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!