Viking tattoos rank among the most symbolic tattoos out there, with most designs having deep-rooted symbolism in Nordic tradition, culture and religious beliefs. For those of Scandinavian descent, they are a great way to honour your ancestors and pay homage to where you came from. But they are also powerful, exotic and bold statements for anyone to adorn themselves with. Vikings, an often misrepresented and misunderstood culture, were mostly seafaring farmers and traders (when they weren’t raiding). Their reign largely lasted between the 8th and 11th centuries, during which they both raided and traded from their Northern European homeland of Scandinavia, exploring the world from Iceland to Greenland, and North Africa all the way to the Middle East. This period was known as the “Viking Age”.
Norse Mythology and Tattoos
When it comes to Nordic tattoos, mythology and religion are at the centre of most artwork. Norse mythology spans the body of myths stemming from both North Germanic and Scandinavian folklore and religion. This mythology includes expansive tales of heroes, deities, gods, and conquests.
The most widely known Nordic gods and deities include but are not limited to:
Other common elements of Norse mythology include:
- Ravens (Huginn and Muninn – meaning thought and mind)
- Skoll and Hati - wolves
- Drinking horn
- Valknut (slain warrior’s knot)
- Helm of Awe
- And more….
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Types of Viking Tattoos
Norse tattoos are available in a wide range of styles, from bold black ink, to intricate and beautifully coloured canvases. Below we’ll explore some of the most common Norse tattoos to give you some inspiration for your own unique design.
Viking WarriorContrary to popular belief, Viking warriors didn’t adorn horned helmets and massive swords into battle. Even so, media has glamorized this imagery of them making this misrepresentation a common staple in movies, art and even tattoos. One of the interesting aspects of Viking culture is that they too wore tattoos as a sign of power, strength, ode to the Gods and as a visual representation of their devotion to family, battle and the Viking way of life. Viking warriors are Often Depicted:
- Wearing large horned helmets
- With long red or blond hair
- Long or braided beards
- Wielding swords, axes and shield
Valknut (Interlocking Triangles)
The word valknut comes from Old Norse “yalr” and “knut” together meaning “slain warriors knot” when translated to English. The symbol is easily identifiable by the three interlocking triangles that come together.
Helm of AweThe Helm of Awe also sometimes referred to as the “Helm of Terror” in Icelandic, is thought to be a symbol with magical powers. This symbol is thought to protect and defend the wearer as well as strike fear in the hearts of those who oppose them.
Viking Tattoo ColorsViking tattoos often fall into one of two categories on the colour spectrum: black and white, or full colour. Colours Often Utilized Include:
- Dark Green
- Dark Blue
- Tattooed from the tips
- Tattooed from fingers to neck
Raven TattoosRavens are dark, majestic and highly intelligent birds. Due to their unique size and shape, they can be placed in a number of ways, with the shoulders and chest combination making for a unique landscape for both the head and wingspan. In Norse mythology, Odin is sometimes referred to as the “raven-god”. In Viking religion, Odin himself has two ravens, Huginn (Old Norse for “thought”) and Muninn (Old Norse for “memory”) both of which are often depicted perched upon his shoulders.
Longboat TattooThere are few images more representative of Viking culture than the Viking longboat. Viking longboats, often adorned with the head of a dragon, were meant to instil fear upon those shore side when raiding. These efficient and well-crafted seafaring vessels were a feat of engineering in their day, allowing the Vikings to sail farther than any other culture at the time.
One-Eyed Wanderer (Odin)While other gods and deities are sometimes the subject of tattoos, Odin is such a prominent figurehead in Norse mythology that he is deserving of his own description. Odin is often depicted in a way that many may refer to as wizardly. In fact, he is oft thought to be the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s character Gandalf. Known as the “one-eyed wanderer”, Oden gave up one of his eyes as part of a sacrifice in order to gain knowledge of this and other worlds. Odin is the most powerful god in Asgard (home of the gods). Odin Is Often Associated with:
Yggdrasil is a massive and spectacular mythical tree central to Norse mythology. The tree tattoo, sometimes called the “tree of life”, is said to connect the Nine Worlds of Norse Paganism. Considered to be at the centre of the universe, the gods of Norse Mythology assemble at the tree daily. Its branches extend into the heavens and the roots go deep. Other creatures live within the tree such as a dragon (Heyergelmir), a nameless eagle, and the stags Durabror, Duneyrr, Dyalinn and Dainn.
NornsIn Norse Mythology, a Norn is a female being who rules the destiny of both gods and men alike. This power ranks them among the most powerful of Nordic lore, with even the gods themselves being held accountable to the fate for which they foretell. The Norn are all female each of which has a name suggestive of their ability to create and dictate the fate of time. Urd, meaning “the past”, Verdandi, meaning “what is presenting coming into being”, and Skuld, meaning “what shall be”. They are said to live by the “Well of Fate” beneath Yggdrasil.
Ready to Explore Your Own Viking Tattoo?
At Chronic Ink Tattoo, our talented artists are ready to help you explore Viking and other tattoos to make sure you find something you’ll want to show off for decades to come. If you’re in the Toronto, Markham, Mississauga, Kitsilano Vancouver area drop by our shop and check us out for yourself.Tell us Your Idea