Vikings have always had a mystical appeal in pop culture.
So much of the fantasy movies, books, and graphic novels we’re aware of today came from Norse mythology.
Norse mythology and cosmology are the pagan beliefs of the North Germanic people of yesteryear.
Many people assume that, because these beliefs are so legendary, they are fancy tales from the past and nothing more.
But many people with an appreciation for the old ways still practice Asatro: the worship of the Norse Gods.
This is especially the case in Denmark, where a small percentage of the population openly embrace Asatro with still others cloaking their beliefs under Christian iconography.
Viking tattoos and Norse mythology imagery has had a resurgence in the mainstream after 2013’s Vikings, and 4 stunning movies in the Thor franchise.
In a world where we hunt for meat in fluorescent-lit supermarkets and start our most epic battles from our couches, it’s easy to see why people have fallen in love with the Viking fantasy.
Chief among these Vikings is Odin, King of Gods.
He is a powerful figure with a complicated personality.
Aside from Thor, this is likely the most commonly known Norse god.
Odin tattoos are especially popular for men, but he’s someone any gender can engage with if they feel a special attachment to him.
Let’s learn more about Odin, what makes him tick, and what Odin tattoos mean.
Who Is Odin?
Without even realizing it, you probably make reference to Odin at least once a week!
You may know that Wednesday is associated with Mercury- the messenger of the gods.
But what you may not know is that ancient Germanic people associated Mercury with Odin.
Odin’s name was originally spelled with a “w,” and in old English the King of Gods was referred to as “Wodin.”
Wednesday was then referred to as “Wodin’s Day-” which makes sense of the slightly odd spelling of the word.
So if this god is important enough to have a day named after him, he must be pretty cool. But who is he?
Odin presides over Asgard, one of nine realms in Norse mythology.
He is the son of a giant named Jötun, and married to the Goddess Frigg.
These ethereal love birds have 5 sons, one of whom is the famous Thor.
Not only is Odin Thor’s dad, he’s someone you may want to befriend if you’re looking to get into Valhalla- a great hall for fallen warriors.
Goddess Freya (goddess of love, fertility, sorcery and death) gets first pick of the dead, and they accompany her to Folkvangr- a meadow.
The other half are taken to Valhalla by a team of Valkyries- war mongering virgins who hover over battlefields on horses, wielding spears.
When taking warriors to Valhalla, Odin allows the maidens to travel as beautiful swans- though if they are seen outside of their swan-form they are doomed to become mortals, never entering Valhalla again.
In some stories, any soldier not chosen by Freya goes to Valhalla.
In others, Odin chooses only the leaders to receive this honor.
What does Odin look like?
You may have seen Odin portrayed (rather spectacularly!) by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Thor franchise.
Odin has one eye, a long white beard and is often disguised as a wanderer in a cloak.
He has strong associations with Yule, the Pagan Winter celebration that we take most of our Christmas traditions from.
A god-like figure with a long white beard and a cloak… sound familiar?
Odin has a trickster nature to him.
In spiritual terms, this is someone who acts outside of tradition to wake us up from our daily routine, to encourage us to take an honest look at the world around us without our eyes glazing over.
Though many people see Vikings and Norse gods as the ultimate expression of traditional masculinity, many accounts suggest Odin had an androgynous nature.
He practiced “women’s magic” at times, and even dressed as a woman during some of his trickster antics.
Perhaps part of Odin worship is acknowledging the importance of embracing both masculine and feminine traits within ourselves.
Odin Tattoo Meanings
When considering Odin’s significance as a deity, it’s important to look to his eye.
Odin sacrificed his eye to drink from Mimir’s well- a drink that would allow him to acquire even more wisdom than he already had.
Without question, he gouged out his eye and sacrificed it to the well.
This shows that Odin’s dedication to wisdom and learning was greater than anything else, and that he wanted to “see” with his inner knowledge rather than with his eyes, which can be deceptive.
Because of this Odin is, naturally, a god of wisdom. But that’s not all.
He’s also the god of healing, death, poetry, victory, war, sorcery… basically, he’s a busy guy.
To understand Odin is to understand that he is from a polytheistic symbolism, where there is less black and white in terms of “good” and “evil.”
Odin can be just as generous as he is deceitful, he can heal you or take delight in your death on the battlefield.
He is a complicated and endlessly fascinating figure.
Odin Tattoo Symbols
Most people opt for rich black and grey portraits 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’s Raven Tattoos
Odin owes some of his wisdom to his two raven companions, Huginn and Muninn, who bring him messages from around the world.
Ravens are incredibly intelligent birds, a natural match for our wise friend.
Odin’s raven tattoos may symbolize a deep connection to nature.
They may also be well suited for someone with a global mindset who learns through travel.
In many cultures, Ravens are considered to be the messengers of the dead, so this may also make a nice memorial tattoo.
Wolves of Odin Tattoos
As a holistic figure, Odin is flanked not only by birds, but also by two wolves named Freki and Geri.
These wolves will eagerly feed on anyone who lies to Odin or deceives him in any way, so make sure you get your Odin tattoo with pure and respectful intentions!
As such, wolves of Odin tattoo may be a protective symbol, or a symbol that you’re more perceptive than the average person and can’t be swayed.
Odin’s Steed Tattoos
Sleipnir is the 8 legged horse Odin rides into battle on.
Sleipnir is a shamanic entity, with the ability to slip between worlds.
Are you someone who believes you can speak to the other side?
Do you believe in hidden dimensions?
This tattoo may be a perfect match.
Odin’s Steed Tattoos may represent healing and unseen worlds.
Spear of Odin Tattoos
Gungnir is Odin’s spear, a trusty magical weapon that never misses.
It is said to be made out of sunlight by dwarfs, who fashioned the weapon specifically for Odin.
Spear of Odin tattoos are often used to represent protection in both the spiritual and physical world.
Horns of Odin Tattoos
The horns of Odin is a symbol consisting of 3 drinking horns in a triangular shape.
Horns of Odin (also known as triskelion) tattoos may represent a devotion to the god Odin.
It may also be a wink toward the myth wherein Odin steals the mead of poetry, a mythical beverage that gives him knowledge.
The term “a thirst for knowledge” may have roots in Odin’s constant quest to know more and gain more wisdom.
Horns of Odin tattoos may represent someone who operates in very much the same way.
Fenrir Fighting Odin Tattoos
In Norse mythology, Fenrir is a great giant wolf who cannot be held by any chain.
Though the dwarves can hold him with a chain made from enchanted and impossible items, they know he will not be bound forever.
Fenrir is destined to kill Odin at Ragnarok, a final grisly battle wherein the world becomes submerged in water.
A Fenrir fighting Odin tattoo may reflect how you feel about your own mortality.
It is inevitable that someday you will die, but you don’t have to go down without a fight.
Viking Compass & Odin Tattoos
The Viking Compass, also known as Vegvisir, has 9 points to represent 9 worlds.
Like most compass tattoos, it represents guidance and protection on a journey.
Because Odin represents ultimate knowledge and wisdom, a Viking Compass and Odin tattoo may represent a more intellectual journey.
Odin Tattoo Designs
So you’ve decided on an epic image for your Odin tattoo.
You’ve won the inner battle, but now it’s time to enter the war between tattoo styles.
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.
Is it because you’re someone who, like Odin, will never have enough knowledge?
Is it because you love the adventurous spirit of Norse mythology and want to capture some of that for yourself?
Are you just a big fan of munching on some popcorn during the latest Thor movie?
Different styles can capture all of those moods, from soft and elegant, to stoic, to fun and expressive.
Let’s go through some possible tattoo art genres for your Odin tattoo to live in.
Realistic Odin Tattoos
Realism, or photo-realism, is a what you see is what you get situation.
You will choose an image, and your tattoo artist will go to painstaking efforts to make sure your realistic Odin tattoo looks just like that image.
If you’re a fan of Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of Odin, this style will be the perfect way to capture a still from your favorite Thor movie.
Realistic tattoos are typically done in black and grey which has a striking vintage portrait effect.
But there are realistic tattoo artists who work in color, so there are options within the style.
Black-work Odin Tattoos
Blackwork tattoos are not the same as black and grey.
In a black and grey tattoo, black ink is diluted with water to create different shades of grey.
These are then layered to create a realistic sense of depth and dimension.
A black-work tattoo is more stylized and utilizes negative space or “skin breaks” to create the overall image.
Contrasting with this negative space, black-work tattoos will feature sections of deep, wall to wall black ink.
These hyper-saturated black areas will take a long time to fade, and you likely won’t even notice when they do.
Black-work Odin tattoo designs are going to be with you for the long haul.
They have a look that feels artistic and almost comic book-like, but they maintain the integrity of Odin’s character.
It’s a striking choice to make, and well suited to the king of the Norse gods.
Dot-work Odin Tattoos
Dot-work is a tattoo art style inspired by pointillism, a post-impressionist art style pioneered by George-Pierre Seurat in the late 19th century.
After mastering the fast-paced brushstrokes of impressionism, he wanted to try something more technical and precise that maintained an impressionist feel.
In pointillism, an artist uses thousands of dots varying in size and density.
When these dots are placed together in a certain way, they create the illusion of one complete image.
The dots give this style a kind of ethereal vibe, something that works well for mythological characters.
Dot-work Odin tattoos are typically done in black ink, though sometimes the style will mingle with other tattoo genres to create something completely original.
Dot-work with watercolor, for example, could give you an interesting splash of color with that same artistic feeling.
Mixing dot-work with something like black-work would give your Odin tattoo a stunning sense of contrast and dichotomy.
Illustrative Odin Tattoos
“Illustrative” is a versatile term in the world of tattoo art.
As you can see from our gallery of illustrative Odin tattoos, this style can go in many directions.
An illustrative style tattoo is one that feels drawn on rather than realistic.
It’s a perfect choice for someone who wants a tattoo with a high visual impact that feels more painterly.
Illustrative Odin tattoos are a good choice for someone who wants to pay homage to the Marvel comics of Thor and other Norse figures.
Sketchy Odin Tattoos
Have you ever looked at an artist’s sketchbook and marveled at the scratchy lines with the raw feeling of the pencil lead?
Many people have.
A polished piece with smooth saturation is gorgeous, but there’s something about a piece that looks like it was ripped off the page.
Sketch tattoos are a modern and innovative style that gives a piece that rough around the edges look.
For someone like Odin, who never loses a battle, a piece with a slightly messy, less uniform look can capture him well.
Sketchy Odin tattoos are usually done in black and grey, and a perfect choice for someone who wants something more stylized.
Neo-traditional Odin Tattoos
Neo-traditional Odin tattoos are just so cool to look at.
It’s no wonder this has become a go-to style for stylized portraits.
Lines may be curved, some thinner than others, and a more modern color palette can be used.
The result is a tattoo that looks both modern, and very much like a traditional tattoo in one.
Woodcut Odin Tattoos
The wood in Scandinavia is excellent for carving, which is why woodworking was such an important craft to the Viking people.
To this day, many people pay tribute to the Norse gods with wood-carved statues, pieces of ornate furniture, or wall hangings.
It is only fitting then, to consider incorporating some woodworking themes into your Odin tattoo.
In a woodcut tattoo, lines and shading create the illusion of a piece that’s been etched or carved into the skin.
Woodcut Odin tattoos are striking and original.
If you’re someone who works with wood or just likes to incorporate natural elements into your art, this design will flatter you perfectly.
Traditional Odin Tattoos
Graphic Odin Tattoos
Like “illustrative,” “graphic” is a catch-all term in the tattoo world.
It is typically used to describe visually stimulating styles that feel cutting edge.
This may be an incredibly stylized piece that doesn’t fit the above categories or a combination of styles that come together to create something new.
If you want something that feels illustrated and epic with a big visual punch, consider a graphic Odin tattoo.
Odin Tattoo Ideas
If you have ties to Norse mythology or Germanic Paganism and want to commemorate that with a tattoo, there’s no one better than the king to celebrate that connection with!
Looking for some divine inspiration?
Check out our Odin tattoo gallery below.
Odin Tattoo Sleeve
Odin tattoos are often ripped right from the mythology itself, so having more skin real estate is a great idea.
It’s hard to capture 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.
Small Odin Tattoos
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 & Grey Odin tattoos are the most common design choice, and for good reason.
This gorgeous style has all the elements of a photo-realistic tattoo, but your artist can take some liberties and add stylistic elements.
Simple Odin Tattoos
Odin is complicated, but his tattoo art doesn’t have to be.
Simple Odin tattoos are impactful without all the bells and whistles.
Choose something tasteful and uncomplicated, and go for it!
One-eyed Odin Tattoos
Odin is best known, even outside of Norse mythology enthusiasts, for his missing eye.
“Odin’s eyepatch!” Is a fun expression that is used by some in place of “oh my god!”
Odin sacrificed his eye in his eternal quest for knowledge and never looked back.
What would you sacrifice for ultimate intellectual power?
Valknut Odin Tattoos
Odin Tattoo Placement
With a few exceptions, most Odin tattoos are going to be rather large.
To capture an epic warrior, you need to give him a little wiggle room.
Here, we’ve chosen some of the best placements for your Odin tattoo.
But the choice is ultimately yours!
Odin Tattoos on Forearm
Odin Tattoos on the Upper Arm
Back-piece Odin Tattoos