Viking Tattoos: Symbology of the Northmen
Sailing down the Fjords, the Northmen and Women were hardy seafarers, fierce fighters and incredible craftspeople.
Did they actually have tattoos though? It is widely considered fact that the Vikings and Northmen in general, were heavily tattooed.
However, historically, there is only one piece of evidence that mentions them actually being covered in ink.
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Did Vikings Have Tattoos?
So, how do we know if they actually had tattoos? The simple answer is, unless there is a discovery made of an intact Viking, which includes their skin, we will never know one way or another.
There are clues those, clues that can help us decide for ourselves whether we think these formidable adventurers, were in fact inked.
Our first and most important clue is the account from Ahmed Iban Fadlan in 921 AD. An Arabic scholar, Fadlan was sent by the caliphate to Middle Volga, part of what is now Russia.
Whilst there he came across a group of Northmen and it is here that we have our only account from history to say that they had any form of decoration on their skin.
‘As tall as palm trees, fair and reddish, they wear neither tunics nor caftans. Everyman wears a cloak with which he covers half of his body, so that one arm is uncovered. They carry axes, swords and daggers and always have them to hand. They use Frankish swords with broad, ridged blades. They are dark from the tips of their toes right up to their necks - trees, pictures, and the like.’
Historians seem to generally accept, that this account by Fadlan would indicate that the Vikings were indeed tattooed.
Why are there no other recorded accounts? The Northmen and women were not known for keeping written records of their history, most of what we know today is what was handed down orally, this not only means that a lot is lost to history, but also what we do have, much is impossible to translate.
Fear not though as we still have a few clues to explore.
Another Arab writer, Al-Tartushi wrote that both the Northmen and Women wore eye make up, most notably eyeliner.
This is important as it does show that the people from this era were comfortable with adorning their skin with marks. Now these may well have been temporary, rather than permanent tattoos.
There are references to the faces being painted during rituals, with either blood or ash used to create an ink that was dark blue in appearance, again not permanent, but still further evidence that the skin was marked in special ways.
It’s still not outright confirmation though, is it?
The Saami are a people who live across Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Kola Peninsula. It is well established that their ancestors did, in fact, practice tattooing and also intermarried with the Northmen that we refer to as Vikings.
The meaning and origin of the word "Viking" is debated by historians but the Online Etymology Dictionary says this: "The form viking is attested in 1820, in Jamieson's notes to "The Bruce." The word is a historians' revival; it was not used in Middle English, but it was reintroduced from Old Norse vikingr "freebooter, sea-rover, pirate, viking," which usually is explained as meaning properly "one who came from the fjords," from vik 'creek, inlet, small bay'."
Across Northern Europe, tattooing was quite a common practice and indeed there have been numerous finds when burial places have been uncovered and the skin has been intact. No Northmen though. It seems that the farming and seafaring nations were surrounded by tattooing throughout history.
More interestingly though is the fact that in 793 AD Viking Longships made their way down the Fjords and across the sea, eventually landing for the first time in England.
Why is this so interesting? Well, as a whole the Anglo Saxon people were extremely well known for being tattooed, using woad. This has been well documented by Popes, various texts and even by Gaius Julius Caesar in 55 AD, stating that ‘All the Britons dye their bodies. With woad, which produces a blue colour, and this gives them a more terrifying appearance in battle.’
As earlier stated, in truth, there really is no way to know for sure, but evidence would suggest that not only were the Vikings surrounded by people who tattooed themselves, there are a few references to them doing it themselves and they were a very creative people, who regularly adorned items they made with symbols of importance or runes.
So it isn’t such a far stretch to think they did actually tattoo themselves.
I had come across an article that stated something that resembled a tattoo needle and bowl with staining had been found in a Viking Burial site, I can’t for the life of me find it again though, although it is out there! Of course this may have been a tool for dying material, wood or anything, but it is interesting none the less.
IF they did in fact have an obsession with ink, then what would they have most likely been covered in?
Intricate patterns, elaborate knot work, animals and representations of the Gods maybe. Much of the artwork and carvings that have survived are very reminiscent of Celtic and Pagan designs.
Here are a few of the most likely choices...
The Most Popular Viking Tattoos
Looking at Fadlan’s account, we have a good start discovering this, ‘trees, pictures and the like.’ Trees is a hugely important mention and most likely, these trees would have been representations of Yggdrasil.
Yggdrasil tattoos depict a huge Ash tree, which is central to Norse Mythology, and connects the nine worlds to each other. It was believed the Gods would visit the tree regularly, that great mythical creatures resided within the tree and that it was quite simply the centre of their universe.
Specifically from the Icelandic Vikings, the Vegvisir, which means "That Which Shows the Way", is a spiritual talisman that helps to guide the bearer on the right path, safe through bad weather.
A Vegvisir tattoo is a favorite of many people from Iceland, including Bjork who has one herself.
However, it is interesting to note that this is "a symbol described only in one modern Icelandic collection of spells, the so-called Huld manuscript. That book has nothing more than this one sentence to say about it: “If this sign is carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known.”
Also from the Icelandic Vikings, The Helm of Awe, as it is more commonly known as, was a stave that was used as protection and to strike fear into enemies.
It looks very similar to the Vegvisir, but hopefully you can notice the subtle differences.
Mjölnir or The Hammer of Thor Tattoo
The Hammer of Thor, likely to have been used to signify power and fear.
Thor’s hammer was so powerful it could level mountains. There are many depictions of the Hammer, but the more modern versions leave out much of the intricate knot work the Northmen were famous for carving!
This is possibly the most famous of all the Viking tattoos due to its use in many films, tv shows, and books.
Tattoo gallery: The Top 250 Best Norse Mythology Tattoos of the Year
The Triple Horn of Odin, each one named Óðrœrir, Boðn and Són, is said to contain mixture of blood, from Kvasir a man who allegedly could answer any question posed to him, and honey.
It is a symbol of wisdom. Said to be derived from the Greek word "Triskeles" meaning "three legs", the Triskelion is actually seen in many different cultures, include Norse mythology.
As you may imagine, along with wisdom, a Triskelion tattoo can be evolution, the life-death cycle, movement, action, and progression.
There is no definitive answer to what this symbol, and Valknut tattoos, represent, however the most commonly accepted definition is to do with life and death, with a sprinkling of Odin for good measure.
"Archaeologically, it appears on several runestones and pictorial memorial stones that date from the Viking Age and stand on the Swedish island of Gotland, as well as on grave goods from the Oseberg ship burial in Norway. Its name isn’t mentioned in any period sources; valknut is a modern Norwegian compound word that means “knot of those fallen in battle” and was introduced by Norwegians who lived long after the Viking Age."
The Sun Wheel Tattoo
A controversial symbol, The Sun Wheel, commonly refereed to as a swastika, holds its roots in many ancient civilizations, including Old Norse.
It is actually a very positive talisman bringing luck, prosperity and is seen as very powerful.
Unfortunately, more modern history mars the meaning of this one. However, many people have adopted this ancient symbol as a Sun Wheel tattoo that is an homage not only their heritage, but the sun itself.
With connections to fertility, harvest, and health, if done correctly, and with respect, this piece can be what it was originally meant to be: a celebration of life.
Odal or Troll Cross Tattoo
Possibly one of my personal favorites, the Troll Cross does as it says on the tin, it protects from trolls and elves.
Unfortunately the Nazi's also have a history of appropriating this symbol as well. "In fact, an Odal rune with little feet on the end was the symbol of the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen, a mounted infantry division conscripted from Eastern Europe."
Thankfully, the Troll Cross tattoo is not as tarnished as the Sun Wheel tattoo, and it continues to be a piece of heritage that people get tattooed to ward off malevolent evil.
Read also:Replacing Hatred With Kindness: Swastika Tattoo Cover Ups and More
Another weapon of the Gods, Gungnir was the Spear of Odin. It has a long history of being connected with Odin through literature, poetry, and carvings.
Apparently forged by dwarves, the creators of the most powerful weapons for the Gods, the spear was decorated with runes which helped empower the spear with deadly aim.
In fact, through archeology, we know that Vikings often did actually carve runic symbols into their weaponry.
Read also:30+ Divine Trident Tattoos
Runes are a form of Norse insignias that are believed to have mysterious magical powers. They come in many different variations, dependent upon what type of energy you are trying to harvest.
Runes actually work as sigils and are said to have a direct connection to the viewer’s subconscious mind. The term rune actually translates to “hidden” or “secret” in Old English, where the word originated. Though these symbols were an ancient form of writing, they were often inscribed on what were thought to be arcane objects, like talismans of protection and other enchanted artifacts.
Depending on what type of circumstances and qualities you’d like to invite into your life, you can determine which rune you select for your geometric tattoo.
Learn more about various rune meanings
There are hundreds more symbols and pieces of art that could potentially have been used to mark the Vikings, as with other ancient people they all hold tremendous meaning and carry with them a belief in great power.
We hope this article has proved to give you some insight into these ancient symbols, and that you can honor your heritage with a Viking tattoo.
Written byWonderland Valkyrie
Mother, Artist and Lego obsessed Former magazine owner, now is writing for The Motherhood about being a first time parent, juggling studying art, writing and toddler wrangling. Loves tattoos, board games and rum, dislikes snowflake culture online. Tattoo obsessed, particularly with the traditional, having 29 tattoos herself, she discovered that people liked her artwork when she started designing for herself in September 2019. Now she is working towards improving her artwork and designs, in the hope of securing an apprenticeship in the future. Instagram : @Wonderland Valkyrie Twitter : @WndrlndValkyrie FB: @Wonderland ValkyrieSours: https://www.tattoodo.com/articles/viking-tattoos-symbology-of-the-northmen-150008
Top 207+ Best Viking Tattoo Ideas in 2021
The term Vikings meant “a pirate raid” in Old Norse.
The Norseman’s unrivalled sea trade and pillaging created a huge European diaspora that has in turn led to a massive tattooing subculture centered on Viking mythology.
Viking, Norse, and Celtic tattoo (they’re very closely related) is rich with symbolism, superstition, warrior Gods, and powerful animal motifs. Whether it’s a viking skull tattoo, a tattoo symbol calling to the Gods, or a simple horned helmet and sword piece, there’s body art that will appeal to you.
The following collection of top 207 best Viking tattoo ideas showcase the breadth and depth of Viking age tattoo style, featuring a range of brilliant designs for your tattoo artist to help capture the essence of bravery and martial skill.
1. Viking Compass Vegvisir Tattoo
The Viking compass – known also as Vegvisir – is a bit of a mystery. Only mentioned in one Icelandic manuscript, it supposedly keeps the wearer (or bearer) safe in all types of horrific weather and keeps them from getting lost.
In addition, it can help get travellers where they’re going, even if they don’t know where that might be.
A Vegvisir tattoo often incorporates runes at the end of each line. These can be used to spell out the name of a place you’re headed, the place you call home, or the name of a loved one.
Remember that precise linework is essential for a bold Viking compass tattoo idea. Each rune should be crisp and readable.
2. Viking Tribal Tattoo Style Design
You may associate knotwork with Celtic history. When Vikings began to invade and colonize these lands – between 600 and 1200 AD – they adopted some of these popular patterns into Viking design.
While Celtic knotwork features a never-ending line bent into a circular or other design, the Norse took a slightly different take.
Nordic knotwork does not have to use one continuous line, and often makes a person, animal or object the star of the design instead of the knotwork itself.
Precise linework and, in many cases, shading is crucial for this type of Viking era tattoo.
3. Nordic Arm Tattoos
Arm tattoos inked in the Nordic genre come in a wide variety of styles.
Whether the tattoos are a depiction of the Vikings themselves – bloodthirsty berserkers from a Viking ship wearing a horned helmet – or tattoo symbol of these great warrior’ mythology, an arm tattoo is an ideal location for storytelling.
The arm is a great place to show off any Viking culture tattoo, as it is in an easily viewed area. Simultaneously, it is a relatively simple spot to cover up if need be, assuming one is comfortable wearing long sleeves.
That being said, not everyone is required to cover their tattoos by their work or other responsibilities, so to them, the arm might be an even more attractive as a spot to place their next Viking tattoo design.
4. Viking Longship Tattoos
One of the many things Vikings remembered for in our modern times are their means of transportation. Traveling primarily by sea, the Vikings often navigated the fierce waters in their trademark longships.
Needless to say, the Viking ship was a vital part of life and culture. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see them inked into a Viking tattoo.
Longship tattoos are a fitting way to show one’s connection to Vikings history.
5. Rune Tattoos
At once everyday and mysterious, runes comprised the Viking culture’s alphabet.
These symbols – very few of which survive today – were an ancient method of communication. It’s easy to see why they’re frequently incorporated into Nordic tattoos.
There are a few things to consider when designing a rune tattoo:
- Remember that runes are primarily linework, so select a tattooist skilled in this area.
- Be absolutely sure of what you want to say. Work closely with your tattoo artist to ensure your finished art spells things out perfectly
- Understand that are three major and several more minor sets of runes. Northern Europeans, Brits and Scandinavians all had their own different sets of runes, so be sure to use a set or image depicting the Norse runes
6. Valkyrie Tattoos
One unique character in the violent Viking history is the Valkyrie. These warrior angels choose who dies and who lives in battle, then accompany the fallen to the afterlife in the hall of the slain, Valhalla.
In the Norse tradition dying in battle was the highest honor so Valkyries and their role as “chooser of the slain” are powerful symbols of protection, purity and honor.
Valkyries have long been popular tattoo subjects among modern day soldiers, and the massive popularity of certain super–hero movies, has reignited interest in these stunning but deadly female seraphs.
7. Blackwork Nordic Tattoos
The world of blackwork encompasses many specific components, from artistic styles to techniques like dotwork. Quality linework and shading make up many of the best Viking tattoos, while weak lines and blotchy fades tend to create Norse tattoos to avoid. This is true across virtually every genre of tattoo.
Since much Viking and Nordic artwork and lettering consisted of wooden carvings, knotwork and runes, keeping things crisp and sharp is essential for truly paying homage to this proud and fierce part of your ancestry.
8. Mjolnir Tattoos
Thor, with his mighty hammer Mjolnir, was the Viking God of thunder and war. He prized strength, honor, and valor in battle above all else.
The Norsemen would invoke his name in prayers for the strength to cleave their enemies, as well as for protection: for themselves, and for their loved ones back home.
Much of the Norse way of life revolved heavily around what was seen as Thor’s area of influence over the natural world. He was believed to grant victory to the brave and the strong, and to welcome them to his side in Valhalla after they’d fought their last battle.
9. Odin Tattoos
Those who want to embrace their Norse ancestry often look to the greatest Viking God Odin as a symbol of strength and power.
Odin is associated with the “berserker”, a warrior whose fighting style focuses on raw, frenzied and ferocious techniques.
People that look past Odin’s war-like nature admire him for his appreciation of wisdom. Viking style tattoo often portrays Odin with an empty eye socket.
This symbolizes that his eye was sacrificed for wisdom, and is one of Odin’s most noticeable features.
10. Valknut Viking Tattoos
The valknut is three interconnected triangles, whose name was coined by the Old Norse words valr, meaning ‘slain warriors’, and knut, meaning ‘knot’. The exact meaning behind this Viking symbol is unknown but has had a number of explanations supposed by Norse Mythology scholars.
The popular modern Nordic tattoo is mainly believed to have been used by Germanic Pagans, as it appears on many objects during the 8th and 9th century – the time of their ‘heathen’ existence before Christianity.
It is also supposed to represent the power of Odin, who had the ability to ‘bind and unbind’ a person’s mind during battle.
Because the symbol often appears on burial gifts during these time periods, it is assumed that it is associated with death and the afterlife.
11. Viking Wolf Tattoos
The Vikings had a great respect for the wolves of the forest, with many involved in traditional folklore and tales as violent but strong characters with great ties to the warrior ideals of family, strength, and courage.
The wolf most associated with Nordic tattoo comes via the giant wolf Fenrir.
Dictionary.com defines Fenrir as: “a wolflike monster, a son of Loki and Angerboda, chained by Gleipnir but destined to be released at Ragnarok to eat Odin and to be killed by Vidar.”
Most realism style interpretations of Norse wolf tattoos feature Fenrir, snarling and violent, either chained or breaking free from his shackles.
12. Norse Tattoos Featuring Wooden Carvings
13. Nordic Dragon Tattoos
14. Odin’s Ravens
Rooted deep in ancient Norse mythology, the ravens Huginn and Muninnn are a powerful tattoo choice for the thoughtful and wise.
Their names mean ‘thought’ and ‘mind’ and together they were the trusted allies and friends of Odin, the wisest and wiliest of the Viking gods.
The legends tell of these beautiful black birds leaving Odin’s shoulders every morning to fly around the world, gathering all the knowledge and wisdom there was to be found in the day.
Every night they would return to him and whisper in his ears all the information they’d gathered, adding to his power and reinforcing his reputation as the all-knowing all-father.
15. Yggdrasil Tattoos
The Yggdrasil is a particularly impressive piece of art that displays the image of a tree, one known well in Norse Mythology.
As explained by the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Yggdrasill, Old Norse Mimameidr, in Norse mythology, the world tree, a giant ash supporting the universe.”
As you can see, this tree was no small matter to the Norse.
The legend of the great tree states that one of its roots went into the underworld, another went into the land of the giants and still another went into the land of the gods.
16. Kraken Tattoos
Norse mythology will come to life when you pursue sensational Kraken body art.
This gigantic aquatic beast is an iconic symbol of ancient maritime mystique. With enormous tentacles, this monstrous sea-dweller is a legitimately badass creature of the deep.
Fans of the fabled destroyer emphasize the Kraken’s ability to crush ships, whether in nuanced balc and gray ink, bright color, or classic American traditional style pieces.
17. Ragnar Tattoos
What better way to show off your badassery and skill in combat than to get a tattoo of Ragnar from the hit TV show Vikings?
The name Ragnar Lodbrok alone could inspire fear in the hearts of men. A fierce warrior, Ragnar is one of the stars of the show – played bay Aussie Travis Fimmel – and formed the bedrock of the popular tv series’ plot.
Why not get such a badass tattooed on your chest, back, or even your arm?
18. Helm of Awe Tattoos
The Helm of Awe, known also as Aegishjalmur, is an ancient Norse symbol granting spiritual protection and power.
In the Poetic Edda, one of the oldest Norse mythological texts, the dragon Fafnir claimed it’s protective power helped grant him indestructibility.
During the Middle Ages, Viking warriors would head into battle adorned with the Helm of Awe symbol either tattooed on their bodies or drawn onto their foreheads.
The center circle, and eight trident runes crossing through it are protective symbols linked to victory during battle, to show strength against fear, and draw protective regard from the Gods.
Viking tattoos and Norse mythology imagery have had a resurgence in the mainstream after 2013’s Vikings, and 4 stunning movies in the Thor franchise.
Vikings are one of the most instantly recognizable ancient civilizations.
That is, the version of them we’ve come to know over the years.
Because of the long-lasting appeal of Viking legends, they are popular fodder for movies, comic books, and tattoo art.
People usually get Viking tattoos because of their Scandinavian background or love of Norse art.
Despite their popularity, the real history of Vikings is actually a bit of a question mark.
A lot of details about the Vikings, who didn’t keep written records, have been lost through the sands of time.
But that shouldn’t keep you from getting a beautiful, bold piece of Viking tattoo art.
There are many tattoo artists with an appreciation for Viking culture and folklore.
You’ll be able to get the essence of the culture, but you may have to unlearn some things first.
Did Vikings Have Tattoos?
Nobody knows for sure whether the Vikings had tattoos or not.
It’s easy to assume they did.
They were concerned with appearance, esoteric symbolism, and body modification.
Some remains have shown, for example, that Vikings filed their teeth with horizontal lines.
There is no written record of the reason for Viking tooth modification, but historians assume it was to look discouraging.
The general consensus is that if Vikings had knowledge of tattoos, they would have done them.
Seeing as they were such great travelers, they likely came across the art form on one island or another.
Viking Tattoo Themes
For today’s Viking enthusiast, there are many tattoo designs to choose from.
Here are a few design elements you can present to a tattoo artist and celebrate your Nordic pride.
Viking Ship Tattoos
Being such excellent explorers, Vikings were known for their ships.
Viking ships are long, somewhat ornate, and have points on each end.
They have a distinct look, making them popular subjects for tattoos.
The points on each end were not just for show- they were valuable when cutting through ice.
The long, pointed boats could also move quickly either backward or forward.
This made it easier to navigate the icy waters.
A Viking ship tattoo may represent your desire to forge ahead through wild seas.
Sometimes high ranking officials were buried in their boats.
This would ensure smooth sailing into the afterlife.
In this context, a Viking ship may make a nice memorial tattoo.
Speaking of Viking ceremonies, the arrows and floating vigil pyre is likely a myth.
The mechanics of it just wouldn’t work properly.
At times the Vikings would burn their lost ones on land.
Smoke is often used to cleanse bad energy in some circles.
The runes are an ancient divination tool. They are still sold in various shops today.
A rune is a symbol carved or painted onto a stone, piece of wood, or rock.
A rune reader will generally cast runes out onto a surface, then read the runes that are facing up.
Each symbol has its own significance and will be read both on its own and in combination with the other runes.
It is said that Odin, who was on a never-ending quest for knowledge, discovered the runes.
After swaying from Yggdrasil, the tree at the center of the universe, Odin was gifted the knowledge of the runes.
Runes are divine symbols but also work as a writing system.
There are 2 Runic alphabets: The Elder Futhark with 24 symbols, and the Younger Futhark with 16.
The Younger Futhark is divided into the “long branch” or Danish style, and the “short twig” or Swedish and Norwegian style.
Rune tattoos can be a cool shout-out to other enthusiasts.
Be sure your artist has a grasp on each letter and its meaning!
Some runes can look very similar.
Viking Deities Tattoos
Norse folklore is rich with interesting legends, and deities.
If there is a specific trait you’re looking to cultivate in your life, there’s likely a corresponding Norse deity for it.
Take Odin, for example.
He symbolizes wisdom, both of the mundane and esoteric variety.
You may prefer his counterpart Frigg, the goddess of motherhood, foresight, and wisdom.
Another popular Viking tattoo is Freya, the goddess of fecundity and gold.
You can see how an artist would have fun imagining her.
Even without a background in Norse culture, you may have heard of Odin.
He’s the god of gods, the “all-father” of Norse legend.
As he is many people’s entry point into Viking deities, Odin tattoos are quite popular.
Generally speaking, Odin tattoos are a sign of wisdom and knowledge.
When considering Odin’s significance as a deity, it’s important to look to his eye.
Odin gave up his eye to have access to Mimir’s well which would allow him to acquire even more wisdom than he already had.
There are so many creative ways to depict this powerful deity.
There are so many epic stories about Odin, but they all boil down to these essential traits: Wisdom, altruism, and esoteric knowledge.
Odin is also a shapeshifter with several animal familiars.
This is a popular tattoo design among people who follow a pagan way of life.
Odin tattoos are especially popular for men, but he’s someone any gender can engage with if they feel a special attachment to him.
Most people opt for rich black and grey portrait tattoos to pay homage to Odin, but there are no rules as far as how he’s portrayed.
You should definitely prioritize tattoo artists with a background in Norse mythology, as they will bring a deeper understanding to their imagery.
Some Odin tattoos let the king take the spotlight, but you may want to incorporate some very Odin-specific imagery.
Odin owes some of his wisdom to his two raven companions, Huginn and Muninn, who bring him messages from around the world.
Odin’s raven tattoos may symbolize a deep connection to nature.
Odin’s wolves tattoo may be a protective symbol or a symbol that you’re more perceptive than the average person and can’t be swayed.
Spear of Odin tattoos are often used to represent protection in both the spiritual and physical world.
Horns of Odin tattoos may represent a devotion to the god Odin.
It may also be a wink toward the myth wherein Odin takes the mead of poetry, a mythical potion that gives him knowledge.
The Viking Compass, also known as Vegvisir, has 9 points to represent 9 worlds.
Like most compass tattoos, a Vegvisir tattoo represents guidance and protection on a journey.
Because Odin tattoos represent ultimate knowledge and wisdom, an Odin with a Viking compass tattoo may represent a more intellectual journey.
There are so many tattoo aesthetics, both innovative and traditional, that may suit your Odin tattoo.
To narrow down your options, you may ask yourself why you’re getting the Odin tattoo.
Different tattoo styles can show all of those moods, from soft and elegant, to stoic, to fun and expressive.
Odin tattoos are often ripped right from the mythology itself, so having more skin real estate is a great idea.
It’s hard to depict an entire scene or story in a small tattoo, so an Odin piece can be a big commitment, size-wise.
You can use the flow of your Odin tattoo sleeve to tell one of his many tales or to surround him with a few of the above companions and talismans.
That being said, we have nothing against small Odin tattoos!
Maybe you just want a little pint-sized Viking wisdom to carry with you, and who wouldn’t?
For long-lasting results, you may have to pick something simpler, but a tattoo artist who is well versed in small tattoos will be happy to work with you on the perfect design.
- Black & Grey Odin Tattoos
Black and grey Odin tattoos are the most common tattoo choice and for good reason.
This gorgeous tattoo design has all the elements of a photo-realistic tattoo, but your artist can take some liberties and add stylistic elements.
Odin is complicated, but his tattoo art doesn’t have to be.
Simple Odin tattoos are impressive without all the bells and whistles.
Choose something tasteful and uncomplicated, and go for it!
Odin is best known, even outside of Norse mythology enthusiasts, for his eye.
“Odin’s eyepatch!” Is a fun expression that is used by some in place of “oh my god!”
Odin gave up his eye in his eternal quest for knowledge and never looked back.
What would you give up for ultimate intellectual power?
Now, this all depends on which Thor we’re talking about.
There are two worlds of Thor tattoos: the ones inspired by folklore and the dedications to a particular popular Marvel character.
Each could be epic tattoo designs in their own way and represent roughly the same ideals.
But it’s important to note that the story of Marvel is loosely based on the Viking legends.
Either way, a Thor tattoo design is likely to represent physical strength and protection.
Thor Mask Tattoos
Thor is mostly known for his hammer and winged helmet, but Thor mask tattoos are another great-looking symbol of this thunderous deity.
This mask is a protective symbol and would be worn into action to impress a Norse god’s opponents.
If you feel like you need a little extra support in life, a Viking mask may just do the trick.
Loki is part of the trickster pantheon, a common theme in many belief systems.
Loki is a particularly mischievous character who uses his shapeshifting abilities as an agent of chaos.
He’s motivated by pleasure, money, and other earthly appetites.
A Loki tattoo would be an excellent ally to someone who wants to wake people up from their boredom and complacency.
It also may be a suitable symbol for someone who has trouble letting loose and could afford to get into some mischief.
Just maybe not as much mischief as Loki, who gets pretty carried away sometimes.
In Norse folklore, Tyr is the original god of set-tos.
Though that title was eventually taken by Odin, Tyr remains the very image of honor, integrity, and courageousness.
The most famous story about Tyr is how he lost his hand.
To gain Fenrir, the great wolf’s trust, Tyr had to place his hand in Fenrir’s mouth.
In doing so, Tyr knew he would lose his hand once Fenrir discovered that he’d been deceived.
Tyr did what had to be done, earning him a place of honor among Vikings.
Tyr tattoos represent his bravery and valor.
Freyja is similarly famous to Odin in Norse folklore.
She’s a popular character for artwork, and her name is one of the only Norse surnames to make it into Western society.
In terms of archetypal energy, Freyja is aligned with goddesses like Aphrodite.
She’s a complicated goddess in that she symbolizes both fertility and loss of life, love, and dispute.
The seemingly opposite concepts become more related when you think of the birth/end cycle.
Freyja is in touch with all things natural and is also said to be of unparalleled beauty.
Freyja tattoo designs can remind you to find beauty in all things.
If you like the idea of a Freyja tattoo but want something more masculine, consider a Freyr tattoo design.
Freyr is Freyja’s brother.
He also symbolizes fertility, but he has less of a dual nature than his sister.
A Freyr tattoo represents peace, benevolence, and celebration.
He is renowned as a well-liked character due to his generosity and the ability to throw one heck of a party.
Baldur is the son of Odin and Frigg, making him Thor’s little brother.
He was known as a joyful and pure personality, a god filled with light.
When Baldur began to dream of his end, Frigg made every object on earth vow not to lay a finger on him.
But that was a tempting offer for Loki, who used several ways to trick Balder’s twin brother into ending him.
For this, Loki is currently tied to a rock underneath a snake.
He is only to be released during Ragnarok.
A Baldur tattoo represents purity and a generous spirit.
His final exit is also what triggered a series of events that will lead to the Ragnarok, so this tattoo may represent fated events.
Although the great wolf Fenrir is restrained, he is destined to end Odin at Ragnarok.
The god Viđarr is then destined to end Fenrir as an act of vengeance.
A Viđarr tattoo represents revenge and the ultimate triumph over evil.
While Odin and Thor are instantly recognizable players in these stories, Ullr is well known among enthusiasts and those who know the myths more intimately.
Over the years, he has become a Guardian to lovers of Winter sports.
When Ullr is depicted in tattoos, he is often portrayed as the ultimate athlete, traversing some snow on his trusty skis with a bow and arrow in tow.
Ullr tattoos can be drawn in any style you feel is appropriate for you.
Many artists enjoy putting a new spin on this epic figure, so chat with yours about what you can do to make your Ullr tattoo stand out.
Viking Symbols Tattoos
When doing your Viking research, you’re going to come across some cool-looking symbols.
Don’t confuse these for pure decorations, though.
There are many symbols from the Viking age that have deep meaning.
Read below to learn more and find the right Viking tattoo design for you.
The Helm Of Awe Tattoos
The Helm Of Awe is a circular alchemical symbol that resembles the sun.
The ‘rays’ are made up of 8 tridents.
Sometimes, the Helm of Awe is drawn in a ring of runic symbols and snakes.
A Helm Of Awe tattoo represents a protective symbol.
Made popular in modern-day by Marvel comics, Thor’s hammer is one of the most popular symbols in Norse folklore.
Mjölnir translates to “lightning” and has the power to create it in the skies.
A Mjölnir tattoo represents power, blessings, and protection from evil.
You can think of Vegvisir as a magical compass.
It’s an incredibly intricate design consisting of 8 staves that branch out from the same center point and end with a unique protective rune.
Viking tattoos are as vibrant in design as they are in their history and the Viking compass tattoo may just be one of the most popular of the various designs.
It is also known as the Wayfinder, and it was said to help people, well, find their way.
The Vikings went through some pretty rough weather and would carry a Vegvisir symbol for protection and guidance.
They can be seen as an ode to one’s heritage of a tradition once lost, a culture that withstood the test of time, or they can be a source of interpersonal inspiration and a reminder of one’s inner power.
At its deepest level, varying meanings behind the Viking Compass can be traced down to individual tribes of the region.
Today, however, it’s seen as a symbol of protection and guidance, with each beautiful design as unique as the skin that it is tattoed on.
Although the placement of the Viking compass tattoo is by no means limited to location or placement, the said placement thereof could give a great indication as to what the interpretation is behind it.
We can break down most Viking runes into three main categories namely, action, protection, and utility.
Runes would be those indicating a form of inner drive, self-motivation, or meeting an ambitious goal; these types of runes could be found on, but not limited to places like the limbs or legs while placing it on your hand, could be symbolic of steering your life in the right direction, using the tattoo as a guide for your path.
In terms of the Viking Compass tattoo placement on the body, its intention could be interpreted depending on where it’s been placed.
If you have to go through something difficult, either physically or mentally, getting a Vegvisir tattoo will be a token of hope and divine protection.
Viking compass tattoos are very versatile, showcasing some of the most particular and unique Norse tattoo designs.
They may often be paired with animals such as wolves, ravens, or horses, paying homage to Viking Gods and Goddesses, or other elements associated with their culture.
While black and grey may seem to be a common choice for this tattoo design, many have incorporated bold colorful tattoo motifs, depending on the intention of the tattoo.
Considering its size and versatility, the Viking compass tattoo is an excellent choice for someone willing to have a bold and daring tattoo.
Scholars don’t know precisely what a Valknut symbol represents, but they’ve made some very educated guesses.
This triple triangle knot is often seen at burial sights and is commonly accompanied by Odin.
Odin is, among other things, a guide who ushers souls back and forth from the afterlife to the land of the living.
It stands to reason, then, that this knot represents the cycle of eternal life.
A Valknut tattoo is often used as a memorial for a loved one or talisman for someone who believes in the afterlife.
There are nine realms within Norse folklore and they all exist on a world tree or tree of life known as Yggdrasil.
This is very similar to the Kabbalistic tree of life, which has ten nodes.
Three wells nourish the tree of life, each with its own properties and stories.
This gives him the right perspective to see runic symbols in one of the wells and learn their magic, which he later uses to his advantage.
A Yggdrasil tattoo may represent an eternal quest for knowledge or a feeling of interconnectedness in your own universe.
Gungnir is a magical spear that belonged to Odin.
He pierced himself with it while swaying from the tree of life and later had runic symbols carved into it.
This spear was carved by dwarves, the finest craftsmen in Norse folklore.
A Gungnir tattoo symbolizes protection, magic, and altruism.
The Triquetra is a symbol that exists in Nordic and Celtic culture.
It represents the maiden, mother, crone, the three sacred stages a woman goes through in her lifetime.
This is also related to the 3 phases of the visible moon: waning, waxing, and full.
The triquetra was later appropriated by Celtics who used it to represent the Holy Trinity: Father, son & holy spirit.
So a triquetra tattoo may mean different things to different people.
It can also represent the natural “threes” in life: past, present, future, beginning, middle, end, or earth, water, sky.
Viking Axe Tattoos
For the Viking lifestyle, an axe is essential.
It was more commonly used in farming.
Because the axe is a must for a Viking lifestyle, it can symbolize Viking values.
Viking axe tattoos tend to represent bravery, honor, and industriousness.
Troll Cross Tattoos
A troll cross would be worn or placed above a door for protection against naughty trolls or manipulative/evil spells.
Wearing a troll cross tattoo offers that same kind of magic protection.
Viking Helmet Tattoos
As we’ve discussed, Vikings did not wear horned helmets.
But a shaman (male or female) may have worn them in ritual.
This would have been both to honor the animistic beliefs in Norse folklore and to represent abundance.
Horned gods in paganism often represent abundance, and life itself.
In fact, Satan’s image as a horned creature was created with the direct intent to demonize the pagans.
That said, a Viking helmet tattoo represents fertility, abundance, and gratitude for the joy of life.
It can also just express love for Viking culture because the images have become so intertwined.
As health-conscious people, sleep was essential to the Vikings.
The Svefnthorn translates to “sleep horn,” and this symbol could help a hard-working Viking get a good night’s rest.
It sounds wholesome enough, but in Norse folklore, it is also used as a magical instrument.
To put this symbol in the home of an opponent puts them into a deep slumber, though it isn’t specified for how long.
A Svefnthorn tattoo would symbolize rest after a long journey, protection, or paying back
Sun Cross Tattoos
In both Norse and Celtic paganism, the sun features prominently as a magical figure.
The sun represents masculine “father” energy, vitality, and power.
In Nordic traditions, this was a symbol for Odin, who encompasses those attributes.
A Viking sun cross tattoo represents Odin, an excellent choice for someone who wants a more minimalist Odin tattoo.
Here’s a fun language fact for you, “Berserker” is a term from the Viking Age used in modern English.
Berserk is defined as wild and frenzied actions.
When someone has “gone berserk,” they are entirely out of control, which is a clue to this symbol’s meaning.
Within Nordic traditions, there are three hunting cults: the bear, the wolf, and the boar.
A Berserker would be a member of the bear cult and call on bears to assist them in action or hunts.
They would train and hunt in a trance-like state, full of primal fury.
A Berserker tattoo may represent your admiration for these people or a desire to get in touch with your primal instincts.
The Ulfhednar were members of the wolf cult.
They would perform rituals to get in touch with the wolf’s essence and were so wild they may have inspired werewolf folklore.
It is said that these people would have dyed their skin black to better identify with the wolf image.
That may be a different approach, but an Ulfhednar tattoo may do the trick for you.
Viking Boar Tattoo
The Svinfylking, or Viking boar, would ritualize to get in touch with the spirit of a wild boar.
While the bears and wolves served Odin, the Svinfylking are related to Freyr and Freyja.
They had their own unique martial formation that resembled a boar’s head.
If you’re looking for a unique way to pay homage to the Vikings, a Viking boar tattoo would be an original choice.
Shield Maiden Tattoos
Shield Maidens are famous figures in Scandinavian folklore, though no one is sure if they existed in real life.
They were women who chose to resist next to their male counterparts and are prominently featured in the TV series Vikings.
If you’re a woman who doesn’t mind getting a little dirty or someone who admires those women, a Shield Maiden tattoo would be a cool homage.
Sigurd & Fafnir Tattoos
Sigurd and Fafnir’s story is quite the saga, a series of unfortunate events put in motion by our friend Loki.
Can that guy ever leave well enough alone?
In short, Fafnir is a shape-shifting dwarf who becomes obsessed with a cursed ring.
If the story sounds familiar, it’s because J.R.R Tolkein was a huge Norse culture buff and openly drew inspiration with the tale.
After murdering his father to acquire the ring, Fafnir turns himself into a dragon to properly guard it.
He is later slain by Sigurd, his nephew.
This story has a lot of twists and turns, but the central theme is greed.
If you want to remind yourself not to become obsessed with material goods, or you’re just a big fan of the story, a Sigurd & Fafnir tattoo will suit you well.
As with any ancient belief system, there are some really fun mythological beasts in the Norse universe.
Here’s a little info for each one.
Maybe a Norse mythical figure tattoo is in your future?
Jörmungandr is an ouroboros known as the “world serpent.”
He is one of three cursed offspring from the giantess Angrboða and Loki.
This includes Fenrir, the great wolf, and Hel, the goddess of the underworld.
Jörmungandr was once cast into the sea by Odin, where it grew until it encircled the entire earth.
Right now, the serpent slumbers with its tail in its mouth.
When the serpent’s tail is released, the Ragnarok begins.
A Jörmungandr tattoo could represent fate or just a love of sea monsters.
The term Valkyries translates to “Choosers of the Slain,” which is pretty metal.
They are handmaidens of Odin, who choose a few lucky fallen soldiers to join them in Valhalla.
There, they will resist alongside Odin in Ragnarok, a great honor for a Viking.
Though these maidens can be a lovely sight for sore eyes, they have a flip side.
They can choose who passes away on the frontline and will yield that power if there’s a soldier they don’t like.
The Kraken isn’t just a delicious spiced rum.
It’s also a legendary sea creature known to impress sailors.
This giant octopus-like creature is an agent of confusion.
If you think an octopus tattoo is cliché, why not go wild with a Kraken tattoo?
This sea creature represents bangarang, perfect for someone who loves a spooky story.
Viking Dragon Tattoos
Dragons were a popular part of Viking decor, appearing in many surviving artifacts.
There are different dragon myths within the cannon, but a Viking dragon tattoo design usually represents strength and bravery.
But it all depends on the dragon.
The word Nidhogg was used in Viking culture to describe someone malicious or dishonorable.
The Nidhogg is a dragon/serpent who came up from the pit and spends most of his time gnawing at the base of the Yggdrasil, which could throw the world into chaos at any moment.
Nidhogg tattoos represent the idea of falling from grace.
This creature has also been known to cause the universes in Yggdrasil to tremble.
Are you someone who likes to shake things up? A Nidhogg tattoo may be for you.
Frost Giant Tattoos
The Frost Giants in Norse folklore are also known as Jotnar.
They are often depicted as literal giants, which may be an oversimplification based on the English translation.
The Jotnar were forged alongside the Aesir (gods like Odin, Freyja, etc.) in a void of ice at the beginning of time.
They are opponents, often traveling to one another’s worlds to pounce on.
That said, there are also several romances between the Aesir and the Jotnar. In short, it’s complicated.
Are you a nonconformist? Do you love to challenge the powers that be?
As a member of the Jotnar, Loki himself would approve of your Frost Giant tattoo.
Originating in Greenland, the Tupilaq is kind of like a voodoo doll or poppet.
Using magic and a few bones they’d collected, anyone could create a Tupilaq, even if they weren’t shaman.
Once a person has made their Tupilaq figurine, they would add something from that person.
The object would then be placed in a large body of water to find and end that person.
A Tupilaq tattoo may represent the desire for vengeance or admiration for ancient magical practices.
Most ancient belief systems are animistic, meaning they see a symbolic presence in objects and animals.
The zoomorphic themes in Norse artwork echo this belief system when tools and decor were carved with traits and features from different animals.
Having a Norse animal tattoo can be your way of befriending that animal’s spirit, taking their qualities on as your own.
Not sure which animal’s energy you vibe with?
Here’s a handy guide to zoomorphic symbolism in Viking tattoos.
Viking Bear Tattoos
A Viking bear tattoo piece is similar to a berserker tattoo piece in that you want to connect with the bear’s spirit.
Odin would often disguise himself as a bear when mingling with mortals, so a Viking bear tattoo represents his traits of wisdom, strength, and mysticism.
In Norse mythology, Fenrir is a great giant wolf who cannot be held by any rope.
Fenrir is a great wolf who will one day finish Odin, and his sons will devour the sun.
It’s not hard to see why the dwarves built a magical rope to restrain him.
If you’ve been through difficulties, you may connect with the symbolism of the Norse wolf.
A Fenrir tattoo vs. Odin may reflect how you feel about your own temporality.
A Viking wolf tattoo
Tattoo nordic ring
.Rollo's Tattoos On Vikings Explained
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