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 enduring 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 mythology.
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, bad-ass piece of Viking tattoo art.
There are many tattoo artists with an appreciation for Viking culture and mythology.
You’ll be able to capture the essence of the culture, but you may have to unlearn some things first.
Let’s take a little Viking history lesson!
Then we can talk about different designs for your inner Nordic nerd.
The Vikings indulged in beauty products and self-care. Many of our friends from yesteryear weren’t really the best at keeping clean. But Vikings were an exception. They bathed much more often than other Europeans of the time. They even had hair lightening products to give themselves sun-kissed highlights. Archaeologists have found many hygiene products in old Viking sites. These tools are made from animal bone and include combs, tweezers, razors, and even ear cleaners.Quick Viking Fact
Who Were the Vikings?
Viking is the term we use for the ancient people of Scandinavia.
Vikings have a (perhaps unearned) reputation for being bloodthirsty warriors and pillagers.
The everyday life of a Viking was likely more mundane than movies would have you believe.
Vikings were skilled at agriculture and spent a lot of their time farming.
They were world explorers and outdoor adventure enthusiasts.
They crossed the Atlantic long before other Europeans figured it out.
Their expeditions were more often about trading than bloodshed.
That said, the Vikings did do their share of raids, and they were skilled military fighters.
They also weren’t opposed to keeping slaves. So there is a splash of blood on the parchment of Viking history.
Some Common Misconceptions About Vikings
It may look cool in a tattoo, but Vikings did not wear horned helmets in battle.
At least, there’s no evidence to suggest they did. The Viking helmet image comes from Swedish artist August Malmstrom.
A costume director for the Opera, Carl Emil Doepler, further cemented the image in our minds.
The Ring Cycle, a collection of four popular Norse operas, often features the helmets to this day.
There is some evidence to suggest that horned helmets existed around the Viking era.
The theory is that if the Vikings wore them, they were used in ritual ceremonies.
And even then, there is no evidence that these helmets were specific to Vikings.
Another misconception about Vikings are their beards, both the length and color.
Vikings likely had beards, but they were kept in more conservative styles.
With their attention to hygiene, it would only make sense to keep their body hair neat and tidy.
While there were red-headed Vikings, there was likely a good mix of hair colors in the culture.
Why Do We Have Misconceptions About Vikings?
Curiously, most of what was written about Vikings was recorded in the 13th century.
That’s important to note, because the Viking age was from around 793-1066 AD.
Most Viking history was written by their enemies, or Catholics and Christians who disagreed with their pagan beliefs.
What Did the Vikings Believe In?
Many popular Viking symbols and reference points come from their religious beliefs.
The Vikings were Germanic pagans. They would have believed in Norse mythology.
Norse mythology is a polytheistic network of gods, goddesses, and giants.
They believed in several realms or dimensions. At the center of these realms was an enchanted ash tree known as Yggdrasil.
Interestingly, many faith systems have a “tree of life” they make reference to.
These faith systems include the Egyptians, Jewish peoples, Christianity, and Chinese mythology.
Tree of life tattoos are very popular in spiritual circles.
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 intimidating in battle.
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.
Unlike many societies of the time, women enjoyed some basic rights in Viking culture. Women got married very young, but were able to get divorced if they chose. They also received their dowry back if their marriages didn’t work out. And they were permitted to inherit property from family members.Quick Viking Fact
Viking Tattoo Themes
For today’s Viking enthusiast, there are many 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 they 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 stormy 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 burials, the flaming arrows and floating funeral pyre is likely a myth.
The mechanics of it just wouldn’t work properly.
At times the Vikings would burn their dead on land.
Smoke is often used to cleanse negative energy in spiritual circles.
The runes are an ancient divination tool. They are still sold in spiritual 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 hanging 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 Gods Tattoos
Norse mythology is rich with interesting legends, Gods, and Goddesses.
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, the King of Gods, 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 sex, fertility, and gold.
You can see how an artist would have fun imagining her.
Even without a background in Norse mythology, 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 gods, Odin tattoos are quite popular.
There are so many creative ways to depict this powerful deity.
You may be wondering about the meaning of an Odin tattoo.
There are so many epic stories about Odin, but they all boil down to these essential traits: Wisdom, sacrifice, 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.
Now, this all depends on which Thor we’re talking about.
There are two worlds of Thor tattoos: the ones inspired by mythology, and the dedications to a particular popular Marvel character.
Each are epic tattoo designs in their own way, and represent roughly the same ideals.
But it’s important to note that the mythology of Marvel is loosely based on the Viking legends.
Either way, a Thor tattoo design is likely to represent physical strength, storms, 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 battle to intimidate 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, sex, 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 mythology, Tyr is the original god of war.
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 mythology.
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 death, love and war.
The seemingly opposite concepts become more related when you think of the birth/death 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 death, Frigg made every object on earth vow not to harm him.
But that was a tempting offer for Loki, who used his deceitful ways to trick Balder’s twin brother into killing him.
For his crime, Loki is currently tied to a rock underneath a venomous snake.
He is only to be released during the epic battle of Ragnarok.
A Baldur tattoo represents purity, a generous spirit, and perhaps martyrdom.
His death is also what triggered a series of events that will lead to the battle of Ragnarok, so this tattoo may represent fated events.
Although the great wolf Fenrir is restrained, he is destined to kill Odin at Ragnarok.
The god Viđarr is then destined to kill Fenrir as an act of vengeance.
A Viđarr tattoo represents revenge and the ultimate triumph over evil.
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 spiritual 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 a sun.
The ‘rays’ are made up of 8 tridents.
Sometimes, the Helm of Awe and Terror is drawn in a ring of runic symbols and snakes.
A Helm Of Awe tattoo represents a protective symbol to strike fear into the hearts of your enemies.
Made popular in modern-day by Marvel comics, Thor’s hammer is one of the most popular symbols in Norse mythology.
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 is also known as the Wayfinder, and it was said to help people, well, find their way.
The Vikings endured some pretty rough weather and would carry a Vegvisir symbol for protection and guidance.
If you have to endure something difficult, either physically or mentally, arming yourself with a Vegvisir tattoo will be a token of hope and divine protection.
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 mythology, 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 their own properties and mythology.
In the most famous story about the Yggdrasil, Odin willingly hangs from the tree of life while pierced by a spear.
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 hanging from the tree of life and later had runic symbols carved into it.
This spear was carved by dwarves, the finest craftsmen in Norse mythology.
A Gungnir tattoo symbolizes protection, magic, and sacrifice.
The Triquetra is a pagan symbol that exists in Nordic and Celtic mythology.
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 Celtic Christians 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 could be used as a weapon but was more commonly used in farming.
Because the axe is so crucial 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 in battle.
But a shaman (male or female) may have worn them in ritual.
This would have been both to honor the animistic beliefs in Norse mythology and to represent abundance.
Horned gods in paganism often represent fertility, abundance, and life itself.
In fact, Satan’s image as a horned creature was created with 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 a love for Viking culture because the images have become so intertwined.
As health-conscious people, sleep hygiene 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 mythology, it is also used as a magical weapon.
To put this symbol in the home of an enemy 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 from enemies, or vengeance.
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 design represents Odin, an excellent choice for someone who wants a more minimalist Odin tattoo.
Viking Warrior Tattoos
If you’re a fan of Viking culture and its values, it can be hard to choose the perfect symbol for your tattoo.
If you’re stuck on this decision, why not get a Viking warrior tattoo?
It’s a fitting tribute to a cult of brave and noble people.
You can also use this to pay homage to your favorite pop culture Viking.
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 bear spirits to assist them in battle or hunts.
They would fight and hunt in a trance-like state, full of primal fury.
A Berserker tattoo may represent your admiration for these warriors or a desire to get in touch with your primal instincts.
The Ulfhednar were the members of the wolf cult.
They would perform rituals to get in touch with the wolf’s essence and were so ferocious they may have inspired werewolf folklore.
It is said that these warriors would have dyed their skin black to better identify with the wolf spirit.
That may be a radical approach, but an Ulfhednar tattoo may do the trick for you.
Boar Warrior Tattoo
The Svinfylking, or boar warriors, 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 fertility gods Freyr and Freyja.
They had their own unique battle formation that resembled a boar’s head.
If you’re looking for a unique way to pay homage to the Viking warriors, a boar warrior 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 battle 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 bad-ass 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 mythology 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 great battle of Ragnarok begins.
A Jörmungandr tattoo could represent fate or just a love of bad-ass 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 fight 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 dies on the battlefield 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 monster known to terrorize sailors.
This giant octopus-like creature is an agent of chaos.
If you think an octopus tattoo is cliché, why not go wild with a Kraken tattoo?
This sea creature represents horror and chaos, 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 hell 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 design may be for you.
Frost Giant Tattoos
The Frost Giants in Norse mythology 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 fire and ice at the beginning of time.
They are enemies, often traveling to one another’s worlds to attack.
That said, there are also several romances between the Aesir and the Jotnar. In short, it’s complicated.
Are you a rebel? 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 their intended victim.
The object would then be placed in a large body of water to find and kill that person.
A Tupilaq tattoo may represent the desire for vengeance or an admiration for ancient magical practices.
Most ancient belief systems are animistic, meaning they see spiritual 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.
Fenrir is a great wolf who will one day kill Odin, and his children will devour the sun.
It’s not hard to see why the dwarves built a magical chain to restrain him.
If you’ve struggled with anger or addiction, you may connect with the symbolism of the chained wolf.
A Viking wolf tattoo could be a symbol of angst, rallying against the powers that be.
Fenrir tattoos may also represent unrecognized potential.
Do you feel like you’re holding yourself back?
Skoll & Hati Tattoos
If you read the above description and asked yourself, “wait, who are the children of Fenrir?” this is your answer.
Skoll and Hati are Fenrir’s giant wolf offspring, currently locked in an eternal chase.
Odin cast them into the sky, having one chase the moon and the other the sun.
This keeps them occupied for now, but eventually, they will catch up.
The devouring of the sun and moon will be one of the events that signals Ragnarok’s beginning.
The symbolism of a Skoll and Hati tattoo could be a couple of things:
- It may be a kind of yin/yang symbol for balance between opposing forces.
- It may be a memento mori for a dying planet.
Ratatoskr is a little red squirrel who runs up and down Yggdrasil, stirring up trouble.
His official job title would be mythological messenger.
He runs between the dragon Nidhoggr at the bottom of the tree and the eagle above.
The only thing is, Ratatoskr has a bit of a destructive streak.
Without being able to cause too much damage on his own, he gossips between these two, making them mad at each other.
We’ve all had a friend like that, haven’t we?
A Ratatoskr tattoo may represent someone who likes to cause mischief or someone who doesn’t mind rattling a few cages to get what they want.
Norse Owl Tattoos
In Norse mythology, the owl is associated with Frigga.
Frigga represents love and destiny, and she is a sky goddess.
She can see the future but cannot change it, which gives her a kind of bird’s eye view on life.
In the Viking era, owls were spiritually significant because of their night vision.
They can be a human’s guide through the dark, whether that’s physical or spiritually speaking.
They are also said to guide lost souls to the underworld, a task Odin takes on as well.
A Norse owl tattoo may represent a belief in destiny.
It may also serve as a reminder to look to the light in difficult times.
Loki Bird Tattoos
Loki once used Freyja’s feathered cloak to disguise himself as a bird.
He flew above the worlds, eventually landing on a wall near Geirroð, the giant’s castle.
Geirroð ordered his servant to capture the bird, and Loki decided to torment the servant by waiting until the last moment before flying away.
This backfired when Loki got stuck to the wall and was held captive in Geirroð’s castle.
This story is a warning against acting too cocky or stirring up trouble for its own sake.
Could you use a Loki bird tattoo as a reminder?
Gullinbursti tattoos represent Freyr’s trusty sidekick: a wild boar.
This boar wasn’t like any other boar, which is already a revered creature in Viking culture.
As a magical boar, Gullinbursti glows in the dark, aiding Freyr on his missions.
A Gullinbursti tattoo may represent the strength of a boar, fertility, or having an animal guide.
Viking Horse Tattoos
In general terms, horses represent the concept of wildness in Norse mythology.
The below tattoo designs are of Sleipnir, Odin’s favorite horse.
Sleipnir is a beautiful gray horse who can run like the wind.
He was such a fantastic runner; in fact, he could carry Odin across the boundaries between worlds.
Viking horse tattoos represent wild beauty, strength, and travel.
Viking Raven Tattoos
When in doubt, it all comes back to Odin.
The all-father has two raven sidekicks, Hugin and Munin.
In modern terms, Odin’s ravens are like his iPhone.
They travel around the world, then whisper to him all that they have seen.
In Odin’s eternal quest to know everything there is to know, these birds are essential.
Viking raven tattoos represent worldly knowledge, education, and travel.
Viking Stag Tattoos
Eikþyrnir is a stag who stands on Valhalla’s roof, grazing on leaves from Laerad, a tree that grows there.
He can create rivers and purify water with his antlers.
This is one of the gentler Viking symbols.
A Viking stag tattoo represents grace, purity, and healing.
Viking Tattoo Styles
The Viking age went through a few phases with their art pieces, and being aware of these aesthetics should help you narrow down the right Viking tattoo style for you.
Traditional Viking Tattoos
The tattoo styles we most commonly associate with the Vikings are from the age’s popular art styles.
These elaborate carvings would adorn wood and metal items, often giving them a zoomorphic look.
These ornate items are what inspire traditional Viking tattoos.
Here are a few of the most common designs:
Viking Borre Tattoos
Borre is an art style that has been found in artifacts from Iceland, England, and Russia.
These pieces are characterized by twisting shapes, with animal heads and paws.
It was a popular style in Nordic cultures between the late 9th and mid 10th century.
Viking Borre tattoos have common themes with popular Celtic knot tattoos but with a little more breathing room.
Viking Mammen Tattoos
After the Borre style came Mammen pieces, inspired by other European depictions of animals.
These pieces would often feature large panels with symbolic creatures, usually lions or birds.
The lines in Mammen tattoos are curvaceous and sometimes asymmetrical.
Viking Oseberg Tattoos
The Oseburg art style dominated the 9th century.
It is characterized by a “gripping beast” theme where the creatures within a piece come to life, gripping its borders.
This makes Oseberg Viking tattoos a popular style because they seem to interact with the wearer.
Viking Ringerike Tattoos
If you’re familiar with runes, you may recognize some shapes and ideas in these Viking Ringerike tattoos.
The Ringerike style was developed in the 11th century and dove-tailed with the popularity of rune stones.
In these pieces, animals and plants mingle together.
The animals in a Ringerike piece tend to have plant-like attributes, long and curvy with tendril-like fur.
Viking Urnes Tattoos
In the Urnes style of the mid 10th century to the 12th, all of the above ideas seem to exist together.
The most famous example of an Urnes piece is on wooden panels in a church in Urnes, Norway.
In these pieces, animals are long and twisty, looping over and around each other and interacting with plant life.
Modern Viking Tattoo Styles
While getting a tattoo in a traditional Viking style is a cool choice, it can be equally fun to bring these ancient designs into the 21st century.
These modern Viking tattoos are an excellent way to breathe new life into old characters.
Check out our gallery below for some of the best modern Viking tattoo designs we’ve come across.
Realistic Viking Tattoos
These photo-realistic portraits pay homage to today’s pop culture Vikings.
In a piece like this, every detail sizzles with electricity and, through the expression on a character’s face, you can convey the meaning of your Viking tattoo instantly.
These realistic Viking tattoos also serve as calling cards to fellow fans.
If you show off your ink in day-to-day life, you’re sure to meet someone who’s into the same movies and TV shows as you, which can lead to new connections.
Realistic Black & Grey Viking Tattoos
If you want a photo-realistic portrait of your favorite Viking character, but aren’t much for color, don’t fret!
Realistic black and grey Viking tattoos are every bit as striking, sometimes even more so.
In a black and grey tattoo piece, every last detail shines through.
The sense of depth and shadow that’s created in these pieces is simply breathtaking.
Neo-traditional Viking Tattoos
Neo-traditional is a dazzling style for epic characters because it’s somewhat realistic, but everyday colors and details are taken to surreal heights.
This is the perfect way to honor a heroic character.
Neo-traditional tattoos are characterized by bold, smooth color fills, and your artist won’t shy away from black ink.
These gutsy Neo-traditional Viking tattoos have a classic comic book feel that works so well with legendary subject matter.
Sketchy Viking Tattoos
Sketchy tattoo pieces have that raw, untamed quality that suits the grittiness of these Viking characters so well.
A sketchy Viking tattoo will be deeply saturated and a little rough around the edges, looking as though it were ripped out of an artist’s sketchbook.
If you’re the artsy type who thrives on disorder, sketch tattoos are perfect in their unpolished-ness.
Illustrative Viking Tattoos
Illustrative is a handy catch-all term for tattoos that feel “drawn on” rather than photo-realistic but don’t fit any of the above categories.
If you’ve got a creative idea for a Viking tattoo that makes your heart sing, this is a style with no rules to follow.
So let your freak flag fly, and find the tattoo artist of your dreams for your illustrative Viking tattoo.
Viking Tattoo Ideas
Vikings may not be exactly who we think they are, but they’re still pretty cool.
There is so much in the Norse mythology of the Vikings, you’re bound to find something that resonates with you.
Still not sure what kind of Viking tattoo would suit you best?
Check our gallery for some mighty inspiration!
Small Viking Tattoos
Are you petite but mighty?
Small Viking tattoos don’t have to pack less punch than giant back pieces.
You can say a lot without saying much at all.
Just check out the raw power of these tiny Viking tattoos.
These are perfect for tattoo collectors or 9-5ers who need to keep their badassery under wraps at the office.
Simple Viking Tattoos
Speaking of keeping it minimal, these simple Viking tattoos are striking in their subtlety.
If you aren’t the super flashy type, you can still enjoy tattoo art in your own way with a chic, elegant design.
You can always add more details later, but it’s harder to take them away.
In the world of permanent tattoo art, starting simple can be a smart move.
Viking Tattoo Sleeves
Vikings are best known for their epic tales.
When you want your tattoo to tell a story, you need a placement that makes sense.
With a Viking tattoo sleeve, you can take us from Thor’s birth to Ragnarok in the blink of Odin’s good eye.
Some people choose to collect a sleeve of tattoos over time, which looks cool.
But there’s something to be said for laying out a plan from the very beginning, going all out on the first try.
Viking Tattoo Artists
Looking for someone who can bring your vision to life?
It pays to be picky in your search for the perfect match.
Here are some of our favorite Viking tattoo artists to get you started.
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