mixed with the often mystical tradition of Catholicism.

Viking compass on a sea map

Was the Vegvisir really a Viking compass then?

Although we know that the Vikings used a solar stone to navigate, the analysis of the Vegvisir pushes us to a conclusion : it was extremely useful to sailors... but not necessarily in the sense that we imagine.

The Huld manuscript (which we talk about a little above) tells us that:

If this sign is worn, one will never lose one's way in storms, even when the destination is not known. »

The Galdrabok gives us the same description, but adds that Vegvisir could also be used as spiritual protection. In this case it had to be drawn on the forehead.

Faced with this, archaeological discoveries have revealed that the Vikings would have instead used a "sunstone", a kind of solar compass, when they navigated around the world, from North America to the Far East.

Despite certain contradictory sources therefore, it of course remains plausible that the eight branches of Vegvisir are associated with the different cardinal directions and that, through some now forgotten magic, they would have allowed sailors to find their way.

This point of view is particularly supported by certain legends which describe how, drawn on the hull of ships, the Viking compass would have had the ability to sparkle when the boat was on the right track.

Regardless, the fact is that the meaning of Vegvisir has necessarily evolved over time. Today, for example, it can serve as a sign of recognition by followers of the Asatru religion, a movement which claims to have Germanic roots.

One thing, however, remains certain: the Viking compass is above all a good luck charm linked to the spiritual world, always with a notion of “guide” in difficulties and storms.

Prow of a Viking longship protected by the Vegvisir rune

The Vegvisir might not be a Viking symbol

In fact, there is no evidence that Vegvisir's compass was used during the Viking era.

Most of the traces are in fact quite late compared to the Viking Golden Age (a historical period which will be described in more detail here i). In addition, the great concentration found in Iceland has pushed certain historians to develop a new theory.

The Vikings who conquered Iceland must have been among the most adventurous and reckless of all. Their ancestors had known how to subdue the Anglo-Saxon people and a good part of Western Europe... and it was felt.

While some set off along the rivers towards more or less known lands, others decided to sail for the ocean. This required a good dose of bravery: they had no assurance of finding anything there, or even of one day finding their home.

The Viking compass could therefore in reality be the expression of the particularity of these men of exceptional courage. Under certain points, the analysis of Vegvisir goes in this direction.

Historical reenactment of the Vikings

Vegvisir's compass today

Nowadays, Vegvisir is used by followers of certain neopagan trends, but especially by those who love Viking culture.

For still others, this runic symbol has lost none of its power and effectiveness. They then use Vegvisir's compass, as in the past, to orient themselves in the face of difficulties. There are also rituals where Vegvisir is used, particularly when it comes to finding answers to certain spiritual questions.

Some practitioners of modern runic magic have claimed that it is not important to precisely understand every detail of the Viking compass to benefit from it. As long as it is recreated faithfully, it will retain its power. After analyzing the Vegvisir, it is clear that this symbol is very old. It is therefore not impossible that, by dint of being transmitted and copied, its appearance (and therefore its powers) has been modified...

Whether the Vegvisir rune is still as powerful as before or not, the fact is that the internet is full of testimonies pointing to its certain effectiveness.

And you ? Do you think the Viking compass was able to maintain its power over time? Or on the contrary that it could have been damaged?

Anyway, if you like this article, here you will find many articles related to the world of the Viking symbol.

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.