Like most warring civilizations, such as the Aztecs, the Vikings were deeply rooted in religion and superstition. Norse protection runes were the order of the day, especially for warriors going on raids.
However, these symbols weren’t just a preserve of those who did battle; rather, they played a huge role in Norse culture. Norse protection runes, among other symbols and totems, were used:
- As a representation of their faith
- To instill fear in their opponents/enemies
- To call upon their gods for favors or blessings
Like most other societies of that time and even today, the symbols were used for a wide variety of purposes that held special meaning to the members of the specific society.
Norse mythology contains unique symbolism and fascinating stories that accompany every symbol. What makes it different from most other cultures is that the Vikings had Futhark (an ancient Germanic language) protection runes.
While there were many different runes in play, the protection runes were an integral part of the day-to-day life of a Viking. So important were these Norse protection runes that they were almost always included in the everyday written language of the Vikings, Elder Futhark.
What Is the Elder Futhark?
Every culture and language has its own alphabet. The Vikings, at least the old Norse people who lived in Europe, the British Isles, and Scandinavia during the Early Middle Ages, had one called the Elder Futhark. This rune alphabet is what they used to communicate messages that had deeper meanings than what met the eye.
The Elder Futhark is derived from the first six runes of this alphabet:
- Fehu (F)
- Uruz (U)
- Thurisaz (TH)
- Ansuz (A)
- Raidho (R)
- Kaunan (K)
As you would imagine, there was more than one type of rune, each with its special meaning and purpose. Of all the Norse runes known today, at least six are specifically protection runes. Let’s take a quick look at some of these common Norse protection runes and what they symbolize.
Algiz is one of the oldest Elder Futhark runes known to man. The term “algiz” is derived from the ancient Proto-Germanic word that meant “elk.” To the Nordic people, the elk was considered a protection symbol. This rune is, therefore, classified as a protection rune and symbolized by a deer or elk antler.
The algiz protection rune is often used for protection and defense. In many cases, it was carved into talismans and amulets for this very purpose.
In rune magic, this protection rune can also be used to call upon higher powers, like guardian angels, for help. When used in spell work, the caster frequently invokes the algiz rune to form a protective shield around them.
Eihwaz is yet another Norse protection rune. Eihwaz is also considered a symbol of stability and strength and was often used to keep negative energy away from the user.
Like most other runes and ancient symbols, Eihwaz had more than one meaning. It was also closely associated with the World Tree, symbolizing the known universe.
The World Tree was an incredibly important part of ancient Norse mythology. It was believed to be the bridge that connected the many different worlds of the gods and mortals. As such, Eihwaz represented the channel that connected the people to the divine or divination.
Furthermore, this protection rune was believed to promote harmony and balance. Whenever a person was aligned with Eihwaz, they could manifest their highest potential.
Ehwaz is perhaps one of the most commonly used Nordic rune symbols in Scandinavian countries. This Nordic rune is believed to offer the user protection against different dangers.
Since the term “Ehwaz” is derived from an Old Norse word that meant horse, it’s believed that this rune can provide the user with the kind of support and strength they need whenever they need it.
The Ehwaz protection runes are often closely associated with friendship and loyalty. This makes it one of the most popular ancient Nordic runes for tattoos and other forms of Norse body art.
Some cultures still practice paganism, like the old Germanic tribes of the early Middle Ages. In these cultures, Ehwaz is typically used as a symbol to offer the participants the necessary protection during these ceremonies or rituals.
In the Elder Futhark alphabet, Inguz is the rune that represents the letter “ng.” Also commonly referred to as Ingvar, Inguz is derived from the word “ingwi,” which directly translates to “ancestor.”
Inguz was the Elder Futhark rune for fertility and protection. In addition to being a powerful Nordic rune often used in various fertility rituals, Inguz was also believed to be capable of warding off evil spirits.
Even today, Inguz remains an extremely popular rune symbol among different pagan groups and rune diviners. As part of many different rituals, Inguz is often invoked to bring peace and new beginnings.
Thurisaz comes from an Old Norse word that meant “thorn.” In these ancient times, thorns were seen as a symbol of defense. As such, this rune is closely associated with protection.
Directly translated to modern English, Thurisaz can be considered a caution sign. In typical rune readings, it represents challenges or obstacles that one must overcome on their journey to their destination.
Like most runes or symbols, Thurisaz has a deeper meaning than meets the eye. While it can directly be looked upon as a caution sign, depending on the context, it could also represent the strength or resilience needed to face any challenges that may come along the way.
Ancient rune readers recommended drawing Thurisaz whenever a believer faced any challenges. It was believed that doing so would help them find the strength and protection they needed to overcome whatever issue they may have had.
In ancient Norse mythology, a god called Tyr was renowned for his honor and bravery. The protection rune Teiwaz is closely associated with this god as it derives its name from “Tyr.”
Apart from being a symbol of protection, it was also closely associated with law and justice. That’s one of the main reasons why this rune is often used as a guiding charm for most legal proceedings. It can also be translated as a symbol of courage and strength.
In divination, Teiwaz could mean that victory is at hand, or it could also signify the need to take action in the name of justice on behalf of others.
Alternative Norse Protection Runes
While these six Elder Futhark protection runes are the most prominent in ancient Norse mythology, many other symbols of protection could often be used to symbolize strength. These symbols were representations of artifacts of Norse gods or weapons.
In many cases, they were all associated with a moral tale and would be easily invoked to offer protection to any believer who wore their likeness or inscribed them on stones, clothing or weaponry.
With that in mind, here are some alternative Norse protection runes.
Also known as “Thor’s hammer,” Mjolnir means “lightning” and often symbolizes protection. The symbol for Mjolnir was a simple inverted “T.” This was inscribed on items and was often worn by Norse pagans during the Christianization era as a form of resistance.
As a rune, Mjolnir symbolized strength, power, and fortitude. In ancient Norse mythology, Thor is the God of Thunder, and Mjolnir is his weapon of choice.
As a symbol of Thor’s great power, Mjolnir could level mountains and even crush giants. Those who wear the Mjolnir symbol believe it can help them overcome challenges or obstacles.
The Vegvisir is also known as the Viking Compass or the Runic Compass. It’s a symbol that was believed to offer guidance and protection to those who wore it.
“Vegvisir” is an old Icelandic word that directly translates to “way finder” or “signpost.” Those who wear this symbol believe it can help them find their way through treacherous terrain or rough weather.
Unlike most other runes, Vegvisir consists of different rune staves (eight in number). Each of these staves has its own meaning and specific purpose. Put together, this rune signifies protection and strength and is one of the best options for believers who are facing or believe they are about to face a challenging journey.
While these Norse protection runes are deeply steeped in Norse mythology, very few embrace the realm of fantasy like Aegishjalmur. It was thought that Aegishjalmur, a Viking protection rune, could surround the wearer with an invisible barrier capable of repelling enemy attacks.
Some believers believed that this rune could be used to summon supernatural beings into our realm. For the most part, Aegishjalmur, which forms a maze-like or spiral symbol, is often worn as a talisman or an amulet and can easily be found in jewelry stores today.
Also known as the sun spiral, the Sonnenrad is a protection rune that references the daily cycle of life. This Viking rune was used to signify that tomorrow would be another day.
Sonnenrad is closely associated with fire, a magic rune used in rituals involving the sun, heat, or fire.
Sometimes, it was used for protection against evil forces or enemies that might seek to harm the wearer. In the context of Viking rune readings, Sonnenrad often symbolized being surrounded by nothing but positive energy.
Based on Norse myth, Odin started a war between two factions of gods by hurling his spear, which flew over his enemies. This gesture was later repeated by a slew of Viking warriors hoping for Odin’s protection on the battlefield. As such, Gungnir can be seen as a symbol of Odin’s protection.
Much like Thor’s hammer, Gungnir also never missed the target at which it was thrown. Some stories claim that Gungnir will return to Odin in the same way that Mjolnir will return to Thor. As a symbol of Odin, Gungnir is, in a sense, considered one of the most powerful symbols of protection in the Nordic realm.
As you can see, there are many Nordic symbols of protection, all of which serve the same primary purpose (protect the wearer) as well as a variety of other functions depending on the symbol itself.
Based on ancient Norse mythology, the six main Norse protection runes are by far the most powerful, but the extent to which the rune would serve its purpose often depended on how much the user believed in it.
Those who were aligned with Thor believed that having an inverted “T” (the symbol for Mjolnir) would serve them best, while those who were aligned with Odin would use Gungnir’s symbol.