The Tattoos of the Vikings

The Tattoos of the Vikings

Hello my dear friends, how are you? My name is Arith Härger and today I’m going to talk about Viking tattoos Vikings did or did not have tattoos on their bodies? And if they had, which ones? A lot of subscribers of this channel have been asking me this, and so did my Patrons Everyone is eager to get viking-related tattoos But most choose Icelandic Magical Staves to tattoo on their bodies and those are not Viking I’m afraid There is a clear difference between Viking religious symbols and Scandinavian religious and magical symbols If we focus solely on the Vikings, we are restricted to a short period in the history of Scandinavia therefore the religious symbols are also just a few But about that and magical staves further ahead First things first Let’s start with the Vikings and their tattoos We have had interesting archaeological findings of human remains and mummies of Europeans with tattoos on their bodies Since the Palaeolithic all the way to the Bronze Age and Iron Age Celts had tattoos on their bodies, so did the Slavic peoples and here and there occasionally we find a body with tattoos on the skin But when it comes to the Nordic peoples in general movies, books, games just focus on the Viking Age and portray the Vikings as being brutes covered with tattoos and strange symbols some of which didn’t even exist in the Viking period So . . . historically speaking- most certainly the Vikings had tattoos almost like everyone else but it’s hard to say if it was common or just for specific groups connected to a particular cult and it’s also hard to say what kind of tattoos they had I’m sure you have all heard about – Ahmad ibn Fadlan ibn al- Abbas ibn Rasid ibn Hammad also known as Antonio Banderas No, just kidding, of course but it’s the very extensive name for the 10th century Arab Muslim scholar, ambassador and historian from Baghdad He is perhaps the best source of information about the physical appearance of the Vikings He met the Norse people sailing along the Volga River in what would later be called Russia He met the Viking slave-traders who gave Russia its name, the Swedish Rus Ahmad ibn Fadlan describes these Norse people, the Rusiyyah, has being very tall, and fair and their bodies near to perfection He also mentions that all the men were tattooed from the tips of their fingers to their necks Mostly dark green figures of trees, symbols and certain designs resembling the women’s neck rings maybe, possibly referring to knotwork patterns as we see depicted on rune stones So far we have little information about Viking tattoos There was no word for “tattoo” in Arab, so the closest we get is “decoration”, “zakhrifa” I believe it’s the word not sure though but it’s referring to adornment, beautify something with decorations like describing a mosque decorations whose geometric patterns come closer to the Norse knotwork patterns We also know that the Norse, both men and women had eye-makeup, and they dyed their hair so maybe it’s possible that these tattoos were drawn on the skin and could be washed away using wood ash to make ink, hence the description of being dark green, possibly dark blue, “tattoos” In the sagas and poems there are no references of tattoos on anyone’s body although there are descriptions of scars So maybe the Vikings didn’t have tattoos because they still had in their culture the prehistoric scarring technique literally carving designs on their bodies But it’s also possible that these Swedish Rus had tattoos indeed because they were Vikings who constantly traded with Slavic peoples, and Slavs had the tattoo culture nd most of these Vikings settled there and created Russia Take the story of Vladimir Yaroslavich, the prince of Novgorod who maintained close relationships with Swedish Vikings due to his Swedish ancestry on his mother side and his first years paving his way to rule Kiev are filled with Swedish Vikings helping him out So maybe the Rus Vikings had tattoos because they adopted certain aspects of the Slavic culture It is possible that Vikings, while on trading missions in Russia, learned the tattooing art from the natives We have to take in mind that this was the Viking Age, Medieval times and most Europeans were Christians, and the rest of the known world was Muslim so there were only a few peoples out there with tattoos on their bodies maintaining that tradition, and the closest to the Vikings were the Slavs If Vikings did have tattoos, not speaking about the Rus Vikings, but those back home in Scandinavia – the Norse it is likely they would have used Norse designs and symbols in their tattoos found in their artwork as it can be seen on bone and wood carvings or in jewellery We must not forget that tattoos in ancient cultures, especially in the Indo-European cultures and in their way of thinking were used as a means of personal identification as well as markings for the people of the same family of the tattooed persons to easily identify them after death in the afterlife So I’m quite sure the Vikings did have tattoos, but it’s just not easy to know which ones, what kind of designs But we may have hints We know that during the Viking Age there were still traces of animism and totemism in the Norse culture I have already done a video about it Certain warrior groups linked to a specific cult of a warrior deity adopted as their spiritual animal even their own Fylgja the same animal related to the deity or, they adopted the animal totem of the group Of course I’m talking about the Berserkir and Ulfhedinn, whose animal-totems were the bear and the wolf But there were other animals aside from the bear and the wolf that were equally important in the Norse culture the boar, the raven and the serpent I would even dare to say that if Viking women had tattoos, certainly they had snakes on their bodies because the serpent was a symbol of female fertility as well as protection and power and connected to magic and shapshifting Only later with the advent of Christianity it gained a negative meaning So if Vikings had tattoos, certainly not only they had trees just like Ahmad ibn Fadlan described, but also animals Then we have religious and magical symbols that ibn Fadlan mentions but does not describe In terms of Viking religious symbols I do advise you to watch this video right here because I think it’s important for you to understand the evolutions of Norse religious symbolisms Solar symbols were very common in the religious and spiritual background of Scandinavia The sun wheel evolved into the spiral, the Fylfot, the swastika, the valknut etc. But solar symbols were much more common during the Bronze Age and the other symbols throughout the Iron Age, and the swastika was a very wide spread symbol in the Germanic world in all sorts of tools and weapons, pottery, instruments, equipment etc. and there were still traces of the Swastika during the Viking Age and even on Christian monuments that still retained pagan symbols So the Vikings, probably had Swastikas tattooed on their bodies which unfortunately today it’s dangerous to tattoo those symbols for obvious reasons but the Vikings were not bloody Nazis, the swastika is a solar symbol, there’s no problem with that And one solar symbol exclusive from the Viking Age, with great predominance during the Viking period was the Valknut so that one was probably more tattooed than the swastika because during the Viking Age the swastika was losing its power as it was progressively being set aside to give way to new symbolisms The runes, obviously The runes have always played an important role in the religious and magical practices of Northern Europe When I did the video about Seidr one of you was astonished that I did not mention the Vitkar, sorcerers and magicians in the Norse pagan society I’ve mentioned the Volvur but not the Vitkar well . . . this is exactly why, because of the runes the Vitkar, or a Vitki, is someone who works with the runes and does rune magic You see, Seidr is a state of mind the psychological ability to take a relative control over minds and places by giving shape to the will Seidr seems to be much more intuitive and synthetic in nature where a trance state sometimes is required and induced in which the consciousness would be of relatively less importance therefore much closer to a shamanic practice While to a Vitki, the use of Galdr is much more important in Rune Magic than in the use of Seidr In Seidr, Galdr is also used, but in Galdr, Seidr is not used, there is no need, it’s not required In Galdr predominates the use of incantational formulas, spoken or sung it’s a magical art much more conscious and centred in the physical abilities of the person And that’s what is required most often in Rune Magic There is a clear difference between the Volvur and the Vitkar The Vitkar work with the runes, runology, rune-readings, divination with runes, using the runes for healing purposes, etc. Runic work So it’s quite possible that the Vitkar had runes tattooed on their bodies different runes according to the historical period and also Bandrùnar, Bindrunes Connecting different runes into unique symbols for different purposes And probably on their bodies, as a reminder, they would have certain incantations written in runes tattooed in runes And let’s not forget one important account in the Norse myths- Bragi, the god of eloquence and poetry, said to have all the runes carved on his tongue This might be an indication of Bragi being the patron god of the Vitkar as well as the god of Rune Magic This doesn’t necessarily mean that people actually carved or tattooed runes on their tongues I mean, people are crazy so it’s quite possible someone tried But this might mean that people had runes tattooed on their bodies, or at least scarred on their bodies The Vitkar were what would later be called Black Magicians in Iceland using much more complex runic symbol fused with sacred geometry and incantations where Galdr was the key to open up the powers of the symbols I’m talking about Magical staves of course Magical staves, nowadays, are by far the most tattooed symbols and signs People often refer to Magical Staves as Viking tattoos or worse, Viking religious symbols The Magical Staves are Icelandic symbols and signs created during the 17th century the Viking age had long been gone The Magical Staves went through a process of evolution since the 14th and 15th centuries, but most of them are from the 17th century Certainly there are runes and runic symbols in the Magical Staves, from a pagan past but most of the Magical staves are the mixture of Western and Eastern Magical practices incantations with a mixture between Germanic and the Mediterranean pagan past as well as from Abrahamic religious realities and formulas and sacred geometry from the Kabala It’s a great mixture It’s the fusion- consolidation of Renaissance magical practices So Agishjalmar, the Magical staves with a design similar to the aegishjalmur, such as the Végvisir and other such variation the galdramyndir, magical signs and the Galdrastafir, magical staves were not symbols known during the viking age therefore impossible for the Vikings to have these symbols as tattoos The only symbol that might have been known during the Viking age was some early version of the aegishjalmur, closer to a depiction of the Swastika but it’s impossible to know the true form of this symbol during the Viking Age My dear friends, I hope you are not disheartened by this video Whatever Scandinavian symbol you have tattooed on your body, it certainly is something with great power and meaning but don’t expect it to be something exclusive from the Viking Age or that the Vikings had it tattooed on their bodies As I’ve said, tattoos were much more important back then Markings of the individuality of each person, markings of their spiritual practices, of their warrior groups, their magical works, and also to differentiate each individual after death, to come to the gods with their stories written on the bodies so the gods would recognize them as well as their family and community members I’m not saying that the symbols you have are not important to you and they do not mark your spiritual position and your individuality of course your tattoos are important and part of your story and who you are But the psychological factor changed A lot of people tattoo symbols because it looks cool and to socially be accepted by certain groups or as a statement But in ancient times the psychological value of each tattoo was very much connected to the spiritual sphere especially for the Norse whose concept of the soul did not make a clear difference between the body and the spiritual-self so their tattoos not only were to last a life time in this world, but also in the afterlife Thank you so much for watching, see you on the next video and tack för idag!

100 thoughts on “The Tattoos of the Vikings

  1. My dear friends if you are curious about my chest tattoo, check out this post I made about it on my Patreon: (This post is open to the Public, everyone can read) Enjoy!

  2. Just get tattoos you like the look of. It doesn't have to have a deeper meaning. Better have something you like because of the looks than something you get solely for their meaning. But that's just my opinion

  3. Sadley alot of people with viking related tattoos might get in trouble due to the nature of certain political movements, swastika is a great example.

  4. I got a Question, thats a bit of the Topic of Tattoos. I am intrested in Rune-Combinations and wondered, if there is any Method or Technique in Combinding several Runes into one Symbol. Like the Tattoo on your Chest. Are there any traditional ways of Combinding that where used by the Vikings or the Skandinavians in general? Are the ancient and modern Methods?

  5. I have a valknut and aegishjalmur ( theres a bunch of different spellings ). I don't tell people they are viking symbols but I just tell people they are tattoos that remind me of where my bloodline comes from and the meanings ( as i know them ) behind them. From what I can tell, its hard to pinpoint where and when everything from that culture originated but shouldn't that be expected from traveling people? I haven't seen it disputed that the vikings sailed, conquered, and settled. Makes sense that everything was spread out.

  6. So what about the connections between the Celts in Scotland and Ireland, and the Vikings there? Celts were known to have tattoos

  7. I have read somewhere a long time ago – that also Slavic women had face tattoos that also presented their status in the society… Being of mostly Slavic descent, i keep trying to find that text or what the markings on their faces were but have not been successful… For now

  8. At 10:22, you mention the… vidka, vidgar? I looked on Google, but only found seiðr. Would you tell me where to find information about vidka/vidgar? Thank you!

  9. I have huginn across my back. Since I had problems with thought. And a prayer to Odin and thor spanning from my wrist to my heart in runes

  10. ……….but vikings are not viking there is no such thing as vikings ..the viking is a word meaning to piladge so the people of the norse,netherlands.neatherlandic people,swedish,dans,etc went on a viking(piladge)

  11. I want to get "Ulfhednar" tatted on my arm in runic symbols. Can anyone confirm if "ᚢᛚᚠᚺᛖᛞᚾᚨᚱ" is correct? Thanks 🙂

  12. I have huginn and muninn (in a raven banner style) on my forearms and vegvisir on my lower sternum. I didn't realise that icelading staves weren't "viking". Oh well though I still appreciate the meaning behind them.

  13. Regarding scars vs tattoos, I have a tattoo made by the cut & ash method. The design was cut into the skin (it's small) and the ashes of burnt oak were rubbed into it below the skin depth. So it's both a scar and a tattoo . Perhaps the Norse/Vikings used woad to color a cut or needled tattoo.

  14. The Celts predated the Vikings by 1,000 years and now with Hollywood etc… much of the Celtic art is misused and named in error as Viking art when in fact much of it is actually Celtic. I really wish people would not only read, but read and learn history and cultural art and not co-opt other culture's art and call it their own.

  15. The Galdrabok was written in Christian times and has various Christian themes, it is in a sense common to Baucherei or Hex signs with the Dutch Pennsylvanians. Definitely an interesting book but it is essentially witchcraft and comes from a Christian perspective, because yes, the whole idea of witchcraft comes from the Devil and hence, now this should be obvious, Christianity. Nothing wrong with that of course, but when people put these Icelandic symbols on there bodies they are still connected to the Christian world. This isn't a bad thing in any way, I would actually argue otherwise, it just seems that many people think they are working within a magical system that is directly connected to pre-Christian times when in fact they are not.

    Many, many rune stones also have Christian themes, some simply use runes as a script but everything about it is Christian, others are purely pre-Christian themed, and many are a mix. People forget all too easily that the Christian transformation took CENTURIES, much longer than the actual viking period which is such an over rated aspect of everyone's interest. I mean, come on people we are talking two and a half-centuries at best and it was only 5% of the population who even went on viking expeditions!!

  16. I have to wonder how many supremacist morons whine that one of the best sources on the viking age is a Muslim dude!

  17. I'm half Norwegian dont piss me off or I'll burn ur house down, kill and eat ur food and wife hashanah and ur cats

  18. I've been studying Vikings and norse mythology since I was a child. I myself am norse descent. I am not offended that a TV show has brought the focus back to our ancient paths. A millennium has passed and people forget the old ways as expected. If it took a TV show to make people look back then I am grateful for it.

  19. Interestingly, also, Hindu people used henna to "tattoo" people. I know that Norse and Viking cultures had trade with the "Far East". Is it possible that their cultures also had influence with Nordic peoples as they did with many others? I don't k ow how I came upon you but Iike your attentiveness to lore.

  20. Ibn Fadlan met Kievan Rus, which were Norsemen living in Kiev, and as you say they may have adopted tattoing from the Slaves. Apart from that I don't think that we have any sources suggesting that the Norsemen used tattoos.

  21. ARITH…. I have a question… I am a pagan, half germanic and half portugese .. I know most european GODS steam from a single indo euro pantheon so reason for such similarities umongst euro nations….. Anyrate my question is can you please do a vido on the lusitanian GODS? For me it would mean alot…

  22. Awesome.. very interesting,you have hit the mark about it's a story about one's important it is to one's self and for any one else.Very well done

  23. the Navajo Native American tribes used something called the "Rolling Logs" on many of their art, today it's almost gone because in essence, it's a swastika
    buildings in the US built before 1930 almost always have a swastika on it somewhere because in native culture, it's a symbol of good fortune

  24. This is all fun to read and you deserve recognition for your research into the mythology, but quite the load of hooey. Lol!

  25. Nothing says self confidence like a guy full of tattoos and piercings. But hey, I'm all for personal disfigurement and self mutilation, as long as it's not my body.

  26. Wow, as a tattooed pagan this was very interesting. Thank you!

    Also, what about the horn triskelion? I've always been curious if that was from the actual Viking age or not

  27. Tattoes have been found on egypt mummies, on 3500 yo Ötzi, a mummy of a 3500 yo woman in Siberia. In fact all over the world. Of course the Scandinavians got tattoes aswell. Scandinavian tribes have criss crossed Europe and the east since at least 200 BC

  28. Coming from the very Royal ancient family of all Scandinavia, having Odinn himself as my ancestor, I very well know the meaning of the runes and the magic power anima.

  29. This is the first time I watch any of your clips. Very informative, interesting and great perspective.

  30. It does not matter if we know for sure the exact tattoos they used. If you are true to your blood, and share the blood, and have yourself tested in life, you will be able to recall similar tattoos. Our forebears still linger in our subconcious, for we that are by the blood, are extensions of our forebears. Odin er med meg/Wotan mit uns.

  31. Any of the symbols that are pulled from the Huld manuscript are not authentic "Viking" symbols as they came after the time of the Vikings. 1880 actually. These symbols include the Valknut and Vegvesir as well as a host of others. Basically, we are not sure if the vikings actually used these symbols or not.

  32. As a first generation skippy I thank you for giving me an insight to my probable distant ancestors.

    I am what I am, sometimes information resonates with my gut feeling or colective unconscious and helps me understand why some things resonate and others don't.

    I look forward to seeing more of you work.

  33. Your description of the meaning of tattoos isn't that far off from today. "Warrior traditions", like the Marines here in the States, "religious/magic markings and meanings", such as crosses or hands folded in prayer. Family identification could be tebori, like the Yakuza have, or just a tattoo that's common in a family. And of course "personal identity", which nowadays just means that every basic white girl gets the same tattoo as every other basic white girl.

    But I enjoyed this video, it was good to get context and a historical view on it. Personally, I've considered getting the world serpent and/or hugin and munin

  34. I think you are right about the carving or as I call it, the cutting technique. Remember what the Viking men asked of their family if they should die in a bed, the so called hay or straw dead and not in battle? To cut Odins Symbol into their chest, so that they will go to Valhalla.

  35. I am probably the only person on earth who has a vegvesir tattoo SPECIFICALLY because it is an Icelandic rune stave. I have it because I travel and research lots if things, it's good not to get lost. I have dragon prows on either side, because …at the edges…There be dragons!!

  36. Well. I’m impressed. Someone who is true and doesn’t throw myths and unfounded opinions out there like many do. It’s nice for someone to relay the actual truth of the era and ancestors.
    I cringe when I see someone present a Scandinavian fighter / Viking as a massive meat shield wearing a horned helmet. Takes people back when they learn that it was sonopposite and many were farmers and Viking was a profession/action not s group of people

  37. There are two ways. Be sure you make an informed choice! Read the Bible and then look up a copy of "The Two Babylons" by Alexander Hislop. Educate yourself.

  38. I enjoy the content and have gained so much watching your videos. On a side note, you done made a man thirsty holy hell. Back to reality, do the Viking style tattoos mix with Celtic or Anglo style in your opinion?

  39. correct me if im wrong but based on what youve said – we dont know exactly what viking tattoos looked like, but we have a good idea as to why they got them. as in the tattoos would have meaning to the individual, tell a story as you say. so technically speaking if someone in our age got a tattoo which had meaning rather than getting it cause it looks cool, then technically that be a viking tattoo

  40. First uboob vidoe ever with real information instead of click bait and peach bum narration from people with zero life experience. can't believe it. I can pass now in peace. I've seen everything!! Share.

  41. It was not slaves it was polovtsi who used tattoos and they were turkic, slavic ppl never used tattoos, they just try to possess the others traditions

  42. Rus wasn't russia. Kyivska Rus was the largest empire in all of Europe in the 900s, under Svyatoslav (a ruler of Norse ancestry). At that time, what was later to become russia was a collection of raggedy, feuding fiefdoms. Russia did not become a nation until after the Mongol invasion, when they were organized as tax collectors by the khan.


  44. I like your video. My ancestry are Irish, but I do enjoy different cultures of the world. I would like
    to see more visual implements as you describe certain things. Many of the things you speak I am
    not sure what they are. But keep up the great work.

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