Are there any Norse tattoos to avoid? When it comes to body art, very few things come close to a good, old-fashioned tattoo. Not only are well-thought-out tattoos a powerful symbol of self-awareness, but they often also pass different types of identity messages to all those who look upon them.
This is particularly true if you are into tattoos representing a past era or culture, such as Aztec or Norse tattoos.
However, if you are going to get these ancient symbols or tattoos, it’s often best to do a great deal of research into the following:
- What they actually mean
- What wearing them represents
- How they will be interpreted by someone who is an actual descendant of the culture behind the tattoo
Too often, tattoo artists guide people towards a specific design simply because they think it looks “cool” or because it will be challenging to draw in blank ink.
Ancient cultures, such as the Norse culture of Europe, are steeped in a deep belief in the supernatural. The Viking culture, in particular, revered the Viking gods and most used symbolism, such as temporary tattoos, to represent their allegiance to these gods.
Back then, getting a permanent tattoo of a Norse god meant that you were allied to that god and that you were accepting of their favors and facing wrath should you displease them.
In that way, tattoos were not taken lightly. Viking tattoos had meaning.
Norse Tattoos to Avoid
Apart from many Norse tattoo designs being highly complicated to draw and the fact that some have deeper meanings and are best not trifled with, there’s also the sad fact that hate groups have co-opted many.
Neo-Nazi groups that practice Odinism and other teachings have appropriated these tattoos and tarnished them with the same level of hatred.
As such, many, if not all, of these tattoos are best avoided for the sake of “clear and intentional communication” and the fact that they are now seen as hate symbols. With that in mind, here are six Norse tattoos to avoid for one reason or another.
1. The Valknut
Also known as “Odin’s Knot,” the Valknut is a famous symbol that features three interlocking triangles. In old Norse mythology, it’s believed that Odin, the All-Father or King of the gods and the original god of war, was very fond of Viking warriors.
He was so fond of them that he had an army of highly skilled women called the Valkyries that he tasked with carrying slain warriors from the battlefield into Valhalla, where they would live their afterlives in peace and joy.
The Valknut symbol, being closely associated with Odin, was often found in the tombs of slain warriors allied with Odin. The Valknut was a powerful symbol that represented the kind of beings that the gods were, and by engraving it in their tombs, these great warriors believed that it conveyed the message that they had died a good death and were worthy of Valhalla.
The very word “Valknut” stands for “knot of the slain warrior.” Having it on one’s tomb indicated that the warrior died in a way that pleased the All-Father.
As beautiful as that sounds, today, this symbol has been appropriated by neo-Nazis, who use it as a symbol of their dedication to white supremacy. In the old days, the Valknut meant that the noble Viking warrior wearing it was ready and willing to die a good death for a worthy cause. Unfortunately, today, that dedication by white supremacists isn’t as noble.
2. The Tyr Rune
Tyr was one of the fairest Norse gods. His runic symbol represented justice and law. Anyone wearing a Tyr rune tattoo design was considered a partial, fair, and good person governed by the rule of law and the sense of justice.
The Norse god Tyr was also a great warrior, albeit an even-tempered one. Even though he was skilled enough to fight well as a great warrior, battle wasn’t always his first course of action.
Unfortunately, this beautiful symbol has been co-opted and appropriated by white supremacist groups and turned into a symbol of hate. A Tyr rune tattoo is one of the most common tattoo designs amongst skinheads and white nationalists.
3. Odin’s Ravens
In old Viking mythology, Odin had two ravens, Muninn and Huginn, representing memory and thought. Although the raven was considered a harbinger of death in many ancient cultures, such as the Aztec culture, it was regarded favorably in Norse culture.
Because Odin’s ravens represented noble concepts such as thought and memory, it’s easy to see why having a raven tattoo to symbolize the same would be a good idea.
Unfortunately, like every Viking tattoo idea on this list, Odin’s ravens have been appropriated by white supremacists. Today, having a ravens tattoo on one’s body would symbolize being a “Soldier of Odin” or a “Raven of Odin.
The Ravens of Odin are a far-right extremist organization. They believe in installing the Aryan race as the master race and believing that everyone else is inferior.
Granted, having a raven tattoo doesn’t automatically make one a racist or an extremist. After all, you might just be fond of these black birds. However, this tattoo is even logged on an authorities’ watch list as a “red flag,” meaning that it would immediately make you a person of interest to authorities if you were spotted with it.
For those who know about the “Ravens of Odin” or the “Soldiers of Odin,” believing that you innocently got a raven tattooed on your body because you love the bird or the design would be a tall order.
4. The Sig Rune
The Sig rune is a simple lightning bolt that, in old Norse, used to mean victory, especially in battle. It was most likely taken from Odin’s spear, which was believed to flash like lightning across the sky when thrown at or over the enemy. Old Viking warriors used to throw their spears over their enemies as a symbol of sacrificing them to the All-Father.
Today, however, the Sig rune has taken on a whole new meaning. Since the German Nazi party appropriated it during World War II, this old Norse rune has become a symbol of hate. Also known as the Schutzstaffel, it is a highly recognizable symbol of Hitler’s party. The double lightning bolt (SS) is almost as widely recognized as the Swastika regarding neo-Nazism.
Like most tattoos, simply having a lightning bolt tattooed on your arm or any other part of your body could mean anything. However, having two lightning bolts tattooed side-by-side will be taken to represent the Schutzstaffel and to signify that you are either a neo-Nazi sympathizer or supporter.
5. The Sonnenrad
Also known as the “Black Sunwheel,” the Sonnenrad is an old Norse symbol with many names. However, it had a similar design despite the different titles. It was simply a circle filled with jagged sun rays that would branch out from what looked like a small sun in the middle.
As far as traditional Viking tattoos go, this was one of the most popular ones. In its original form and concept, the Sonnenrad represented several good things, including:
As you have probably guessed by now, the Nazis used this symbol as well, albeit with some modifications. The Nazi version often had a Swastika in place of the small inner circle. This symbol was considered a representation of the Aryan race.
More moderate practitioners of Asatru, an ancient Norse religion in Scandinavia today, still use this symbol in its original form. However, most people spotting this tattoo in North America are considered neo-Nazis and part of a hate group.
6. The Odal Rune
Representing the letter “O” in the original Nordic runic alphabet, the Odal rune or Othala has a relatively simple and benign meaning. In the old days, it meant inheritance or an inherited heritage or estate.
Today, however, it has been again appropriated by the neo-Nazis since it was incorporated into the Nazi party propaganda machine during World War II. It’s often featured on flags, banners, and logos representing neo-Nazis and is believed to represent the Aryan nation, an extremist hate group that believes other races are inferior to the Aryan race.
There’s no doubt that Viking tattoo styles and Viking tattoos are intriguing and often have deep meaning. However, these six Norse tattoos to avoid illustrate the unfortunate fact that not all of them can be taken at face value.