Viking Symbol: Study of Runes and Glyphs

Thousands of pieces of jewelry decorated with Viking symbols are sold each year. It may therefore be useful to understand their meaning.

Most of these lucky charms were used by Northmen before and during the Viking Age. Although the original meaning of some are only guesses made by archaeologists, anthropologists and historians, it sometimes happens that the meaning of a Viking symbol has come down to us almost unchanged.

Some popular symbols, such as the helm of awe and the Viking compass, appear in 16th-century Icelandic magic books.

Since the Icelanders are indeed direct descendants of the Vikings, these books constitute a valuable source of information.

However, the age and true origin of many Viking symbols are still unknown.

Contents :

Why such a resemblance to Celtic symbols?

Brief overview of Nordic symbols

Northern Symbols and Motifs

Runes (Nordic alphabet)

1st Viking symbol: the Valknut, or knot of slaughter

2nd Viking symbol: Ægishjálmur, or the helm of terror

3rd Viking symbol: Vegvisir, Viking navigation compass

4th Viking symbol: the Triskel, or horns of Odin

5th Viking symbol: the Triquetra, or Celtic knot

6th Viking symbol: Mjölnir, Thor's hammer

7th Viking symbol: the Ax

8th Viking symbol: Yggdrasil, or the world tree

9th Viking symbol: the Drakkar

10th Viking symbol: the web of Wyrd, or web of destiny

11th Viking symbol: Gungnir, Odin's spear

Giant stone at the entrance to Newgrange decorated with triskels, a Viking but also Celtic symbol.

Why such a resemblance to Celtic symbols?

At the end of the Viking Age, many of the later generations were descendants of a Celtic (or Slavic, Pictish, etc.) parent.

The National Museum of Ireland states the following on its website:

" By the end of the 10th century, the Vikings of Ireland had adopted Christianity and, with the merging of cultures, it is often difficult to distinguish a Viking lucky charm from an Irish one of that era. "

Between Asgard and Avalon, sometimes there isn't that much of a difference. Danes, Saxons, Gauls and Nordics necessarily had important cultural exchanges. And the mythology of all the pagans of the world is similar in many points.

In short, if you know Celtic symbols, some of this list will definitely remind you of something!

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

The strength of a Viking?

With these lucky symbols and jewelry


Brief overview of Nordic symbols

The symbol played an important role in Viking culture. The spirituality of the Northerners was so ingrained in their culture and way of thinking that they had no word used for religion.

There was no separation (as is often the case today) between faith and reality.

For them, cosmic forces and destiny were active in everything. Thanks to the Marvel films, almost everyone now knows about Thor's hammer (Mjölnir), which was a very popular Viking symbol, used for making jewelry and other good luck charms.

The Vikings also had an alphabet, called runic. This writing itself was sacred and even considered magical.

So while Norse culture was very rich in poetry, stories and songs, all of this was transmitted orally.

The stories of Odin, Thor, and Freya were all passed down to us by word of mouth, until they were finally written down as Viking sagas centuries later.

Every Viking symbol visually conveys messages with deep meaning for the women and men who wore them. The symbols themselves were said to be charged with a certain power.

The Vikings sailed, left to the mercy of mighty seas. They knew perfectly well the dangers of combat. Whether warriors or settlers, they lived in the wind, rain, and cold.

They depended on the bounty of the land and sea to feed their children.

Through everything, they felt the hand of destiny ruling all things.

Lucky amulets, badges sewn on clothing, paintings on shields, engravings in the wood of longships...

The Viking symbol could provide the warrior with an edge he needed to face the uncertainties and dangers of life.

Repeated pattern of Celtic knots

Northern Symbols and Motifs

The difference between symbol and pattern is simply a matter of formality. A symbol is an established and recognized visual image that is very formal in appearance.

For this reason, any Viking symbol tends to be very simple (so that almost anyone will be able to draw it).

But don't be fooled. Symbols are generally considered older and more powerful than patterns or words.

Motifs are much less formal and can vary greatly from artist to artist. Patterns are reminiscent of something, and while they can attract the attention of the gods (especially images of what is familiar to them, like Odin's ravens or Freya's cats), they are not necessarily as magical than the symbols.

Because of this flexibility, new interpretations of ancient Viking motifs are still being discovered today. Below is a brief introduction to some common Nordic symbols and lucky charms.

The list is not exhaustive, but it is still a good basic starting point. Remember, a picture (even more so when it comes to a Viking symbol) is worth a thousand words.

Red viking runes painted on wood

Runes (Nordic alphabet)

In the most basic sense, runes were letters, but the word rune also means "secret" in Old Norse (the language of the Vikings).

Runes denoted phonetic sounds (like letters), but also had individual meaning (like glyphs in other ancient languages).

Runic alphabets are called futharks because, just as our term alphabet comes from the first two Greek letters (alpha and beta), the first six runes are F, U, Th, A, R and K.

The oldest known futhark is between the second and fourth centuries. This corresponds to the time when the war between the Germanic and Mediterranean peoples was accelerating.

The Norse had an oral culture and did not use runes as daily writing. They were rather used as a Viking symbol carrying magic.

They were rarely (if ever) written on parchment. In fact, they are found almost exclusively in wood or stone (hence their angular appearance).

Most examples that can be found consist of runestones commemorating the lives of great heroes.

As a Viking symbol, they also had expressly magical purposes and were engraved on amulets, talismans, beads and shields. Their roles were to convey protection, victory, success, etc.

Rune drawing was another magical use of runes in the Viking Age. This method of divination involves overturning pieces of bone or wood (each marked with a Viking symbol).

The clairvoyant then deciphers the message provided, not only by the runes, but also by their orientation in relation to each other (this can remind us of tarot, in which the same card can have very different meanings depending on the context).

The runes are associated with the god Odin, who discovered them (with great pain and effort) in the Well of Destiny, where they were inscribed on the trunk of Yggdrasil, another very famous Viking symbol.

This legend means that runes are not tools invented by man but rather an aspect of a larger and deeper truth.

These first runes were known as Futhark. A large number of Germanic and Nordic tribes used them.

Just before the start of the Viking Age, the Old Futhark began to gradually give way to the more simplified Young Futhark. The Young Futhark has fewer runes (only 16). This reflects changes in the Scandinavian language at this time.

Again, the transition was gradual, and although the runes of Old Futhark were no longer used, they still served as Viking symbols as glyphs.

Most modern Viking jewelry uses the ancient Futhark, as it offers more letters, making it easier to translate and understand in English.

Drawing of a Black Valknut in front of a boreal forest

1st Viking symbol: the Valknut, or knot of slaughter

The Vikings believed that people living ordinary lives would remain in the shadows after death, but those who died in battle would live forever in Valhalla. The Valkyries were responsible for bringing the souls of these dead heroes to the battlefield.

In Valhalla, a Viking version of heaven was promised. They will engage in great battles every day but - in their immortal state - will spend each night between feasts and feasts. However, this paradise comes at a price.

Odin's army is made up of these slain warriors who will join the gods in the last and great battle: Ragnarok.

They will wage this battle against giants and fearsome creatures of darkness, for the good of our world and the world of the gods. Ragnarok is a predominant Viking symbol in sagas and legends.

The Valknut is commonly believed to be the symbol of these slain warriors. The exact meaning of the three interlocking triangles is, however, unknown.

Clues come from the Celtic and Neolithic arts of northwest Europe, in which interconnected triple forms are common indicators of magical power and essence.

Experts have theorized that the Valknut may depict the cyclical path between life and death experienced by these warriors. Others believe that the nine points corresponding to the vertices of the triangles represent the nine worlds of Norse mythology.

Although details may have been lost to time, the Viking symbol of the Valknut is now associated with courage and bravery.

If you think that these two traits characterize you, come and discover the Valknut knot that we have unearthed for you.

Ancient wooden amulet engraved with the helm of terror

2nd Viking symbol: Ægishjálmur, or the helm of terror

This is a magical Viking symbol of protection and victory. Many believe that this lucky charm is mentioned in several of the sagas telling the lives of warriors or dragons!

It is found in particular in the Galdrabók, an Icelandic grimoire, written well after the Viking age, but stemming from an uninterrupted intellectual lineage dating from the first northern navigators.

While some sources describe the Ægishjálmur as a magical item, most see it more as a spell that would create a sphere of protection around the user, while sowing terror and defeat among their enemies.

In the saga of the Volsungs, Fafnir says of this Viking symbol: "I wore my helmet of terror before all these men... and I spread its poison in every direction so that no one dared to approach me. »

So, I did not fear any weapon. I've never faced so many men. I didn't feel much stronger than them, but everyone feared me. »

The eight arms, or rays, extend from the center of the symbol which, according to the sagas, represents the space between the eyes (perhaps similar to the Hindu third eye). The arms themselves appear to be constructed from two intersecting runes.

These are the Algiz runes (for victory and protection) interspersed with Isa runes, which can mean hardening (literally, Isa means glaciation).

The hidden meaning of this Viking symbol may therefore be the ability to conquer through superior hardening of the mind and soul.

Symbol of the white vegvisir decorated with several runes of the Viking futhark

3rd Viking symbol: Vegvisir, Viking navigation compass

Vegvisir means “That which shows the way”. This is an Icelandic magic staff, similar in shape to the Ægishjálmur, except that all of the Vegvisir's arms are different.

This Viking symbol was used as protection against the risk of getting lost (especially at sea). It is therefore a lucky charm of the utmost importance for sailors.

The Vikings had their own tracking instruments, such as the Uunartoq disk and sunstones.

Even so, most of their location method came down to the use of visual cues (sun, stars, bird flight patterns, water color, etc.) and, of course, a very strong sense of orientation.

Given the potentially disastrous consequences inherent in such sea voyages, it is easy to understand why the Northmen would want magical aid to sustain themselves.

This Viking symbol comes to us from a relatively modern Icelandic manuscript: the Huld. The exact age of Vegvisir (as a lucky charm) is unknown.

However, it is known that the Icelanders are direct descendants of the real sea-sailing Vikings.

Modern technology has made it possible to overcome the danger of getting lost on the open sea. Yet this was a reality for our ancestors.

Vegvisir is not only an assurance of being able to make your way in the physical world.

For many people, this Viking symbol represents the guarantee of staying the course in our spiritual journey and finding our way through the ups, downs, twists and turns that our lives can take.

Celtic triskelion carved into the rock

4th Viking symbol: the Triskel, or horns of Odin

The Horns of Odin (also called a horn triskelion or three-horned triskelion) is a Viking symbol consisting of three interlocking drinking horns.

The exact meaning of the symbol is not known, but it may allude to Odin's theft in his quest for the poetic mead.

The names of the horns are Óðrœrir, Boðn and Són respectively.

This symbol has become particularly important in the modern Asatru faith. The symbol of Odin's horns also has meaning for other adherents of the ancient way, or those who strongly identify with the god Odin.

This Viking symbol appears on the 9th century Snoldelev Stone, a runestone found in Denmark. The shape that can be seen is reminiscent of the Celtic Triqueta.

It appears on the Larbro stone (in Gotland, Sweden), which undoubtedly dates from the beginning of the 8th century. In the image, Odin's horns are depicted as a crest on the shield.

Due to its association with poetic wine, and the artistic character of Odin, this Viking symbol can also be worn to inspire writers and performers.

Pendant bearing the Viking symbol of the triquetra made of bronze

5th Viking symbol: the Triquetra, or Celtic knot

The Triquetra or Trinity Knot is a Viking symbol consisting of a continuous line that intertwines around itself.

The meaning of this lucky charm is simple: there is no beginning or end, no eternal spiritual life.

This symbol was originally Celtic and not Nordic, but through contacts between Vikings and the people of Ireland and Scotland, the Triquetra and other Celtic symbols / motifs entered Scandinavian culture.

Originally, the Triquetra was associated with the Celtic mother goddess and described her triune nature (the maiden, the mother and the wise crone).

The threefold identity was an essential feature of many aspects of Druidic belief and practice.

Later Irish and Scottish monks adopted the Triquetra as a symbol of the Christian Trinity.

Today, people wear this Viking symbol for any of these reasons, but also as a reminder of the continuity and multifaceted nature of higher truths.

Head of the Mjolnir hammer hanging in front of a forest floor

6th Viking symbol: Mjölnir, Thor's hammer

Mjölnir (me-OL-neer) means crusher, crusher, hammer and is also associated with thunder and lightning.

When the Vikings saw lightning or heard thunder in a howling storm, they knew that Thor had used Mjölnir to send another giant to his doom.

Thor was the son of Odin and Fyorgyn (aka Jord), the earth goddess. He was the god of thunder and war and is one of the most popular figures in all of Norse mythology.

While Viking kings and queens easily identified with Odin, Thor's boundless strength, courage, courage, and righteousness appealed more to the common Viking man.

Mjölnir is known for its ability to destroy mountains. But it wasn't just a weapon. The origin of this Viking symbol is found in Skáldskaparmál, in Snorri's Edda.

Loki had bet with two dwarves, Brokkr and Sindri that they could not create better objects than those made by the sons of Ivaldi (the dwarves who created Odin's spear Gungnir and Freyr's skioblaonir folding boat).

The result was a magical hammer which was then presented to Thor as described below: " Then he gave the hammer to Thor and told him that he could strike as hard as he wanted, no matter what came before him. he, the hammer would not fail; and no matter where he threw it, it would never miss, and would never fly so as not to return afterwards to his hand; and if he wanted, he could keep it in its dark color. It was so small, it was actually a flaw of the hammer that the fore-handle (handle) was a short. » - Snorri's Edda

Thor also used Mjölnir to sanctify and to bless.

With this Viking symbol, Thor could have brought certain entities back to life (for example, the goats that pulled his chariot).

Thor has since been invoked at weddings, births and special ceremonies for these abilities to bless, sanctify and protect.

Hundreds of lucky Mjölnir amulets have been discovered in Viking tombs and other Norse archaeological sites.

Some experts have suggested that these amulets became increasingly popular as the Norse came into contact with Christians.

They used this Viking symbol to differentiate themselves from the faith of their enemies. However, there is no consensus among historians. Indeed, many kinds of Viking symbols have been used since prehistoric times.

Interestingly, Mjölnir amulets were still worn by Christians in the Nordic areas (sometimes together with a cross).

So we can see that this symbol still had great importance even after its religious meaning disappeared.

Associated with Thor, protective god of war and great respect for nature, this Viking symbol is synonymous with power, strength, courage, luck and protection against all damage.

It is also an easily recognizable lucky charm, and which is generally held in respect.

Viking lucky ax stuck in a log

7th Viking symbol: the Ax

The best known and perhaps most widespread Viking weapon was the axe.

Viking axes ranged in size from one-handed weapons (similar to tomahawks) to long-handled battle axes.

Viking axes were sometimes "bearded", meaning the lower part of the head was hooked to make it easier to pull the edges of the enemy shield.

The ax required far less iron, time, or skill to produce than a sword. It was also an important tool on farms. From then on, many Nordic people had it in their hands since their earliest childhood.

This Viking symbol made the warriors of the north famous. Even after their decline, the descendants of the Vikings (like the Varangians of Byzantium or the Galloglass of Ireland) were sought after as bodyguards or elite mercenaries, because of their skill with the axe.

As a Viking symbol, the ax represents bravery, strength and daring. It is a reminder of the heritage and exploits of ancestors who knew how to bend the world to their will.

It is also the symbol of the berserker, and all that implies. It expresses the capacity of the heart or mind to break through what is holding it back and move forward with resolution.

It is therefore easy to understand why so many people choose this Viking symbol as a lucky charm to wear every day.

Large tree alone in the middle of a plain and in front of a magnificent blue sky.

8th Viking symbol: Yggdrasil, or the world tree

Yggdrasil is the vast “ash tree” that comes from the Well of Destiny (Urðarbrunnr).

The nine worlds or nine dimensions are intertwined in its branches and roots.

As a Viking symbol, this tree therefore serves as a pathway between these nine dimensions between which the gods could travel.

If this all seems a little hard to imagine, you're not alone. Remember that the Viking symbol is a way for people to understand cosmic truth.

For our ancestors, such myths were as close to science as possible.

For example, although quantum physics is difficult for many of us to grasp, it is the way to describe the truth as we understand it.

Yggdrasil was a way of understanding how different realities might be interconnected (this may be, in some ways, similar to modern multiverse theory).

As Dan McCoy points out:

Yggdrasil and the Well of Urd were not thought to exist in a single physical location, but rather in the invisible heart of everything and nothing. »

This Viking symbol corresponds to a particular place, a concept unique to Nordic-Germanic culture. At the same time, it conceptually resembles other “trees of life” of ancient shamanism.

As a lucky charm, Yggdrasil represents the cosmos, the relationship between time and destiny, harmony, the cycles of creation and the essence of nature.

If you are interested in the religion and spirituality of the peoples of the North, come and discover more about Viking culture and its symbols.

Viking longship presented from its deck, with the carved wooden prow clearly visible

9th Viking symbol: the Drakkar

The longship was the soul of the Viking. The word Viking does not actually refer to just any medieval Scandinavian, but rather to a man or woman who dared to venture into the unknown.

Longship travel was the means by which this was made possible.

Ancient testimonies dating back several centuries before the Viking era tell us stories of northerners already traveling on long ships.

However, technological advances in ship design in the 8th century revolutionized the possibilities offered by navigation.

The combined use of oars and a large square sail made it possible to undertake voyages on the high seas. Navigators were ready to conquer the North.

Even more important for mobility and therefore military superiority, the shallow draft specific to longships allowed very fluid navigation whatever the type of sea.

This Viking symbol therefore reminds us that our ancestors crossed the cold seas of Scandinavia, conquering places they had never heard of, then moving deep into the land via river routes.

It took a long time for the great European powers to be able to face this type of threat.

It was no wonder that Viking ships were called dragon boats. For many mainlanders, it was an almost supernatural force unleashed against their people.

Accounts of the very first recorded Viking raid (Lindisfarne) even tell of monks having prophetic visions of dragons.

There are two ships that stand out as Viking lucky symbols.

Nalgfar is the ship of the goddess, Hel. It was, according to legend, made from the nails of the dead.

During Ragnarok, he will rise from the depths and, after being led by Loki at the helm, will cross the Bifrost Bridge to lead the assault on Asgard.

The gods also have a longship called Skíðblaðnir.

Skíðblaðnir is Frey's ship. Although it is large enough to hold all the gods with their chariots and war gear, the dwarves have designed it so cleverly that it can be folded and carried in a pocket.

The gods use Skíðblaðnir to travel together by sea, land and even air.

This Viking symbol shows us to what extent these men gave importance to the freedom offered by such a ship. A good longship could take you anywhere.

Cobweb whitened by morning dew

10th Viking symbol: the web of Wyrd, or web of destiny

The Vikings believed that everyone, even the gods themselves, was doomed to a predefined destiny.

This concept was so important that there were six different words for destiny in the old Scandinavian languages.

It was largely this deep belief that “fate is inexorable” that gave the Vikings their legendary courage.

With the outcome determined, it was futile for any man or woman to try to escape their fate - no matter how dark it was, not even a lucky charm could change it.

In Norse mythology, destiny is shaped by the Norns.

The Norns are three women who sit at the edge of the Well of Urd (Urd and Wyrd mean "destiny" in different dialects) at the base of Yggdrasil, the world tree.

There, together they weave a great web, each thread of which is a human life. This is a very popular Viking symbol.

Some sources, including the Volsung Saga, say that in addition to the three great Norns (called Past, Present, and Future), there are many lesser Norns of Aesir or Elven types.

These little Norns are to a certain extent comparable to the guardian angels of Christianity, or even to the demons of Greco-Roman mythology.

The Viking symbol of the Wyrdweb represents the tapestry woven by the Norns.

It is not certain whether this symbol was used in the Viking Age, but it uses imagery that the Vikings could understand instantly.

Nine lines intersect to form the symbol, nine was a magic number for the Norse.

In addition, all the runes are found in the pattern of these lines. Since the runes are original to the Well of Urd, they carry inherent meaning and power.

So, when we look at this Viking symbol, we see all the runes at once... and therefore, in symbolic form, the secrets of life and destiny.

Icelandic Viking statue of Odin holding his spear Gungnir

11th Viking symbol: Gungnir, Odin's spear

Gungnir is the spear of Odin, and a Viking symbol closely associated with inspiration, wisdom and war. We are therefore talking about a very powerful lucky charm.

It was made by the sons of Invaldi, dwarves who were renowned as among the greatest master craftsmen.

This Viking symbol is presented as a magical spear on the tip of which dark runes are inscribed. Gungnir never misses his target.

When Odin sacrificed himself to discover the runes and the cosmic secrets they held, he pierced himself through Gungnir so as to cling to the world tree Yggdrasil.

Because of this strong Viking symbol, ancient Germanic and Scandinavian peoples used a spear in conjunction with hanging for their sacrifice ceremonies to Odin.

When Odin led the Aesir gods against the Vanir gods, he threw Gungnir over their heads, saying, "You are all mine!" ".

This symbol had marked the vikings, who often began their battles by throwing a spear into the enemy ranks while shouting: “Odin takes you all!” »

By symbolically sacrificing their enemies to Odin in this way, they bring victory to themselves.

As a Viking symbol, Gungnir represents courage, ecstasy, inspiration, skill and wisdom.

As a good luck charm, it can also be interpreted as representing concentration, loyalty, precision and strength.

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.