In today’s post, we will be delving into one of the most popular Norse Viking symbols, Aegishjalmur also known as the helm of awe and terror. What does the Aegishjalmr mean and why is it called the helm of awe? Without further ado, here is all you need to know about the Aegishjalmr symbol, its meaning and origins.
What is the Meaning of Aegishjalmur?
Aegishjalmr (Ægishjálmur in Greek and sometimes spelled Aegishjalmur) is one of the most important Viking symbols in history. The symbol’s name has a literal English translation of “helm of awe” or “helm of terror”.
In this context, the name means that the symbol strikes fear to anyone who sees it. The helm of awe is essentially meant to incite respect, which may be the result of awe or terror.
The Norse symbol Aegishjalmur goes by several names. Aside from Aegishjalmur and the Helm of Awe, it is also sometimes referred to as the Viking Compass, making it somewhat related to the Icelandic symbol Vegvisir.
Furthermore, the name Aegishjalmur is believed to have been derived from Aegir, the god of Jotunheim’s ocean. Jotunheim, one of the nine realms in Norse mythology, is the land of the frost giants.
The Helm of Awe was mentioned in the Poetic Edda, the compilation of anonymous Old Norse poems. In the poem, the dragon Fafnir acquired invincibility by bearing the symbol.
The Helm of Awe
I wore before the sons of men
In defense of my treasure;
Amongst all, I alone was strong,
I thought to myself,
For I found no power a match for my own.
In the Poetic Edda, the Aegishjalmr was referred to as the “helmet of terror”, but it does not come in the form of an actual helmet. Rather, the symbol imparts ultimate protection to the wearer when it is inscribed or painted on one’s forehead.
The Aegishjalmur Symbol’s Appearance Analyzed
In terms of appearance, the Aegishjalmur has a circle at the center, which is surrounded by eight arms or prongs. Four of the eight prongs are in the cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west), while the other four are in between them.
The eight prongs are identical to each other. All of the prongs have three-point ends.
Sometimes, the symbol is shown or drawn with a circle of runes surrounding it. This, however, is a stylistic addition that originates from more recent times. Viking-age Aegishjalmur pieces do not have the circle of runes.
The central circle in the Aegishjalmr basically represents the circle of protection within which the bearer is sheltered from harm. As such, it is linked to the Magic Circle, which is used by Wiccans to invoke protection.
Meanwhile, the eight prongs provide the bearer protection against all evil and danger that may be cast upon him from all directions.
Furthermore, each of the Aegishjalmr’s prongs is also represented to come with three crossbars. These crossbars are thought to strengthen the protection provided by the symbol.
The arms or prongs of the Helm of Awe are believed to be Z-runes. Their original name is yet to be known, but they are commonly referred to as Algiz in the modern age.
As a rune, the meaning of Algiz has a lot to do with protection and dominating over an enemy, making it fitting of the true intention and meaning behind the Helm of Awe.
Meanwhile, the spikes positioned perpendicularly on the arms are called the Isa runes. The true meaning of Isa runes is also under debate, although in general, it is related to the fearsome frost giants.
Isa literally means “ice” and as such, may represent “hardening” against trials.
Aegishjalmr’s Similarity With Other Culture’s Symbolisms
Despite the possibility of coincidence, Aegishjalmr or Aegishjalmur bears similarity with symbols from other cultures. Aside from the Wiccan Magic Circle, the Helm of Awe is also linked to Buddhism’s Dharma Wheel.
The Dharma Wheel, also called the Dharma Chakra (Dhamachakra), is one of the oldest symbols from ancient Indian culture. It is believed to protect the home and provide a way toward enlightenment.
Similar to the Aegishjalmr that has eight arms, the Dharma Wheel has eight spokes positioned in a circular shape.
Furthermore, tridents are among the most common symbols in Hinduism. Since the Aegishjalmr’s arms are actually tridents, they are somewhat associated with Shiva, the Destroyer of Worlds in Hinduism.
Shiva has always been depicted to hold a trident known as trishool (or trishul) in Sanskrit. The trishool is also often represented to have horizontal crossbars, as seen in the Helm of Awe.
There has been evidence that some of the Nordic people migrated out of the Indian subcontinent, which is why the similarity between the Helm of Awe and the Dharma Wheel is sometimes considered to be more than just a coincidence.
Moreover, practitioners of Hinduism believe that the “third eye” is located on the forehead where the Vikings would draw the Helm of Awe for protection. This, as well as the striking resemblance of Aegishjalmr with Dharmachakra in terms of appearance, makes the connection between them difficult to fully ignore.
The Power of Aegishjalmr / Aegishjalmur – How Did the Ancient Vikings Use the Helm of Awe?
Aegishjalmr or the Helm of Awe was considered to be one of the most powerful and widely used Viking symbols of protection.
In Norse mythology, the symbol was believed to have been worn by the Vikings between their eyes to invoke fear on their enemies and protect the wearer against abuse of power.
In the Viking Age, warriors often inscribed the symbol between their eyebrows to show and possess strength in battle. They believed that the symbol will help them win battles, just like how it helped the dragon Fafnir.
Furthermore, the Helm of Awe did not only provide physical protection. It also gave the bearer mental and spiritual strength against one’s own fears.
Once the bearer is able to cast away his fears, the symbol is then able to strike fear on enemies.
Aegishjalmr is also believed to protect the bearer from his own power, controlling him so that he may not abuse his power.
As the most powerful Viking symbol of protection, the Helm of Awe is also used to protect against disease, anxiety, and depression.
The ancient Vikings believed that Aegishjalmr is most potent when drawn using the wearer’s own blood or spit.
Aegishhalmur, The Helm of Awe Tattoo Meaning And Ideas
Along with Vegvisir, Aegishjalmur is one of the most common symbols used as a tattoo by people of Norse and Scandinavian origin.
Believed to be a really powerful Viking symbol of protection, both physical and spiritual, a Helm of Awe tattoo would be a great choice if you are looking for Norse/Viking tattoo ideas.
If you are a spiritual person, you can have an Aegishjalmur tattoo inked on you for spiritual protection whether or not you are a Scandinavian.
Not to mention, because of its circular shape the symbol will look really pleasing, aesthetically. That is why most people carrying such a tattoo will have it on their upper arms or backs.
This wraps up our post on Aegishjalmr, the Viking symbol of protection, its meaning and origins. If you liked it, you should definitely check out our detailed post on Viking symbols here and the other articles in this category through the top menu.
Note: If you are seeking information about “Helm, The God of Protection” from Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms 5e and landed here, we’ve got you covered.
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Aegishjalmur, The Viking Symbol of Protection And Its Meaning – SymbolsAndMeanings.Net, November 11, 2019