Whether they be Norse runes or Celtic runes, rune tattoos carry with them a special meaning (and they look cool, too).
Runes are a font that was used by medieval Germans to carve language onto stone.
Today, runes make for very popular tattoos and there are many types of runes that make for tattoos with great meanings.
These meanings are completely dependent on what each set of runes tattoos symbolizes.
Before we look at specific rune tattoo designs, let’s discuss some more about what makes runes tattoos so special:
What Do Rune Tattoos Mean?
The word rune literally means “something hidden,” or in other words, runes contained a meaning that was only meant for certain people.
This is because common people in medieval German society could not read runes.
Therefore, the meaning behind rune tattoos is considered to be magical or secret.
They are associated with divine energy.
In fact, runes were believed to have been intricately connected to a higher power and therefore rune tattoos have a heavenly component.
There is also a difference in the meaning behind Celtic rune tattoos and Norse rune tattoos.
Celtic rune tattoos are all related to God but also have a certain charm.
On the other hand, Norse rune tattoos hold a protective power.
However, both Celtic and Norse runes were held as sacred and therefore any rune tattoo is to be regarded as special and related to God.
Norse Rune Tattoos and Their Meanings
Norse tattoos hold protective powers and are often meant as amulets to guide people.
Let’s look at the most popular Nordic rune tattoo designs:
Helm of Awe Tattoo
The Helm of Awe is an ancient Norse symbol that was considered a protective charm for Norse warriors.
It was believed to be a spell that symbolized protection on the battlefield.
Today, the Helm of Awe in a tattoo can still act as a protective charm and is a special rune that is magical– that is, if you believe in magic.
Yggdrasil and Runes Tattoos
A very popular Nordic tattoo is a tattoo of a Yggdrasil tattoo surrounded by various runes.
The Yggdrasil is a tree of life that symbolizes the connection between all things in the world.
Whichever runes you choose to add to the Yggdrasil tattoo, will probably relate to your relationship to the universe.
The valknut is a rune comprised of three interlocking triangles pointing upwards.
The Valknut tattoo is related to the Odin who had the power of creating either success or defeat in battle.
The Valknut is associated with a warrior’s death, and therefore this tattoo can be received in honor of someone you love who has passed.
Web of Wyrd Tattoo
The Web of Wyrd is a Viking symbol comprised of runic shapes that means that what happens in the past greatly affects the present, and what happens in the present affects the future.
In more general terms, this tattoo recognizes the connectedness of the universe and the influence of events on your life.
The Vikings believed that the Vegvisir would guide them to wherever they needed to be or want to be.
The Vegvisir is also called, “the pathfinder,” and was always responsible for bringing the Vikings home after a long battle or journey.
The Vegvisir tattoo can help to guide you in life and make sure that you always find your way home.
Celtic Rune Tattoos and Their Meanings
Many Celtic rune tattoos have to do with decision-making.
The Celts seem to have been very concerned with magical spells to assist with choosing the right path in life.
Let’s take a look at a bunch of great Celtic rune tattoos:
Fehu Rune Tattoos
A tattoo of a fehu rune is a symbol of good luck and also is believed to bring you wealth.
In addition, this tattoo can represent new relationships, good luck, and prosperity in the field of love.
As you can see, there are many reasons to receive a fehu tattoo, but most importantly, carrying a fehu rune with you is like having a permanent good luck charm.
Laguz Rune Tattoos
The laguz tattoo has to do with wisdom.
A tattoo of a laguz rune means that you value intelligence greatly and it will help you with decision-making.
A laguz rune tattoo means that you will achieve awesome wisdom in your life and that the most important part of you life is attaining a greater knowledge in both the spiritual and Earthly realm.
Uruz Rune Tattoos
An uruz rune tattoo is often part of a larger tattoo and adds the meaning of hope and new beginnings.
This tattoo also means that you have lost someone or something and that this is the end of a cycle of your life, one that you cherished and that you will miss dearly.
This tattoo marks that you must move on to a new start in life, which may be the beginning of something positive or negative– only time will tell.
Sowilo Rune Tattoos
The sowilo rune represents victory.
A tattoo of a sowilo rune also can help to clear your mind and assist you in making a big life decision.
This is a tattoo you may want to get if you are at a crossroads in life.
The tattoo can help to make things clearer for you and could symbolize the beginning of a new chapter in your life.
Thurisaz Rune Tattoos
A thurisaz rune tattoo is a tattoo you should get if you are about to make a decision that will change your life– for better or for worse.
This tattoo allows you to not focus so much on romance and to have a clear head when making this decision.
Thurisaz runes tattoos represent thinking and reason.
A kenaz rune tattoo allows you to choose between two tough choices.
Only a higher power could possibly know which path you should take, however, a kenaz rune tattoo is a spiritual guide that will allow you to hopefully choose the correct path and start something new and amazing in your life.
Ansuz Rune Tattoos
The ansuz rune tattoo means that you will meet new friends and even a new romantic partner who will become essential parts of your life.
If you are having trouble meeting people that you get along with, this tattoo is like a magical amulet that can help.
This tattoo also can assist you when facing dangerous or serious situations.
The jera rune tattoo is all about rewarding yourself for all your hard work.
The jera tattoo will create rewards for being a good friend or a loving family member.
With this tattoo, ideally, you will feel fulfilled at your workplace and not need to search for new opportunities.
This tattoo suggests that you will be in a state of joy because of work you have already put into your relationships and life in general.
The wunjo rune is a magical spell that will relieve you of bad times in life, essentially ending a negative cycle in your life.
With this tattoo, positivity and love will begin to complete you and you will have a new sense of joy in a life that was once filled with pain.
A berkana rune is a lucky amulet that was engraved on objects of importance for the ancient Celts because it is meant to bring good luck.
A tattoo of a berkana rune also is meant to promote the growth of the body, mind, and soul.
If you have been down on your luck lately, then a berkana rune tattoo may be able to change that for you.
A mannaz rune tattoo is a special tattoo with the meaning of achieving greater intelligence.
Perhaps you wish to become wiser or acquire more knowledge– this tattoo is like a magical spell which will help you not only gain greater intelligence but also bring you the very best things in life.
This tattoo is sort of like a good luck charm for bringing your greatest dreams into reality.
Raidho Rune Tatttoos
The raidho rune is a symbol of the beginning of a new journey or adventure.
If you are planning to go on a large adventure such as traveling a new continent or a long road trip, then a raidho tattoo can assist you in preparing for your journey and making it a good time.
This tattoo also symbolizes exploring new and exciting places.
Isa Rune Tattoos
An isa rune tattoo means that you believe that you should not rush into anything.
If you are someone who tends to always be in a rush and make rash decisions, then this tattoo can aid you in your attempt to change your ways.
Gifu rune tattoos are all about the commonalities shared between two lovers.
If you believe that you and your partner have a lot in common and that’s why you work well together, then this tattoo could be a symbol of that love.
This tattoo also represents the fulfillment of every wish and desire you have for your romantic relationship.
Tiwaz Rune Tattoos
The tiwaz tattoo is a symbol of success, power, and fortune.
This tattoo is meant to bring good luck and success to anyone who wears it.
If you are seeking greater wealth in your life or need more power, then this tattoo can help you to succeed in life.
Ehwaz rune tattoos are about harmony and peace.
This tattoo is about balancing out two opposing sides to create harmony.
The ehwaz rune also symbolizes movement, but mostly tends to mean that you are seeking greater peace in your life.
Ingwaz Rune Tattoos
An ingwaz rune tattoo can create new paths for you that are full of fortune and success.
This tattoo is about new beginnings.
This tattoo can also help you with completing projects that you started but never had time to finish, or dreams that you had and gave up on, bringing them back to life.
This tattoo additionally represents strength and wisdom.
Eihwaz Rune Tattoos
This kind of rune tattoo means that you should exhibit a lot of patience and wait for the right time and place for success to reach you.
This tattoo can help you to choose the right moves in order to improve your life.
This tattoo also means that you want to keep others’ opinions out of your life and start to think for yourself.
Algiz ᛉ Rune Tattoos
Algiz rune tattoos are the ultimate symbol of protection.
They represent a protection spell that is written by the divine.
This tattoo also has the potential to connect the spiritual world with your Earthly needs for divine protection from trouble and from bad luck.
Dagaz ᛞ (Dawn) Tattoo
The Dagaz rune represents dawn and symbolizes a coming of age or the end of something in your life.
A new cycle is starting in your life– a new breakthrough or awakening.
This tattoo means that change and growth are happening in your life, something transformative.
This tattoo is about change in your life for the better and which in the end will mean that you are a new and better person.
Gebo ᚷ (Gift) Tattoo
This interesting rune tattoo means that you are in the midst of attaining a gift that you will grow into.
You are growing in your abilities and your hard work will pay off with a gift that you will be able to attain.
This gift could be anything– a new skill, learning a new language, greater wisdom, or any new change in your life.
This tattoo means that your growth will soon pay off.
Rune Tattoo Placements
Runes are small and therefore can be used as tiny tattoos on the ankle, wrist, or fingers.
However, they are also commonly part of a larger tattoo with multiple runes or runes mixed with other Celtic tattoo motifs or Nordic symbols.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular placements of runic tattoos:
- Rune Tattoo Sleeves
Runes make for great tattoo sleeves, and there are a lot of interesting designs possible for them.
One such design is a series of runes formed in a grid placed on the arm, which can have many different meanings depending on which runes are chosen.
Another design is a Helm of Awe tattoo with other runes circling it.
This tattoo is considered a protective charm and can have other meanings as well.
- Rune Ankle Tattoo
If there is a single or a few runes that have a significant meaning to you, you could get them placed on your ankle.
This form of a tiny tattoo can have a significant meaning to you and hold a special place in your heart.
- Rune Forearm Tattoos
Many people get a series of rune tattoos on their forearms that have a significant meaning to them.
On the forearm, where your tattoo is prominently visible, you can see this series of runes forever and remember their meanings.
- Rune Finger Tattoos
Runes tattoos fit very well on the fingers and you can pick one rune that speaks to you and place it on the inside of your ring, middle, or index finger.
If you are choosing this tattoo, you want to make absolutely sure that this rune is perfect for you because you will be seeing it all the time and sharing its meaning with people constantly.
- Rune Chest Tattoos
Rune tattoos on the chest are very popular.
The most popular chest tattoo is the Helm of Awe surrounded by runes.
Other popular runic chest tattoos are the Ouroboros tattoo with runes or a Vegvisir tattoo with additional runes added to it, both in circular formations.
The great thing about rune tattoos is that they are highly dynamic.
You can choose one rune or multiple, add different Viking or Celtic tattoo symbols, or play around with it and be creative.
Rune tattoos are also highly meaningful tattoos that tell a story about a dream or aspiration you have or can help to guide you along the right path in life.
Rune tattoos are appropriate for either gender and can have a powerful effect on peoples’ lives.
Alyssa Renee McCormack is a writer, curator, and photographer who publishes articles on the topics of the arts, culture, and social justice. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion business and art history and museum professions. Her experience working with a variety of art institutions, her world travel, and her inquisitive nature provides her with a unique insight. Check out her about page, she would love to connect with you!