Viking tattoos and Norse mythology imagery have had a resurgence in the mainstream after 2013’s Vikings, and 4 stunning movies in the Thor franchise.
Vikings are one of the most instantly recognizable ancient civilizations.
That is, the version of them we’ve come to know over the years.
Because of the long-lasting appeal of Viking legends, they are popular fodder for movies, comic books, and tattoo art.
People usually get Viking tattoos because of their Scandinavian background or love of Norse art.
Despite their popularity, the real history of Vikings is actually a bit of a question mark.
A lot of details about the Vikings, who didn’t keep written records, have been lost through the sands of time.
But that shouldn’t keep you from getting a beautiful, bold piece of Viking tattoo art.
There are many tattoo artists with an appreciation for Viking culture and folklore.
You’ll be able to get the essence of the culture, but you may have to unlearn some things first.
Did Vikings Have Tattoos?
Nobody knows for sure whether the Vikings had tattoos or not.
It’s easy to assume they did.
They were concerned with appearance, esoteric symbolism, and body modification.
Some remains have shown, for example, that Vikings filed their teeth with horizontal lines.
There is no written record of the reason for Viking tooth modification, but historians assume it was to look discouraging.
The general consensus is that if Vikings had knowledge of tattoos, they would have done them.
Seeing as they were such great travelers, they likely came across the art form on one island or another.
Viking Tattoo Themes
For today’s Viking enthusiast, there are many tattoo designs to choose from.
Here are a few design elements you can present to a tattoo artist and celebrate your Nordic pride.
Viking Ship Tattoos
Being such excellent explorers, Vikings were known for their ships.
Viking ships are long, somewhat ornate, and have points on each end.
They have a distinct look, making them popular subjects for tattoos.
The points on each end were not just for show- they were valuable when cutting through ice.
The long, pointed boats could also move quickly either backward or forward.
This made it easier to navigate the icy waters.
A Viking ship tattoo may represent your desire to forge ahead through wild seas.
Sometimes high ranking officials were buried in their boats.
This would ensure smooth sailing into the afterlife.
In this context, a Viking ship may make a nice memorial tattoo.
Speaking of Viking ceremonies, the arrows and floating vigil pyre is likely a myth.
The mechanics of it just wouldn’t work properly.
At times the Vikings would burn their lost ones on land.
Smoke is often used to cleanse bad energy in some circles.
The runes are an ancient divination tool. They are still sold in various shops today.
A rune is a symbol carved or painted onto a stone, piece of wood, or rock.
A rune reader will generally cast runes out onto a surface, then read the runes that are facing up.
Each symbol has its own significance and will be read both on its own and in combination with the other runes.
It is said that Odin, who was on a never-ending quest for knowledge, discovered the runes.
After swaying from Yggdrasil, the tree at the center of the universe, Odin was gifted the knowledge of the runes.
Runes are divine symbols but also work as a writing system.
There are 2 Runic alphabets: The Elder Futhark with 24 symbols, and the Younger Futhark with 16.
The Younger Futhark is divided into the “long branch” or Danish style, and the “short twig” or Swedish and Norwegian style.
Rune tattoos can be a cool shout-out to other enthusiasts.
Be sure your artist has a grasp on each letter and its meaning!
Some runes can look very similar.
Viking Deities Tattoos
Norse folklore is rich with interesting legends, and deities.
If there is a specific trait you’re looking to cultivate in your life, there’s likely a corresponding Norse deity for it.
Take Odin, for example.
He symbolizes wisdom, both of the mundane and esoteric variety.
You may prefer his counterpart Frigg, the goddess of motherhood, foresight, and wisdom.
Another popular Viking tattoo is Freya, the goddess of fecundity and gold.
You can see how an artist would have fun imagining her.
Even without a background in Norse culture, you may have heard of Odin.
He’s the god of gods, the “all-father” of Norse legend.
As he is many people’s entry point into Viking deities, Odin tattoos are quite popular.
Generally speaking, Odin tattoos are a sign of wisdom and knowledge.
When considering Odin’s significance as a deity, it’s important to look to his eye.
Odin gave up his eye to have access to Mimir’s well which would allow him to acquire even more wisdom than he already had.
There are so many creative ways to depict this powerful deity.
There are so many epic stories about Odin, but they all boil down to these essential traits: Wisdom, altruism, and esoteric knowledge.
Odin is also a shapeshifter with several animal familiars.
This is a popular tattoo design among people who follow a pagan way of life.
Odin tattoos are especially popular for men, but he’s someone any gender can engage with if they feel a special attachment to him.
Most people opt for rich black and grey portrait tattoos to pay homage to Odin, but there are no rules as far as how he’s portrayed.
You should definitely prioritize tattoo artists with a background in Norse mythology, as they will bring a deeper understanding to their imagery.
Some Odin tattoos let the king take the spotlight, but you may want to incorporate some very Odin-specific imagery.
Odin owes some of his wisdom to his two raven companions, Huginn and Muninn, who bring him messages from around the world.
Odin’s raven tattoos may symbolize a deep connection to nature.
Odin’s wolves tattoo may be a protective symbol or a symbol that you’re more perceptive than the average person and can’t be swayed.
Spear of Odin tattoos are often used to represent protection in both the spiritual and physical world.
Horns of Odin tattoos may represent a devotion to the god Odin.
It may also be a wink toward the myth wherein Odin takes the mead of poetry, a mythical potion that gives him knowledge.
The Viking Compass, also known as Vegvisir, has 9 points to represent 9 worlds.
Like most compass tattoos, a Vegvisir tattoo represents guidance and protection on a journey.
Because Odin tattoos represent ultimate knowledge and wisdom, an Odin with a Viking compass tattoo may represent a more intellectual journey.
There are so many tattoo aesthetics, both innovative and traditional, that may suit your Odin tattoo.
To narrow down your options, you may ask yourself why you’re getting the Odin tattoo.
Different tattoo styles can show all of those moods, from soft and elegant, to stoic, to fun and expressive.
Odin tattoos are often ripped right from the mythology itself, so having more skin real estate is a great idea.
It’s hard to depict an entire scene or story in a small tattoo, so an Odin piece can be a big commitment, size-wise.
You can use the flow of your Odin tattoo sleeve to tell one of his many tales or to surround him with a few of the above companions and talismans.
That being said, we have nothing against small Odin tattoos!
Maybe you just want a little pint-sized Viking wisdom to carry with you, and who wouldn’t?
For long-lasting results, you may have to pick something simpler, but a tattoo artist who is well versed in small tattoos will be happy to work with you on the perfect design.
- Black & Grey Odin Tattoos
Black and grey Odin tattoos are the most common tattoo choice and for good reason.
This gorgeous tattoo design has all the elements of a photo-realistic tattoo, but your artist can take some liberties and add stylistic elements.
Odin is complicated, but his tattoo art doesn’t have to be.
Simple Odin tattoos are impressive without all the bells and whistles.
Choose something tasteful and uncomplicated, and go for it!
Odin is best known, even outside of Norse mythology enthusiasts, for his eye.
“Odin’s eyepatch!” Is a fun expression that is used by some in place of “oh my god!”
Odin gave up his eye in his eternal quest for knowledge and never looked back.
What would you give up for ultimate intellectual power?
Now, this all depends on which Thor we’re talking about.
There are two worlds of Thor tattoos: the ones inspired by folklore and the dedications to a particular popular Marvel character.
Each could be epic tattoo designs in their own way and represent roughly the same ideals.
But it’s important to note that the story of Marvel is loosely based on the Viking legends.
Either way, a Thor tattoo design is likely to represent physical strength and protection.
Thor Mask Tattoos
Thor is mostly known for his hammer and winged helmet, but Thor mask tattoos are another great-looking symbol of this thunderous deity.
This mask is a protective symbol and would be worn into action to impress a Norse god’s opponents.
If you feel like you need a little extra support in life, a Viking mask may just do the trick.
Loki is part of the trickster pantheon, a common theme in many belief systems.
Loki is a particularly mischievous character who uses his shapeshifting abilities as an agent of chaos.
He’s motivated by pleasure, money, and other earthly appetites.
A Loki tattoo would be an excellent ally to someone who wants to wake people up from their boredom and complacency.
It also may be a suitable symbol for someone who has trouble letting loose and could afford to get into some mischief.
Just maybe not as much mischief as Loki, who gets pretty carried away sometimes.
In Norse folklore, Tyr is the original god of set-tos.
Though that title was eventually taken by Odin, Tyr remains the very image of honor, integrity, and courageousness.
The most famous story about Tyr is how he lost his hand.
To gain Fenrir, the great wolf’s trust, Tyr had to place his hand in Fenrir’s mouth.
In doing so, Tyr knew he would lose his hand once Fenrir discovered that he’d been deceived.
Tyr did what had to be done, earning him a place of honor among Vikings.
Tyr tattoos represent his bravery and valor.
Freyja is similarly famous to Odin in Norse folklore.
She’s a popular character for artwork, and her name is one of the only Norse surnames to make it into Western society.
In terms of archetypal energy, Freyja is aligned with goddesses like Aphrodite.
She’s a complicated goddess in that she symbolizes both fertility and loss of life, love, and dispute.
The seemingly opposite concepts become more related when you think of the birth/end cycle.
Freyja is in touch with all things natural and is also said to be of unparalleled beauty.
Freyja tattoo designs can remind you to find beauty in all things.
If you like the idea of a Freyja tattoo but want something more masculine, consider a Freyr tattoo design.
Freyr is Freyja’s brother.
He also symbolizes fertility, but he has less of a dual nature than his sister.
A Freyr tattoo represents peace, benevolence, and celebration.
He is renowned as a well-liked character due to his generosity and the ability to throw one heck of a party.
Baldur is the son of Odin and Frigg, making him Thor’s little brother.
He was known as a joyful and pure personality, a god filled with light.
When Baldur began to dream of his end, Frigg made every object on earth vow not to lay a finger on him.
But that was a tempting offer for Loki, who used several ways to trick Balder’s twin brother into ending him.
For this, Loki is currently tied to a rock underneath a snake.
He is only to be released during Ragnarok.
A Baldur tattoo represents purity and a generous spirit.
His final exit is also what triggered a series of events that will lead to the Ragnarok, so this tattoo may represent fated events.
Although the great wolf Fenrir is restrained, he is destined to end Odin at Ragnarok.
The god Viđarr is then destined to end Fenrir as an act of vengeance.
A Viđarr tattoo represents revenge and the ultimate triumph over evil.
While Odin and Thor are instantly recognizable players in these stories, Ullr is well known among enthusiasts and those who know the myths more intimately.
Over the years, he has become a Guardian to lovers of Winter sports.
When Ullr is depicted in tattoos, he is often portrayed as the ultimate athlete, traversing some snow on his trusty skis with a bow and arrow in tow.
Ullr tattoos can be drawn in any style you feel is appropriate for you.
Many artists enjoy putting a new spin on this epic figure, so chat with yours about what you can do to make your Ullr tattoo stand out.
Viking Symbols Tattoos
When doing your Viking research, you’re going to come across some cool-looking symbols.
Don’t confuse these for pure decorations, though.
There are many symbols from the Viking age that have deep meaning.
Read below to learn more and find the right Viking tattoo design for you.
The Helm Of Awe Tattoos
The Helm Of Awe is a circular alchemical symbol that resembles the sun.
The ‘rays’ are made up of 8 tridents.
Sometimes, the Helm of Awe is drawn in a ring of runic symbols and snakes.
A Helm Of Awe tattoo represents a protective symbol.
Made popular in modern-day by Marvel comics, Thor’s hammer is one of the most popular symbols in Norse folklore.
Mjölnir translates to “lightning” and has the power to create it in the skies.
A Mjölnir tattoo represents power, blessings, and protection from evil.
You can think of Vegvisir as a magical compass.
It’s an incredibly intricate design consisting of 8 staves that branch out from the same center point and end with a unique protective rune.
Viking tattoos are as vibrant in design as they are in their history and the Viking compass tattoo may just be one of the most popular of the various designs.
It is also known as the Wayfinder, and it was said to help people, well, find their way.
The Vikings went through some pretty rough weather and would carry a Vegvisir symbol for protection and guidance.
They can be seen as an ode to one’s heritage of a tradition once lost, a culture that withstood the test of time, or they can be a source of interpersonal inspiration and a reminder of one’s inner power.
At its deepest level, varying meanings behind the Viking Compass can be traced down to individual tribes of the region.
Today, however, it’s seen as a symbol of protection and guidance, with each beautiful design as unique as the skin that it is tattoed on.
Although the placement of the Viking compass tattoo is by no means limited to location or placement, the said placement thereof could give a great indication as to what the interpretation is behind it.
We can break down most Viking runes into three main categories namely, action, protection, and utility.
Runes would be those indicating a form of inner drive, self-motivation, or meeting an ambitious goal; these types of runes could be found on, but not limited to places like the limbs or legs while placing it on your hand, could be symbolic of steering your life in the right direction, using the tattoo as a guide for your path.
In terms of the Viking Compass tattoo placement on the body, its intention could be interpreted depending on where it’s been placed.
If you have to go through something difficult, either physically or mentally, getting a Vegvisir tattoo will be a token of hope and divine protection.
Viking compass tattoos are very versatile, showcasing some of the most particular and unique Norse tattoo designs.
They may often be paired with animals such as wolves, ravens, or horses, paying homage to Viking Gods and Goddesses, or other elements associated with their culture.
While black and grey may seem to be a common choice for this tattoo design, many have incorporated bold colorful tattoo motifs, depending on the intention of the tattoo.
Considering its size and versatility, the Viking compass tattoo is an excellent choice for someone willing to have a bold and daring tattoo.
Scholars don’t know precisely what a Valknut symbol represents, but they’ve made some very educated guesses.
This triple triangle knot is often seen at burial sights and is commonly accompanied by Odin.
Odin is, among other things, a guide who ushers souls back and forth from the afterlife to the land of the living.
It stands to reason, then, that this knot represents the cycle of eternal life.
A Valknut tattoo is often used as a memorial for a loved one or talisman for someone who believes in the afterlife.
There are nine realms within Norse folklore and they all exist on a world tree or tree of life known as Yggdrasil.
This is very similar to the Kabbalistic tree of life, which has ten nodes.
Three wells nourish the tree of life, each with its own properties and stories.
This gives him the right perspective to see runic symbols in one of the wells and learn their magic, which he later uses to his advantage.
A Yggdrasil tattoo may represent an eternal quest for knowledge or a feeling of interconnectedness in your own universe.
Gungnir is a magical spear that belonged to Odin.
He pierced himself with it while swaying from the tree of life and later had runic symbols carved into it.
This spear was carved by dwarves, the finest craftsmen in Norse folklore.
A Gungnir tattoo symbolizes protection, magic, and altruism.
The Triquetra is a symbol that exists in Nordic and Celtic culture.
It represents the maiden, mother, crone, the three sacred stages a woman goes through in her lifetime.
This is also related to the 3 phases of the visible moon: waning, waxing, and full.
The triquetra was later appropriated by Celtics who used it to represent the Holy Trinity: Father, son & holy spirit.
So a triquetra tattoo may mean different things to different people.
It can also represent the natural “threes” in life: past, present, future, beginning, middle, end, or earth, water, sky.
Viking Axe Tattoos
For the Viking lifestyle, an axe is essential.
It was more commonly used in farming.
Because the axe is a must for a Viking lifestyle, it can symbolize Viking values.
Viking axe tattoos tend to represent bravery, honor, and industriousness.
Troll Cross Tattoos
A troll cross would be worn or placed above a door for protection against naughty trolls or manipulative/evil spells.
Wearing a troll cross tattoo offers that same kind of magic protection.
Viking Helmet Tattoos
As we’ve discussed, Vikings did not wear horned helmets.
But a shaman (male or female) may have worn them in ritual.
This would have been both to honor the animistic beliefs in Norse folklore and to represent abundance.
Horned gods in paganism often represent abundance, and life itself.
In fact, Satan’s image as a horned creature was created with the direct intent to demonize the pagans.
That said, a Viking helmet tattoo represents fertility, abundance, and gratitude for the joy of life.
It can also just express love for Viking culture because the images have become so intertwined.
As health-conscious people, sleep was essential to the Vikings.
The Svefnthorn translates to “sleep horn,” and this symbol could help a hard-working Viking get a good night’s rest.
It sounds wholesome enough, but in Norse folklore, it is also used as a magical instrument.
To put this symbol in the home of an opponent puts them into a deep slumber, though it isn’t specified for how long.
A Svefnthorn tattoo would symbolize rest after a long journey, protection, or paying back
Sun Cross Tattoos
In both Norse and Celtic paganism, the sun features prominently as a magical figure.
The sun represents masculine “father” energy, vitality, and power.
In Nordic traditions, this was a symbol for Odin, who encompasses those attributes.
A Viking sun cross tattoo represents Odin, an excellent choice for someone who wants a more minimalist Odin tattoo.
Here’s a fun language fact for you, “Berserker” is a term from the Viking Age used in modern English.
Berserk is defined as wild and frenzied actions.
When someone has “gone berserk,” they are entirely out of control, which is a clue to this symbol’s meaning.
Within Nordic traditions, there are three hunting cults: the bear, the wolf, and the boar.
A Berserker would be a member of the bear cult and call on bears to assist them in action or hunts.
They would train and hunt in a trance-like state, full of primal fury.
A Berserker tattoo may represent your admiration for these people or a desire to get in touch with your primal instincts.
The Ulfhednar were members of the wolf cult.
They would perform rituals to get in touch with the wolf’s essence and were so wild they may have inspired werewolf folklore.
It is said that these people would have dyed their skin black to better identify with the wolf image.
That may be a different approach, but an Ulfhednar tattoo may do the trick for you.
Viking Boar Tattoo
The Svinfylking, or Viking boar, would ritualize to get in touch with the spirit of a wild boar.
While the bears and wolves served Odin, the Svinfylking are related to Freyr and Freyja.
They had their own unique martial formation that resembled a boar’s head.
If you’re looking for a unique way to pay homage to the Vikings, a Viking boar tattoo would be an original choice.
Shield Maiden Tattoos
Shield Maidens are famous figures in Scandinavian folklore, though no one is sure if they existed in real life.
They were women who chose to resist next to their male counterparts and are prominently featured in the TV series Vikings.
If you’re a woman who doesn’t mind getting a little dirty or someone who admires those women, a Shield Maiden tattoo would be a cool homage.
Sigurd & Fafnir Tattoos
Sigurd and Fafnir’s story is quite the saga, a series of unfortunate events put in motion by our friend Loki.
Can that guy ever leave well enough alone?
In short, Fafnir is a shape-shifting dwarf who becomes obsessed with a cursed ring.
If the story sounds familiar, it’s because J.R.R Tolkein was a huge Norse culture buff and openly drew inspiration with the tale.
After murdering his father to acquire the ring, Fafnir turns himself into a dragon to properly guard it.
He is later slain by Sigurd, his nephew.
This story has a lot of twists and turns, but the central theme is greed.
If you want to remind yourself not to become obsessed with material goods, or you’re just a big fan of the story, a Sigurd & Fafnir tattoo will suit you well.
As with any ancient belief system, there are some really fun mythological beasts in the Norse universe.
Here’s a little info for each one.
Maybe a Norse mythical figure tattoo is in your future?
Jörmungandr is an ouroboros known as the “world serpent.”
He is one of three cursed offspring from the giantess Angrboða and Loki.
This includes Fenrir, the great wolf, and Hel, the goddess of the underworld.
Jörmungandr was once cast into the sea by Odin, where it grew until it encircled the entire earth.
Right now, the serpent slumbers with its tail in its mouth.
When the serpent’s tail is released, the Ragnarok begins.
A Jörmungandr tattoo could represent fate or just a love of sea monsters.
The term Valkyries translates to “Choosers of the Slain,” which is pretty metal.
They are handmaidens of Odin, who choose a few lucky fallen soldiers to join them in Valhalla.
There, they will resist alongside Odin in Ragnarok, a great honor for a Viking.
Though these maidens can be a lovely sight for sore eyes, they have a flip side.
They can choose who passes away on the frontline and will yield that power if there’s a soldier they don’t like.
The Kraken isn’t just a delicious spiced rum.
It’s also a legendary sea creature known to impress sailors.
This giant octopus-like creature is an agent of confusion.
If you think an octopus tattoo is cliché, why not go wild with a Kraken tattoo?
This sea creature represents bangarang, perfect for someone who loves a spooky story.
Viking Dragon Tattoos
Dragons were a popular part of Viking decor, appearing in many surviving artifacts.
There are different dragon myths within the cannon, but a Viking dragon tattoo design usually represents strength and bravery.
But it all depends on the dragon.
The word Nidhogg was used in Viking culture to describe someone malicious or dishonorable.
The Nidhogg is a dragon/serpent who came up from the pit and spends most of his time gnawing at the base of the Yggdrasil, which could throw the world into chaos at any moment.
Nidhogg tattoos represent the idea of falling from grace.
This creature has also been known to cause the universes in Yggdrasil to tremble.
Are you someone who likes to shake things up? A Nidhogg tattoo may be for you.
Frost Giant Tattoos
The Frost Giants in Norse folklore are also known as Jotnar.
They are often depicted as literal giants, which may be an oversimplification based on the English translation.
The Jotnar were forged alongside the Aesir (gods like Odin, Freyja, etc.) in a void of ice at the beginning of time.
They are opponents, often traveling to one another’s worlds to pounce on.
That said, there are also several romances between the Aesir and the Jotnar. In short, it’s complicated.
Are you a nonconformist? Do you love to challenge the powers that be?
As a member of the Jotnar, Loki himself would approve of your Frost Giant tattoo.
Originating in Greenland, the Tupilaq is kind of like a voodoo doll or poppet.
Using magic and a few bones they’d collected, anyone could create a Tupilaq, even if they weren’t shaman.
Once a person has made their Tupilaq figurine, they would add something from that person.
The object would then be placed in a large body of water to find and end that person.
A Tupilaq tattoo may represent the desire for vengeance or admiration for ancient magical practices.
Most ancient belief systems are animistic, meaning they see a symbolic presence in objects and animals.
The zoomorphic themes in Norse artwork echo this belief system when tools and decor were carved with traits and features from different animals.
Having a Norse animal tattoo can be your way of befriending that animal’s spirit, taking their qualities on as your own.
Not sure which animal’s energy you vibe with?
Here’s a handy guide to zoomorphic symbolism in Viking tattoos.
Viking Bear Tattoos
A Viking bear tattoo piece is similar to a berserker tattoo piece in that you want to connect with the bear’s spirit.
Odin would often disguise himself as a bear when mingling with mortals, so a Viking bear tattoo represents his traits of wisdom, strength, and mysticism.
In Norse mythology, Fenrir is a great giant wolf who cannot be held by any rope.
Fenrir is a great wolf who will one day finish Odin, and his sons will devour the sun.
It’s not hard to see why the dwarves built a magical rope to restrain him.
If you’ve been through difficulties, you may connect with the symbolism of the Norse wolf.
A Fenrir tattoo vs. Odin may reflect how you feel about your own temporality.
A Viking wolf tattoo
Vikings were raiders and warriors who marked the majority of the middle age. They raided from the North into England and France and, besides their warrior glory and strength, they also yielded rich culture, symbolism, and mythology. That’s why there are a lot of Viking symbols nowadays that are gladly tattooed, especially because Vikings were also inking their bodies throughout history.
Sleeve tattoos are some of the trendiest tattoo creations for a long time, and with such a rich symbolism in the history of Vikings, it doesn’t surprise us that many people opt to ink Viking symbols on their bodies, especially if those symbols are associated with Norse Gods and myths that described them.
However, the inspiration for the best Viking sleeve tattoo idea is not so easy to find, especially if you’re competing to make the most unique design you can find with your tattoo artist. Don’t worry, we wrote this article to help everyone who is hooked to get the Viking sleeve tattoo. We’ll look into the Viking symbolism and list the best tattoo designs for the Viking sleeve tattoo, below.
Vikings And Tattoos
In the last decade, there have been a couple of TV shows and movies that glorified and told the tales of Vikings. Not surprisingly, all those Vikings and the Norsemen particularly practiced getting tattooed, especially as the story progressed. That hinted that the Norsemen associated inking their body to the part of their culture as they aged and made various life accomplishments that they wanted to mark on their body.
However, there’s hardly any evidence that promises that Vikings were tattooing themselves for real, and if they did, what was the ink made of? Understandably, the remains of the Vikings that were exhumed throughout history can’t hint of tattoos, as the skin will decompose over some time, giving absolutely no hint about the ink Vikings used.
However, two historical events could hint that the Vikings wore tattoos and paint over themselves, which likely inspired the pop culture to use tattoo on Viking warriors in their TV series and movies.
Throughout the history, it was believed that the Vikings wore their runes over their arms and legs, as well as faces. They’d tattoo themselves, as they’d engage in the explorative raids from the Scandinavia, to England, Iceland, and even further.
One of the key pieces of evidence that offer insight into the tattooing culture of the Vikings is the Arab traveler and scholar, Ahmad Ibn Fadlan. He was sent by the Caliphate to conduct a diplomatic venture in the Middle Volga area that now belongs to Russia.
As a traveling, he came across the Norse warriors that he believed were Vikings in the 10th Century. They sailed downwards the river Volga to make trades with the Arabs. Fadlan was the first and last person who wrote that the tattoos on Vikings were real. The tattoos that flattered the Vikings were much more detailed and widespread across the Vikings than the pop culture displays it today. He wrote they were tattooed from head to toe.
He also claimed that the tattoos that covered even the fingertips and their necks were colored green and blue, which gives a hint that the tattoo ink used was made out of the tree ash.
Unfortunately, Fadlan was the last person who reported on the sighting of Vikings as tattooed individuals. Also, we can’t confirm for sure that the Vikings were in great numbers. Perhaps, he has only seen a few individuals that were tattooed, and not all of them were. Additionally, that group of Vikings was believed to be called the Rus Vikings, how he also called them.
He also wrote that they behaved like savages. He noted that they were dirty, even though they washed their hands, face, and head. However, they did it in a “savage way.”
Although Fadlan is the only person who wrote about the sighting of inked Vikings, there’s another hint that could suggest that Vikings had tattoos.
One clue from Siberia can provide a potential hint about how Viking tattoos came into existence. Archeologists exhumed a body of a Scythian chieftain who was buried for thousands of years. It is believed that he was buried in 500 BC, and his body was covered in tattoos, which could hint that the Norsemen took over the tradition.
Some sources believe that the descendants of these civilizations taught the future Vikings how to ink their body and also practice it.
What Nordic Symbols Should You Put On Your Viking Tattoo Sleeve?
Whether the Vikings wore tattoos or not, there are a plethora of symbols in Norse mythology and all of them make great independent tattoos. Making a sleeve tattoo, however, often includes combines different symbols and designs to get the final product.
In this section, we’ll talk about the designs that you can combine to get the better results for your Viking tattoo slave.
On most occasions, tattoo artists receive different rune designs and symbols to tattoo on the Viking fans. However, some significant symbols made their name in Nordic history and it’s worth listing them down below.
Vegvisir: Vegsivir is certainly the most popular tattoo design that comes from the Vikings. It’s a symbolic Viking compass filled with Nordic runes that helped the Viking raiders find the right way. Vegsivir means “That which shows the way” in the Icelandic language.
While not entirely of Viking origin, given that it was discovered in the 17th century, it hints at the Nordic culture that has likely brought the symbol to the Icelandic grounds when exploring it. More importantly, Vegvisir is a symbol of guarding and protection, especially among people who travel and sailors. It also gives protection to people who have gone through different struggles.
Some Nordic beliefs hint that the supreme god in the Norse mythology, Odin used this Nordic compass on his ventures as he’d always find the way and never get lost.
Yggdrasil: Yggdrasil represents the tree of life and is believed to be sacred in Norse mythology. Additionally, it’s a loved symbol asked for tattooing. It was initially mentioned in the 13th century and described as a tall ash tree that is located at the center of everything. It was believed that its branches could reach the skies and heavens. Norsemen believed in Yggdrasil to be the representation of life, stability, empathy, balance, and existence. If you’re looking for a tattoo that has deep and symbolic meanings, you should definitely choose Yggdrasil.
Valknut: If you’re looking for a tattoo sleeve with a simple and humble design, Valknut could be the right choice. This triple knot is used to commemorate slain warriors who have died honorably and are ready to join Odin and other Gods in Valhalla.
If you want your tattoo sleeve to be more discrete and not stand out too much, adding Valknut to your design could be meaningful. When it comes to the meanings, Valknut represents honor, courage, fearlessness, and acceptance.
It’s no secret that armband tattoos are often used to honor someone who has died, the Valknut tattoo can be used in the same way, especially if you combine it with other symbols from Norse mythology.
Thor’s Hammer: Thor’s hammer is one of the most important weapons in Norse mythology. When yielded by the Son of Odin, Thor, the God of war and Thunder, he was unstoppable. It was believed that Thor’s hammer was responsible for a variety of natural disasters including restless sea, thunderstorms, earthquakes, and more.
In sense of tattoos, Thor’s hammer can represent one’s willpower, strength, power, courage, and much more. It’s a great addition to the meaningful Nordic symbols.
Helm of Awe: When talking about the Helm of Awe, it’s important to make a difference between it and the aforementioned symbol Vegvisir. While the latter was the symbol of sailing, traveling, and exploration, this one is the symbol of courage and fearlessness.
It was believed that the helm of awe was worn by the Viking warriors as protection and courage empowerment in battles and guidance. It was also believed that it can scare enemies. That said, if you need protection from the bad luck or the evil eye, this tattoo is a great choice. The only challenge that comes with it is fitting it into the sleeve tattoo, as it is a larger design compared to the others.
Best Viking Tattoo Sleeve Ideas
Now after we listed the most popular Viking symbols used in tattoos, let’s take a look at all the different tattoo designs that used the Viking symbols for the sleeve tattoos. In combination with the aforementioned symbols, we’re sure that you’ll get inspiration for your next sleeve design.
Female Viking Sleeve
It’s no secret that Viking women were fierce warriors who stood side by side with their husbands and brothers on the battlefields. Viking women were treated much differently than the women in Christian countries, who often felt like less, and didn’t have the access to things that the Viking women did.
This particular tattoo looks stylish, attractive, and detailed. Undoubtedly, it took some time to make, but the quality of the ink looks unprecedented. Even the female Viking warrior can be seen having body paint and tattoo, giving a hint that the belief that Vikings had tattoos themselves is quite popular.
Also Read: 60 Sleeve Tattoos Design Ideas for Women (2021 Updated)
Viking Shieldmaiden Sleeve
As mentioned earlier, Viking shieldmaiden were some of the best warriors in the North, who could fight side by side with men but also be on par with them. This shieldmaiden is inked to the smallest details, with hair braided into small braids, as was popular in the Nordic countries in the past.
She also wears a helmet made out of bones, which gives a hint that she is battle-ready. She also wears face paint, both on lips and under the eyes, that were made as detailed as possible. Women Viking warriors in tattoos can mean both fierceness, courage, and delicacy.
Fenrir Sleeve Tattoo
Fenrir is the mythological wolf in Norse Mythology who was destined to take revenge on the supreme God Odin. He’s also considered the son of Loki. Wolves usually don’t have the positive symbolism, especially because Fenrir is often associated with vengeance, wrath, and other negative traits. However, revenge was meant to be his destiny which also makes his actions just. There are various symbolisms for the colossal Nordic wolf. But, one of them is justice, which is what attracts many people to put him on the sleeve tattoo.
Black Ink Sleeve
This interesting black ink sleeve that continues itself on the shoulder and chest includes various Nordic symbols. One of them is Vegsivir, the Viking compass carried by Odin on his ventures. We described it above, but this tattoo is much larger, fitting greatly together with other symbols in the tattoo. Many of these symbols are mainly knots, which are popular both in the Nordic and Celtic civilizations.
Odin Tattoo Sleeve
Odin is the supreme god in the Norse mythology, and we believe it’s exactly him in this tattoo design. It’s dark and mysterious, just as Odin does, but it also comes carrying great power. Odin is represented through war, wisdom, and even death, and is feared by the other Gods and enemies of the Norsemen. This tattoo is quite detail-oriented, especially given that Odin is a one-eyed God.
History Vikings Sleeve
History Vikings is one of the most popular TV shows starring the vicious Norsemen. This tattoo sleeve shows some of the main characters including Ragnar Lothbrok, his best friend Floki the boat builder, and Ragnar’s Son Bjorn who passed on Ragnar’s legacy. The tattoo also includes more Nordic symbols such as raven which marks Odin, Vegvisir, and various Norse runes of different meanings. We like how detailed the characters are, and it looks great even after healing.
Storm Viking Sleeve
Storms in the Nordic culture and mythology is quite important because it represents the presence of the Gods, such as Odin, the supreme God, as well as Thor, who yielded his hammer that could shoot the lighting. For a lot of Vikings, storms could either sense trouble, hint that the Gods are angry, or indicate a bad omen. It also represented the challenge for sailors who struggled to get through the storms to reach their goals. This tattoo looks absolutely fab, and it also adds some runes, in addition to the Viking God and what seem to be dragon scales. The tattoo also features runes, which is quite cool.
Wolf And Viking Sleeve
This is another Viking Sleeve tattoo that includes the Just and furious Fenrir in the picture. However, it also includes other entities such as Odin, hinting that Fenrir is drawn to conduct his vengeance on the supreme God. There are other symbols in the tattoo, including the lighting bolts, clouds, dragons, crows, and Vegvisir, which was often carried by Odin himself. We like how Fenrir was made to be above the other symbols in the tattoo, and his anger was perfectly drawn through various details. According to the author of the image, this tattoo is supposed to represent Ragnarok, or what’s considered the end of the world in Norse mythology.
Also Read: 30+ Wolf Tattoo Design Ideas (And The Meaning Behind Them)
If you’re looking for a super-detailed Viking sleeve for your new tattoo, this one is among the best we found. That’s because all the combined symbols are associated with Vikings and the Norsemen.
They combine a female Viking Warrior, staring back while surrounded by the Nordic signature axes, the tree of life tattooed into her face, as well as the raging thunderstorm, the seer of the death, and the Valknut symbol of three overlapping triangles, which can mark the death or a fallen warrior that has deserved their entrance into Valhalla. It looks super-detailed and will serve as an inspiration to someone looking for a tattoo with mixed symbols.
Huginn and Muninn
Huginn and Muninn are twin crows that belong to Odin and serve him. For him, they’d fly over the world to learn more about what’s going on in it and then report it back to the Supreme God. Although this tattoo doesn’t entirely cover the sleeve, it can be a great idea to use in your future sleeve tattoo. We also like how the artist drew the crows, with special details in the beak, eyes, and the wings that are being spread out to fly. It’s as if the crows are making the sound out of the tattoo. It’s a great tattoo that would look even better with the addition of other symbols.
This tattoo looks into the adventurous spirit of Vikings, as well as their ventures when raiding the sea and looking for the fertile land. More often than not, Vikings would embar on Journeys with their boats and ship, and those journeys would be filled with raging storms that would make the sea rage. This tattoo is detailed because it shows both the sea and the raging skies. Also, it shows that the boat belongs to Norsemen. There’s also a Vegvisir on the shoulder, which is the perfect representation of the compass of life and that no matter what you go through, Odin is there to protect and guide you.
Viking Warrior Sleeve
This is another Viking sleeve tattoo that is rich in details, and also fits a great number of elements connected to the Nordic tradition and culture. The Viking warrior with a horned helmet and armor is in a fight, but also surrounded with the symbols like Vegvisir, boat, thunderstorm, other dead warriors, and others. We also like the brushed design that hints at mystery and combines so many known Viking symbols.
The last tattoo sleeve hints at a mythical creature that Thor fought with his hammer, the Midgard serpent known as Jormungandr. It also adds other symbols like the restless sea, Huginn and Muninn, and the famous Viking compass that we mentioned throughout the article. This is among the top three tattoos that we displayed in this article, as it’s dark yet bright, and also rich in accurate and sleek details.
This tattoo is of impeccable design and perfectly laid out on the entirety of the arm. It’s also worth mentioning that not many people ink the Midgard Serpent, even though there are a lot of Serpent tattoos out there.
Frequently Asked Questions About Viking Tattoo Sleeves
Here you can find answers to the most popular questions regarding the Viking Tattoo sleeve tattoo ideas. Make sure to check them out. Perhaps, you’ll find an answer to the question you’ve been asking yourself for a long time.
Q: What are the most popular Viking sleeve tattoos?
A: Most Viking sleeve tattoos combine different symbols such as the Nordic Gods, symbols like the Thor’s Hammer, crows, Vegivisir, Valknut, and others. More often than not, there could be inspirations for the popular characters from the TV show Vikings, as well as some other symbols like boats, as Vikings raided and traveled a lot.
Q: Did Vikings have tattoos?
A: The most accurate evidence of Vikings having tattoos are the records from an Arab scholar who traveled the Volga and encountered the so-called Rus Vikings who were said to be tattooed from head to toe. Most of the tattooed Vikings beliefs derive from the pop culture and TV shows that depict Viking warriors as tattooed.
Q: What is the meaning behind the Viking and Nordic Tattoos?
A: Most popular tattoo meanings that are connected to Vikings are the symbols of power, strength, courage, and the timeless respect and ode to the Nordic Gods that Vikings worshipped and believed in. They fought in their names and also died in their name in the process. That’s why a lot of Viking sleeve tattoos either depict Thor or Odin, who are the most popular Gods in Norse mythology.
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Of course women can wear viking tattoos! Despite their obvious warrior appeal, Nordic symbols, Viking tattoos and runic charms aren’t only for sword-wielding males, they’re also hugely popular tattoos among women.
While in most of the world, women had significantly lower status than men, Viking-age Scandinavian women had it quite different. They could own land, get a divorce, and if widowed, control their own estate. This isn’t to mention ass-kicking women warriors, shield-maidens or mystical choosers of the slain, the Valkyrie! Just like men, these female warriors, the shield-maidens, bore shields and sword on countless overseas raids. Nordic mythology tells of the Valkyrie flying over the battlefield choosing who enters Valhalla!
Regardless of your age or sex, or if you go down the mythical, magical or authentic Nordic Symbol route, Viking tattoos are a powerful form of body art, filled with meaning and history. Whether you opt for runic writing or want to pay homage to the gods with an Odin or Thor tattoo, remember, you are standing on the shoulders of giants!
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