Tattoos of Vikings, or of Norse patterns have become popular both in their native Norway and abroad. In this context many wonder if the vikings themselves actually had tattoos. This is actually something that has been researched a lot, but according to the researchers there is no conclusive evidence that the vikings had tattoos. There are, however, strong indications that they had patterns and motifs on their bodies which could have been tattoos.
The Arab diplomat Ibn Fadlan who was sent from Baghdad to Volga in the early 900s wrote that the viking tribes that he met there were decorated from fingertip to neck with trees and other figures. In Denmark the vikings left tattoo needles dating back to the Bronze Age.
Viking motif tattoos
Those who get viking style tattoos have plenty to choose from. There are many great Norse patterns and signs that are based on real archeological finds or architecture from the Viking Age for those who want a historically correct tattoo. An example of these is Aegishjalmr. This is a protection symbol that was popular during the Viking Age. It is composed of magical runes, and was among other things, used on helmets during the Viking Age. It is believed that viking warriors painted, tattooed or engraved this symbol on their forehead or arms before going to battle. They believed that this would make them invincible and spread fear among their enemies.
Another symbol often seen in tattoos is Valknut, also called Odin’s knot. Valknut is a mysterious Norse symbol consisting of three interlocking triangles. The word Valknut comes from the Norse word “valr”, which means fallen warriors and the word for knot. Archaeologists have found this symbol on several rune stones, on objects found in Viking ships, and elsewhere. The symbol is often associated with death and with Odin.
Other symbols that are popular as a tattoo-motifs are “trollkorset”, a symbol that supposedly protects against malicious trolls and others scary creatures, “Mjölnir” the hammer of Thor, the “Vegvísir” which was thought to help people find their way, and “Yggdrasil” the tree of life. Various tattoos in rune writing are also a popular feature of this tattoo style.
The equipment used for tattooing today is very different from what existed during the Viking Age. This means that you now can make very different tattoos and designs from what was possible at that time. It has therefore also become common to tattoo with Viking motifs that are very different from what the vikings could have ever tattooed.
Here we are not talking about being historically accurate, but rather about expressing a viking spirit and showing a steadfast and strong attitude, just like the vikings had. These tattoos often take the form of modern and highly vivid versions of sketches and images containing vikings or Norse motifs. Some examples are lifelike images of vikings or viking ships.
Another popular example is realistic reproductions of the impressive carvings found on stave churches and viking ships.
Why choose a Norse tattoo?
For many Norwegians and people with Norse origins viking tattoos are about national pride. The Viking Age is considered by many to be Norway’s heyday when Norwegians traveled all over the known world (and sometimes even further) to trade or conquer.
Vikings are also seen as a strong people. Viking tattoos are a way of expressing that you are a strong person who accomplish what you put your mind to without any weak excuses. Are viking tattoos right for you?
Are Viking Tattoos Right for You?
Below you can find inspiration from Viking tattoos created by our artists at Timeless