Viking Symbolism: Old Norse Symbols and their meanings

Published Categorized as Tree Symbolism
viking symbolism

Viking Symbolism

The Vikings lived in Scandinavia during the 8th to 11th centuries. They are known for their skill in sailing and trading, as well as their raids on other countries.

Viking culture is also known for its art, which includes intricate designs on metalwork, jewelry, and woodwork. These designs often incorporate symbols that have powerful symbolic meaning.

So what do these viking symbols mean?

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular Viking norse symbols and their meanings.

What are the Vikings?

The Vikings were a group of people from Scandinavia who lived from the 8th to 11th century. They practiced paganism and expanded their territory across Europe and into Russia, the Mediterranean, and parts of North Africa. The Vikings had a runic alphabet for written communication before Latin was introduced to their culture.

The Vikings held strong connections with nature, some common symbols included animals such as wolves and ravens; weapons such as swords; natural elements like trees or waves; runes used for written communication; and imagery associated with death or afterlife in Norse mythology.

The use of symbols throughout their lives helped them express themselves in different situations or rituals they encountered throughout their lives.

What are the different symbols used by Vikings?

Vikings used a number of ancient symbols based on Norse mythology. Some of the most common symbols include the Helm of Awe which was a magical helmet that gave its wearer the power to see into the future and control their enemies, Viking Compass which represented protection from danger, and the Troll Cross which is connected to modern Swedish folklore and represents protection against trolls that may be lurking in dark forests or caves around you.

Introduction to Norse Mythology Symbols

Norse (Nordic) mythology symbols are symbols and figures rooted in Norse faith and beliefs. These symbols have been adopted in pop culture, art and religion and hold a great deal of meaning as a way to communicate Norse wisdom.

Examples of Norse symbols include Thor’s Hammer, a symbol of protection, strength and consecration; the Swastika or sunwheel, a symbol of luck, holiness and power; the Valknut, associated with death, the transition from life to death.

The Norse gods have been an important source of inspiration for artists over the centuries due to their colorful myths and unique symbolism. Their runes have been widely adopted by modern cultures while their mythical figures have become iconic symbols in pop culture.

For example Mjolnir has been used in comic books, movies and video games; Yggdrasil is a popular tattoo design; Triskele is commonly found on jewelry; Vegvísir is used as a symbol by heavy metal bands; Valknut is seen in television shows like Game of Thrones ; Ravens are frequently featured on tapestries .

What does the symbolism of Vikings mean?

Runic Symbols

Runic symbols are letters or symbols used in the Old Norse runic alphabet. The use of runic symbols is significant to the Vikings because it represents their deep-rooted esoteric traditions and belief in magic.

The runes were believed to have special powers that could be used for good or evil purposes depending on who was using them. Furthermore, by using runic symbols on everyday objects such as swords, jewelry or shields, Vikings could imbue them with protective properties that would bring success in battle or peace at home.

viking symbolism - runes

Helm of Awe – Aegishjalmur

In Norse mythology, the Helm of Awe symbol was worn between the eyes to cause fear in enemies and protect against abuse of power. It contained eight spiked tridents that defended the central point from hostile forces surrounding it, representing protection and prevailing over enemies. This symbol was also associated with serpents who paralyzed their prey before striking.

Animal Motifs – Goat, Ram, Boar,

Vikings associated a variety of animal motifs with their culture. Some of these included:

  1. The goats associated with Thor, which were believed to be his companions and provide him with food and milk.
  2. The rams associated with Heimdall, who used them to guide the souls of dead warriors to Valhalla.
  3. The boar served as a symbol for many different cultures during the Viking Age due to its powerful nature and intimidating appearance. It has been associated with strength, courage, fertility, prosperity, longevity and good luck throughout history.

Norse Gods – Odin, Thor, Frigg, Freya and Loki

Norse gods are the deities of the ancient Germanic peoples, who spoke Old Norse and settled in Scandinavia. They include figures such as Odin, Thor, Frigg, Freya and Loki. The Vikings believed that these gods had great power over nature and human affairs, so they often used symbols to invoke their protection or show their devotion to them.

Odin once decided to hang himself on a branch of Yggdrasil for nine days and nights. During this time, he forbade other gods from granting him food and water until he got what he desired – he wanted to perceive the runes which unlocked mysteries. Thus becoming one of the mightiest beings in cosmos.

Odin’s Knot – Valknut

The Valknut symbol is a representation of the Norse god Odin, who was believed to have the power to guide souls to the afterlife. It is also known as Odin’s knot.

The Valknut represented warriors brought to Valhalla by Odin’s Valkyries, since it was commonly found on pictorial memorial stones and ship burials. The power to bind and unbind is associated with this symbol due to its ability to guide souls and connect warriors with their god Odin in Valhalla.


The symbolism behind swords was that they represented strength and power in battle. Swords were also associated with bravery as it took courage to wield such a heavy weapon in battle. Furthermore, the ability to craft a sword was seen as an indication of skillful craftsmanship which added to its prestige value.

viking symbolism - sword

Web of wyrd

The Web of Wyrd is a powerful symbol in Norse mythology that represents the interconnectedness of past, present and future. It is believed to have been woven by a group of people known as the Norns, or Shapers of Destiny. The symbol consists of nine intersecting lines that contain all the runes, representing all the possibilities of the past, present and future. It is also known as Skuld’s Net, as Skuld was believed to be one of the Norns that wove the web.

The intertwining of the lines in the symbol shows the connection between fate and individual decision-making and how one action can have a ripple effect on the timeline.

viking symbolism - web of wyrd

The Headring

The Viking headband was a symbol of power, strength and bravery. It was often worn by Vikings as a sign of honor and prestige. It represented the wearer’s courage in battle, their ability to withstand pain or injury without surrendering, as well as their ability to withstand harsh weather conditions while out at sea.

The Vikings believed that the hand of fate governed all aspects of life including weather conditions, battles and life itself so they searched for something special to provide them with strength and energy for their souls.

viking symbolism

Thor’s Hammer – Mjölnir, Thor’s magical weapon

The hammer symbolized strength for Vikings. The hammer was associated with the god Thor, who was the storm-weather god of sky and thunder as well as a fertility god. Mjölnir, Thor’s magical weapon, was depicted as one of the most fearsome weapons capable of leveling mountains. Wearing Thor’s hammer amulet of protection was quite common among Vikings during both pagan and Christian times.

viking symbolism - hammer

Norse Swastika

The Norse Swastika is an ancient symbol that has been used by Vikings and Indo-Europeans for blessing and consecration. It is believed to bring good luck, safety and prosperity, and to take a person from a chaotic state to one of strength and order. This symbol has long been associated with Thor’s hammer and the sunwheel, and was often engraved on the handles of the hammers.

Unfortunately, it has been tarnished by the Nazis who appropriated it and now it is widely associated only with them.

The Raven Banner

The Raven Banner was a banner used by Viking armies to represent the god Odin, who was the god of ravens flying and feasting of the body of killed. It featured two ravens called Muninn (“Memory”) and Huginn (“Thought”), which flew all over the nine worlds every day and returned to Odin with news or information.

viking symbolism - raven banner

The Raven Banner was used by Viking armies because it symbolized strength, intelligence, foresight, and luck in battle. The presence of this banner would give warriors courage as they entered into battle knowing that their god was watching over them.

The eight-legged Horse

The Norsemen were not known for their use of cavalry in battle, preferring instead to fight on foot. This could have been due to the fact that horses would have been difficult to transport on their longships.

However, there is evidence that they did use horses for scouting missions and trade purposes. The eight-legged horse symbolized these attributes as well as the ability to travel between worlds and traverse the Bifrost into Asgard. This creature appeared in many other cultures from the same time period throughout Europe, Russia and Mongolia; it represented a means of transportation for souls into an afterlife.

viking symbolism - 8 legged horse

The Horn: This symbolized fertility and prosperity.

The horn symbolizes the toasting rituals of the Vikings, as it is made up of three interlocking drink horns. The horn also represents divine power and fertility, as it belonged to Odin and symbolized wisdom and inspiration.

The Viking Axe

The association of the axe with Odin in Norse mythology suggests that Vikings held the axe in high regard as a symbol of strength, bravery, and audacity. This is evidenced by their use of axes as weapons on the battlefield, their reverence for Perun (a god who fought with an axe), and their swearing oaths to him.

The Viking Shield

The shield was one of the most important symbols of Odin, the chief god of the Norse pantheon. He had two ravens named Huginn and Muninn who helped him see and hear what happened in Midgard (the world of humans), and they were often depicted on his shield.

viking symbolism - shield

Thor, another popular god whose hammer Mjolnir was a powerful weapon used to slay giants, also had his own magical shield that would always return to him after throwing it.

The Dragon Ship

The dragon ship symbolizes great strength, danger, destruction, and riches in Norse mythology. The word “dragon” in Norse mythology refers to a variety of creatures that were more often than not serpents rather than the modern-day dragons we imagine with broad wings and the ability to breathe fire.

viking symbolism - dragon ship


One such creature was Níðhöggr (meaning “curse striker”), who resided at the roots of the World Tree waiting for Ragnarok to begin. Another great “dragon” of Norse mythology was Jörmungandr (the World Serpent), whose body was so large that it could encircle the whole world and bite its own tail. Fáfnir , another famous dragon from Norse mythology, turned into a fearsome beast after he betrayed his kin out of greed for gold .

The Sun and Moon – Sol, Månen.

Vikings considered the sun and moon to be symbols of fate and spirituality, as they believed these celestial bodies held power over their lives. The sun represented life and warmth, while the moon symbolized death and darkness.

For example, a Viking wearing a necklace with a crescent shaped pendant could wear it for protection from evil spirits or bad luck. Alternatively, Viking jewelry featuring the sun symbolized hope for a bright future or good fortune in battle. Both symbols were worn as reminders that fate was on their side when facing danger or uncertainty.

The Giant Wolf – Fenrir

The most famous depiction of the Viking Wolf was Fenrir – the son of Loki and Angrboða who eventually became responsible for swallowing Odin during Ragnarok. Other depictions included wolves that were helpful to Vikings in their hunting or journeys accompanied by gods like Odin or Geri and Freki who were associated with strength and bravery in battle.

Viking Spear – Gungnir

Gungnir was a powerful spear which had magical abilities in Norse mythology. It was said that the spear could never miss its target when thrown, regardless of the skill or strength of the warrior using it.

The runes engraved along the tip of Gungnir’s spearhead gave it these magical abilities. Gungnir was well balanced and forged so that it would return to Odin every time it was launched by him like Mjolnir did for Thor.

The myth also mentions that Odin used Gungnir in his war against the Vanir gods, throwing it at some of them with the cry “Odin owns you all”. In Ragnarök (the end of the world), Gungnir will be used again to fight against Fenrir (the giant wolf).

viking symbolism - runes

The Viking Compass – Vegvisir

The Vegvisir, also known as the Viking compass, is a Norse symbol that acts as a guide. It is composed of eight magical rune staves that represent the directions.

The Vegvisir was important to Vikings because it assured them that they would arrive safely at their destination, even when the way was not known. It was also used as a protection spell from getting lost, and could be found today on jewelry.

Sleep Thorn – Svefnthorn

The Svefnthorn symbol was popular among Vikings because it had magical properties that allowed them to put their opponents into a deep sleep. For example, Odin used it to put Brunhild (Valkyrie) asleep in The Saga of the Volsunga.

In addition, Queen Olof used it to make King Helgi lose consciousness in The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki , while Vilhjalmr placed it on Hrolf’s forehead during the night in Gongu-Hrolf saga.

Yggdrasil – Symbol of the Life Cycle

Yggdrasil is a mythical tree that grows in the middle of the cosmos and connects all nine realms of the Norse universe together. It symbolizes creation out of water, as it is called the Tree of Life.

Yggdrasil is one of the chief Norse symbols because it represents mutual connection between all things in the universe. It plays an essential role in preserving the universe after Ragnarok, as well as providing fruit that keeps Gods young and provides shelter during Ragnarok.

Additionally, it serves as a symbol for many ancient civilizations to represent connection between all things within their universes. Vikings also used Yggdrasil’s symbol to represent life cycles, cosmos, connections between destiny and time, and harmony among all things in existence.

How can we use the symbols used by Vikings for our own purposes?

In the Viking era, these symbols were believed to have magical powers that could help overcome any obstacle on one’s life path. Today, it is possible to capture some of that magic by wearing a special amulet with Norse symbols or using other items with Viking symbolism.

Use the symbols to create a powerful brand identity

The use of Viking symbols can bring magic and mystery to your business by providing a connection to the past.

  1. Research the symbols used by Vikings to understand their meaning and significance.
  2. Identify which symbols would be most appropriate for your brand identity
  3. Use the selected symbols in your branding strategy, such as on logos, website designs, advertisements


Were the Vikings celtic?

Both the Celts and the Vikings lived on the British Isles and had many similarities, they were still distinct cultures that should not be confused as one and the same.

What are Odin’s symbols?

The symbols of Odin include Valknut, the triple horn, ravens, wolves, his eight-legged horse Sleipnir and his magical spear Gungnir.

What is the difference between motifs and symbols?

Motifs and symbols both have visual significance. Motifs were not as formal as Norse symbols, and they could differ depending on the artist who drew them. Symbols were considered to be “visual spells” as they were more complex than motifs.

The main difference between motifs and symbols is that motifs do not have any spiritual significance whereas symbols are associated with Norse spirituality, mythology, and mysticism. Additionally, motifs are not as common in Viking jewelry compared to symbols such as runes or Mjölnir which can be found in many pieces of ancient Viking jewelry or artifacts today.


By leslieszabo

I like silence. I like balance.