The Norse people were as spiritual as it comes, so much so that their spiritual beliefs were essentially considered not a religion, but a part of their everyday reality.
They genuinely believed that cosmic forces played an active role in everything that happened in their lives. They also believed in magic and the practice of seidr (Norse magic), which also heavily featured symbols, was quite common.
That is why symbols played an important role in Norse culture and it would be impossible to understand the culture without having a solid grasp of Norse symbolism.
So, without further ado, here is the extensive list of Norse Viking symbols along with their meanings.
Yggdrasil (Tree of Life/The World Tree)
One of the most important Norse symbols is Yggdrasil, the huge ash tree that is said to grow out of Urðarbrunnr, the Well of Destiny. It is also known as the World Tree and the Tree of Life.
It was believed by Norse people that all nine dimensions or realms/worlds were entwined in the World Tree’s roots and branches. As such, the Yggdrasil served as a pathway or conduit between those nine dimensions where the gods travelled.
Many Norse poems and literary works include references to YggdrasilProse Edda and Poetic Edda is closely associated with Yggdrasil.
It is believed to be the place (the hunk of a tree) where Lif and Lifthrasir, a female and a male human, respectively, will hide and survive the events of Ragnarok in Norse mythology.
As a Norse symbol, Yggdrasil also represents the cosmos, as well as the relationship between destiny, time, and harmony. It also represents the cycles of creation and the very essence of nature.
Valknut, The Symbol of Odin (The Knot of The Slain Warriors)
The Vikings, strong and brave people as they were, believed that those who lived ordinary lives ended up in a shadowy, dark existence when they died.
Those who died bravely and gloriously in battle went to spend eternity in Valhalla, the dwelling place of the gods.
According to their beliefs, the Valkyries, the noble and elegant maidens who rode on winged horses, carried the souls of the slain warriors from the battlefield to Valhalla.
These fallen heroes were represented by the Valknut also known as the symbol of Odin.
The name Valknut (pronounced as ‘Val-knoot’) is derived from the words ‘valr’, which means “slain warrior” and ‘knut’, which means knot. Valknut is a symbol consisting of three interlocking triangles.
This symbol is often seen in tombs, which is why it was interpreted to mean that Odin will welcome the slain Viking warrior in Valhalla.
Another reason why it is considered as a symbol of Odin is because it was often used while practicing seidr (Norse magic) and Odin was known as the chief practitioner of seidr by Norse people.
Surely, ‘the Knot of the Slain Warriors’ is one of the most interesting Norse symbols, read all about Valknut here in detail if you’d like to.
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Aegishjalmur, The Helm of Awe and Terror, The Viking Symbol for Protection
The next item on our list is the Ægishjálmr, or the Helm of Awe and Terror, which is one the most famous Viking symbols as it is a popular choice for tattoo designs by people of Norse origin.
Aegishjalmur is a symbol for protection and victory. The word ‘Aegishjalmr ‘ was derived from two different words in the Old Norse language: ‘aegis’ meaning “shield” and ‘hjalmr’ meaning “helm”.
The Aegishjalmur is mentioned in many sagas where it is said to have been used by warriors and even dragons.
Some sources refer to Ægishjálmr as a magical object, while some refer to it as an invisible magical spell that creates invisible protection around the user, while casting fear on the enemy.
Viking warriors inscribed the symbol between their eyebrows to provide protection against their enemies while going to battle. However, it was not only ‘physical protection’ that the symbol granted.
Aegishjalmur is also a symbol of strength for Norse people as they also believed that the symbol helped them cast off their fears providing mental strength. So, one could say Aegishjalmur is, indeed, a Viking symbol of protection in more than one way.
Would you like to read more on the Helm of Awe? Then, simply click here for our detailed article on Aegishjalmur.
Vegvisir, The Viking Compass/Nordic Compass
Vegvisir literally means, “that which shows the way”. And that is exactly why it is referred to as the Viking compass.
But is it? Is it really the “Viking” compass?
The short answer is that we might never know. A lot of people consider it to be a relatively new, Icelandic symbol that is about a few hundred years old.
The earliest references to the symbol in written accounts can be found in the Icelandic grimoire known as The Galdrabók, which is believed to be compiled in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Was the Vegvisir used during the Viking Age? It is not certain. So, it would be more appropriate to call the symbol ‘the Nordic compass’.
Vegvisir is widely associated with Ægishjálmr because of their similar shape and appearance – at first sight, at least.
The arms of the Aegishjalmur’s helm are all of the same design. On the contrary, all the arms of Vegvisir have unique designs.
The Vikings, who were known for their sea voyages, used actual directional instruments, such as sun stones and the Uunartoq disc.
However, their directional cues mostly came from nature, such as the direction of the sun, the position of the stars, flight patterns of birds, and even the color of water, as well as their own directional instincts.
They also relied on mystical protection. If the Vegvisir symbol was indeed used during the Viking Age, this is probably where it would be.
As with all the other Norse symbols, we have a detailed article on the Vegvisir, too. Read all about Vegvisir, the Norse compass by clicking here.
The Triple Horn of Odin (The Triple Triskele)
The Triple Horn of Odin, also known as the Triple Triskele, is a symbol easily distinguished by the three interlocking drinking horns.
The exact meaning and use of this symbol is yet to be known, but it is thought to be an allusion to when Odin drank the Mead of Poetry and Wisdom for three times.
Therefore, the Triple Horn of Odin is considered one of the symbols of Odin. You can read our extensive list of Odin symbols here if you would like to.
Today, the Triple Horn of Odin is used to symbolize wisdom and poetic inspiration.
Triquetra, The Celtic Trinity Knot
Also known as the Celtic Trinity Knot, Triquetra is a continuous line that interweaves around itself to signify that there is no beginning nor end.
Although Celtic in origin, the Triquetra has also become closely linked to Norse symbolism and adopted into Viking culture because of the ancient connection and interaction between the Viking and Celtic groups.
The symbol was associated with the Celtic Mother Goddess and her triune nature: the maiden, the mother, and the crone (the wise, old woman).
If you would like to read our detailed post on Celtic symbols, please kindly click here.
Svefnthorn, “The Sleep Thorn”: Viking Symbol for A Sound Sleep
The next in our list of Norse symbols is quite an interesting one; Svefnthorn. Pronounced as SVEFN-thorn, Svefnthorn literally means, the “Sleep Thorn”.
It is represented in sagas as four harpoons or small spears. It is believed to have been used to put an enemy to sleep from which he would not awake from for a long time.
Mjolnir, Thor’s Hammer: One of the Most Popular Nordic Symbols
Being one of the most popular Nordic symbols, thanks to Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Mjolnir, pronounced as me-OL-neer, literally means ‘crusher’, ‘grinder’ and ‘hammer’.
It is also associated with lightning and thunder, particularly since it is the weapon of Thor, the Norse god of thunder and war.
As a magical weapon, Mjolnir is believed to be able to destroy mountains, which is why it signified strength, fortitude, and bravery.
The story of the origin of Mjölnir can be found in Skáldskaparmál from the Prose Edda/Snorri’s Edda.
According to the tale, Loki made a bet with the dwarves Brokkr and Sindri, saying that they could not craft anything better than the items created by the Sons of Ivaldi, the dwarves who forged Odin’s spear, Gungnir. The two dwarves accepted the challenge, created Mjölnir and gave it to Thor.
Mjolnir can both destroy and recreate. With Mjolnir, Thor can smite as hard as he can and it will not break. Thor can also bring some things back to life with it.
Found in many Viking tombs and burial sites, this ancient symbol was a prominent Viking symbol and people of Norse origin still use it to commemorate and represent their ancestors.
The symbol is also considered one of the most important pagan symbols and is used widely today by neo-pagans.
The Web of Wyrd, A Neo-pagan Norse Symbol
The Vikings believed that even the gods were bound to fate. The web of Wyrd represents the tapestry weaved by the Norns, who shaped fate and destiny.
The Norns are the three women who sit by the mouth of the Well of Urd, at the base of the Yggdrasil.
On an important side note, there is no account from the Viking Age mentioning or no artwork using the web of Wyrd.
So, although we cannot be a hundred percent sure, the web of Wyrd mostly probably is a modern neo-pagan symbol created by combining the runes of Elder Futhark. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to call it a ‘Norse symbol’ rather than a Viking one.
The web of Wyrd represents the connection between the past, present, and future. It is also a reminder that nobody, even gods, can escape their fate, no matter how bright or grim it may be.
If you’d like to read more about the symbol, here is our article on the Web of Wyrd symbol, its meaning, origin and uses.
Sleipnir, Odin’s Eight-legged Horse
Being one of the most famous mythical creatures in Norse mythology, Sleipnir is the eight-legged horse of Odin, the most important deity in the Norse Pantheon. It is claimed to be the fastest horse in the cosmos ever created which had the magical power to run over water and through air.
Gifted to Odin by Loki, who happens to be Sleipnir’s “mother” (yes, you read that right, Loki actually gave birth to Sleipnir), the eight-legged steed accompanied Odin during many of his adventures and became one of the most trusted companions of the Allfather.
Sleipnir is an important Viking symbol and also one of the most important symbols of Odin featured in early Norse literary works such as the Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda and Volsunga Saga(the Saga of the Volsungs) and other historical accounts of the Viking Age like Gesta Danorum.
The symbol was also featured in many artworks created by the Vikings such as the carvings on Tjangvide and Ardre stones.
Gungnir, Odin’s Spear
Gungnir is the name of Odin’s spear with magical properties in Norse mythology. Therefore, it is also a symbol that is closely associated with him. Gungnir represents wisdom and inspiration, as well as war.
According to the legend, Gungnir was crafted by the sons of Ivaldi, the dwarves who were master craftsmen. Gungnir is a magical spear that never misses its target.
Odin’s spear, Gungnir is also associated with courage, strength, precision, faithfulness, and ecstasy.
Swastika As a Norse Symbol
I can almost hear you saying “Wait, swastika? Really?” Yes, really. As one of the many unfortunate results of the existence of Nazis, the swastika symbol was appropriated by Hitler and his people and used as the main symbol of the Nazi movement.
Before that, the swastika was a symbol believed to bring good luck to its bearer. For the Norse people, it was known as a symbol of strength, order, prosperity and good luck.
The origin of the swastika symbol goes back a long time to ancient history. Its earliest examples can be found in accounts related to Hinduism, a faith in which there are actually two versions of the swastika, one facing left and another facing right, each with their own unique meanings.
The symbol was widely used by the Indo-European people and this is probably where the Norse people adopted it from.
Ravens As Viking Symbols
Ravens are possibly the animals most associated with the Vikings. This is because ravens are thought to be Odin’s familiars. Because Odin was a god of war, Vikings associated him with the ravens that feast on the slain warriors. Furthermore, ravens are wise animals.
In the old tales of Nordic mythology, Odin was depicted to be accompanied by two ravens, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory). The twin ravens fly throughout the nine dimensions and whatever they see, they tell Odin.
In Norse art and symbolism, the ravens symbolize Odin and as such, they also signify wisdom and bravery.
If you have watched Vikings TV series on History Channel, you possibly have already recognized the raven banner Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons carried into the battle. This is only one of several instances where ravens were featured in Norse culture.
Black Ravens are also known as one of the Valkyrie Symbols in Norse Mythology. Did you know Valkyries often disguised themselves as Black Ravens or Swans?
Norse and Viking Symbols and Their Meanings