Before getting into the Norse patterns or Viking art, it is essential to understand who “Northmen” were to get a feel of the origin of Norse art. The term “Northmen” was used to identify the Norsemen or the Norse people who were residents of medieval Scandinavia, which included the Northern European countries such as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
The Viking warriors included Norsemen and a bunch of seafaring “warriors” who conquered Europe and distinguished areas like the British Isles. Their invasion went as far as Russia and Canada. The Vikings were only a section of the Norse culture and were much more than the violent and vicious “pirates” they are known to be nowadays.
The Norse symbols were related to the Norse gods, and they acted as a way of connecting the gods to their powers. The symbols have a lot of meaning and are supposed to communicate concisely the Norse wisdom and the powers the deities are believed to possess.
These symbols were used before and during the Viking period. The meaning of these symbols is still debatable, but there is evidence supporting their definitions. The symbols had different themes: guidance, fate, destiny, power, and authority.
Let’s take a look at some of these Norse patterns and what they mean.
1. Web of Wyrd
The Web of Wyrd illustrates the connectivity of the fates. It is a complicated interwoven symbol that represents the complexities of the fates. It is a portrayal of the past, present, and future.
This Viking age art reminded the Vikings that whatever they did affected the present and future. The way the symbol interconnects portrays how life and destiny connect in the lives of Norse gods.
It is also referred to as Aegir’s helmet. The Aegishjalmur is a symbol that depicts protection and power. It consists of small elements that illustrate the idea of power and protection.
For example, the tridents in the symbol connect to the Nordic rune of protection. It has a total of eight tridents which is associated with Odin, a Norse god. It is believed that eight is related to Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse that belongs to Odin, which is why Aegishjalmur is linked with power and protection.
Gungnir is believed to be Odin’s magical spear and a dreadful weapon. It also represents complete power and authority. Although it is not widely known like Mjolnir, it is still very powerful. In Norse mythology, the Gungnir is carved by the most powerful dwarfs in the realm.
It has powers that improve its aim and speed, which are allocated at the point of the spear. It is believed that Odin instigated a war between two groups of gods: Vanir and Aesir, by throwing Gungnir over his enemies.
The Viking warriors repeated this ritual every time they went into battle to seek protection from Odin.
4. Huginn and Muninn
Huginn and Muninn represent Odin’s raven together with the duality concept. Huginn represents thoughts, while Muninn represents memory. In Norse mythology, ravens are used to signify death and transformation.
In particular, ravens were linked to Odin and life. It was believed that Huginn and Muninn could travel worldwide in a day while speaking and understanding the human language.
Some experts have suggested that Huginn and Muninn are projections of Odin’s consciousness. This theory is strengthened by Huginn and Muninn’s translation of thoughts and mind, respectively.
Mjolnir is the name given to Thor’s hammer. It is a mystical weapon that boomerangs and always returns to Thor’s hands whenever used. The symbol is a representation of fertility, good fortune, and abundance.
Thor’s hammer is also used to symbolize fertility and can be located in weddings and homes. In Norse mythology, it is believed that Thor uses Mjolnir to protect Asgard from foreign threats.
Also known as the sleep thorn, Svefnthorn was normally used to induce sleep in the enemy. The idea was to ensure that the enemy sleeps so deeply that they have problems waking up.
The precise meaning of Svefthorn is still unknown despite being a common figure all over Norse mythology. There is another form of the symbol available, which makes it more challenging to decrypt its meaning.
Although currently, it is interpreted as a representation of the German Nazi party, the symbol existed centuries before. It was usually viewed as a symbol of power, luck, fire, and prosperity. In Norse mythology, the Swastika is linked with the god Thor. The symbol was mostly carved on objects to bring luck and protection.
It was believed that when an object or someone was consecrated with a Swastika, they would be holy and lucky. Some people believed the Swastika was a good luck charm.
Yggdrasil is the belief in the repetitive nature of life. It represents the main principle in Norse mythology. The principle states that everything is in a constant state of transformation.
The Yggdrasil is a very powerful symbol at the center of both worlds: mortal and immortal. The roots of the symbol represent the seen and unseen realms of existence.
Also known as Odin’s knot, the Valknut is a symbol that represents life, death, and transition. The Viking culture believed Odin could guide souls to the afterlife. The Valknut can also be interpreted as knots for those slain in combat. It referred to Viking warriors brought to Valhalla and are linked to Odin’s Valkyries.
Celtic patterns are closely related to Norse patterns since they represent a way of life. The Celtic knot represents the three forces of nature: water, fire, and earth. It consists of a single line representing the spirit’s oneness, while the spirals depict growth. There are gaps between the spirals depicting the stages of life: life, death, and rebirth.