Viking tattoos and Norse mythology imagery have had a resurgence in the mainstream after 2013’s Vikings, and 4 stunning movies in the Thor franchise.
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 long-lasting 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 art.
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, bold piece of Viking tattoo art.
There are many tattoo artists with an appreciation for Viking culture and folklore.
You’ll be able to get the essence of the culture, but you may have to unlearn some things first.
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 discouraging.
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.
Viking Tattoo Meanings
Viking mythology tattoos are a captivating form of body art that delves into the rich tapestry of the Viking and Norse cultures.
These tattoos often embody a multitude of meanings, each intricately woven into the design, symbols, and elements chosen for the inked masterpiece.
Let’s unravel the diverse connotations behind these fascinating tattoos:
- Strength and Valor: Viking warriors were renowned for their unparalleled bravery and unyielding courage on the battlefield. Consequently, Viking tattoos often symbolize these virtues, serving as a perpetual reminder of the indomitable spirit of the warrior.
- Protection and Warding: Norse mythology is replete with potent protective symbols, such as the Valknut, Thor’s mighty Mjölnir (hammer), and the enigmatic Aegishjalmr (Helm of Awe). These symbols are etched into tattoos to signify protection and the banishment of malevolent forces.
- Harmony with Nature: The Viking and Norse way of life was intimately connected with the natural world. Runes, animals like wolves and ravens, and the raw beauty of natural elements like trees and mountains find their place in Norse-inspired tattoos, signifying a profound connection with nature.
- Ancestral Tribute: Many individuals opt for Norse mythology tattoos as a homage to their Scandinavian heritage or ancestral roots. These tattoos proudly embrace one’s cultural identity and ancestral lineage.
- Spiritual Allure: Norse mythology teems with gods, goddesses, and mystical creatures. Tattoos featuring these divine figures can reflect a deep-seated spiritual or religious belief, or they might merely signify a fascination with ancient mythologies and cultures.
- Quest for Adventure: The Vikings were legendary explorers, known for their seafaring exploits and thirst for adventure. Tattoos featuring ships, compasses, or symbols of exploration resonate with those who yearn for daring escapades and uncharted horizons.
- Personal Significance: Ultimately, the true meaning of a Viking tattoo is a deeply personal one. Each design, symbol, or motif can hold a unique significance for the wearer, often connected to a personal experience, aspiration, or journey.
It’s important to bear in mind that the meaning of a tattoo is inherently subjective and can differ greatly from person to person.
When contemplating a Viking mythology tattoo, research thoroughly and choose symbols or designs that resonate with your core values and beliefs.
Collaborating with a skilled tattoo artist will ensure a creation that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also profoundly meaningful and personal.
Viking Tattoo Themes
For today’s Viking enthusiast, there are many tattoo 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 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 wild 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 ceremonies, the arrows and floating vigil pyre is likely a myth.
The mechanics of it just wouldn’t work properly.
At times the Vikings would burn their lost ones on land.
Smoke is often used to cleanse bad energy in some circles.
The runes are an ancient divination tool. They are still sold in various 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 swaying 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.
Runes 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 Deities Tattoos
Norse folklore is rich with interesting legends, and deities.
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, 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 fecundity and gold.
You can see how an artist would have fun imagining her.
Odin, the Norse god of gods and the “all-father” in Viking legend holds significant appeal for tattoo enthusiasts, particularly those interested in Viking and Norse culture.
Odin tattoos are popular choices, often symbolizing wisdom and knowledge, making them an excellent option for anyone seeking a deeper connection to this iconic deity.
One of the central elements in Odin’s mythology is the sacrifice of his eye to gain wisdom from Mimir’s well.
This selfless act emphasizes his attributes of wisdom, altruism, and esoteric knowledge.
Odin’s shape-shifting abilities and animal familiars, such as his ravens Huginn and Muninn and wolves, provide rich symbolism for tattoo designs.
Odin tattoos are not limited by gender and are especially favored by those following pagan beliefs.
While many opt for rich black and grey portrait tattoos to pay homage to Odin, there are no strict rules for his portrayal.
Tattoo artists well-versed in Norse mythology can bring a deeper understanding to their designs.
Common Odin-specific imagery includes Odin’s ravens, wolves, the Spear of Odin for protection, and the Horns of Odin to symbolize devotion.
The Viking Compass, also known as Vegvisir, represents guidance and protection on a journey and can be combined with an Odin tattoo for a more intellectual journey representation.
Tattoo enthusiasts can choose from various aesthetics, from innovative to traditional, based on their preferences and reasons for getting the tattoo.
Odin tattoo sleeves are popular for depicting entire scenes or stories, while smaller Odin tattoos offer a pint-sized dose of Viking wisdom.
Black and grey tattoos, as well as simple designs, are prevalent choices, and “one-eyed Odin” tattoos, symbolizing his sacrifice for ultimate intellectual power, are distinctive options.
Now, this all depends on which Thor we’re talking about.
There are two worlds of Thor tattoos: the ones inspired by folklore and the dedications to a particular popular Marvel character.
Each could be an epic tattoo design in its own way and represent roughly the same ideals.
But it’s important to note that the story of Marvel is loosely based on the Viking legends.
Either way, a Thor tattoo design is likely to represent physical strength 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 action to impress 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, 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 folklore, Tyr is the original god of a set-to.
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 folklore.
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 loss of life, love, and dispute.
The seemingly opposite concepts become more related when you think of the birth/end 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 end, Frigg made every object on earth vow not to lay a finger on him.
But that was a tempting offer for Loki, who used several ways to trick Balder’s twin brother into ending him.
For this, Loki is currently tied to a rock underneath a snake.
He is only to be released during Ragnarok.
A Baldur tattoo represents purity and a generous spirit.
His final exit is also what triggered a series of events that will lead to the Ragnarok, so this tattoo may represent fated events.
Although the great wolf Fenrir is restrained, he is destined to end Odin at Ragnarok.
The god Viđarr is then destined to end Fenrir as an act of vengeance.
A Viđarr tattoo represents revenge and the ultimate triumph over evil.
While Odin and Thor are instantly recognizable players in these stories, Ullr is well known among enthusiasts and those who know the myths more intimately.
Over the years, he has become a Guardian to lovers of Winter sports.
When Ullr is depicted in tattoos, he is often portrayed as the ultimate athlete, traversing some snow on his trusty skis with a bow and arrow in tow.
Ullr tattoos can be drawn in any style you feel is appropriate for you.
Many artists enjoy putting a new spin on this epic figure, so chat with yours about what you can do to make your Ullr tattoo stand out.
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 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 the sun.
The ‘rays’ are made up of 8 tridents.
Sometimes, the Helm of Awe is drawn in a ring of runic symbols and snakes.
A Helm Of Awe tattoo represents a protective symbol.
Made popular in modern-day by Marvel comics, Thor’s hammer is one of the most popular symbols in Norse folklore.
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’s an incredibly intricate design consisting of 8 staves that branch out from the same center point and end with a unique protective rune.
Viking tattoos are as vibrant in design as they are in their history and the Viking compass tattoo may just be one of the most popular of the various designs.
It is also known as the Wayfinder, and it was said to help people, well, find their way.
The Vikings went through some pretty rough weather and would carry a Vegvisir symbol for protection and guidance.
They can be seen as an ode to one’s heritage of a tradition once lost, a culture that withstood the test of time, or they can be a source of interpersonal inspiration and a reminder of one’s inner power.
At its deepest level, varying meanings behind the Viking Compass can be traced down to individual tribes of the region.
Today, however, it’s seen as a symbol of protection and guidance, with each beautiful design as unique as the skin that it is tattoed on.
Although the placement of the Viking compass tattoo is by no means limited to location or placement, the said placement thereof could give a great indication as to what the interpretation is behind it.
We can break down most Viking runes into three main categories namely, action, protection, and utility.
Runes would be those indicating a form of inner drive, self-motivation, or meeting an ambitious goal; these types of runes could be found on, but not limited to places like the limbs or legs while placing it on your hand, could be symbolic of steering your life in the right direction, using the tattoo as a guide for your path.
In terms of the Viking Compass tattoo placement on the body, its intention could be interpreted depending on where it’s been placed.
If you have to go through something difficult, either physically or mentally, getting a Vegvisir tattoo will be a token of hope and divine protection.
Viking compass tattoos are very versatile, showcasing some of the most particular and unique Norse tattoo designs.
They may often be paired with animals such as wolves, ravens, or horses, paying homage to Viking Gods and Goddesses, or other elements associated with their culture.
While black and grey may seem to be a common choice for this tattoo design, many have incorporated bold colorful tattoo motifs, depending on the intention of the tattoo.
Considering its size and versatility, the Viking compass tattoo is an excellent choice for someone willing to have a bold and daring tattoo.
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 folklore 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 its own properties and stories.
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 swaying from the tree of life and later had runic symbols carved into it.
This spear was carved by dwarves, the finest craftsmen in Norse folklore.
A Gungnir tattoo symbolizes protection, magic, and altruism.
The Triquetra is a symbol that exists in Nordic and Celtic culture.
It represents the maiden, mother, and 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 Celts 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, earth, water, and sky.
Viking Axe Tattoos
For the Viking lifestyle, an ax is essential.
It was more commonly used in farming.
Because the ax is a must 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.
But a shaman (male or female) may have worn them in ritual.
This would have been both to honor the animistic beliefs in Norse folklore and to represent abundance.
Horned gods in paganism often represent abundance, and life itself.
In fact, Satan’s image as a horned creature was created with the 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 love for Viking culture because the images have become so intertwined.
As health-conscious people, sleep 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 folklore, it is also used as a magical instrument.
To put this symbol in the home of an opponent 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, or paying back
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 represents Odin, an excellent choice for someone who wants a more minimalist Odin tattoo.
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 bears to assist them in action or hunts.
They would train and hunt in a trance-like state, full of primal fury.
A Berserker tattoo may represent your admiration for these people or a desire to get in touch with your primal instincts.
The Ulfhednar were members of the wolf cult.
They would perform rituals to get in touch with the wolf’s essence and were so wild they may have inspired werewolf folklore.
It is said that these people would have dyed their skin black to better identify with the wolf image.
That may be a different approach, but an Ulfhednar tattoo may do the trick for you.
Viking Boar Tattoo
The Svinfylking, or Viking boar, 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 Freyr and Freyja.
They had their own unique martial formation that resembled a boar’s head.
If you’re looking for a unique way to pay homage to the Vikings, a Viking boar 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 resist 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 cool 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 culture 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 Ragnarok begins.
A Jörmungandr tattoo could represent fate or just a love of 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 resist 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 passes away on the frontline 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 creature known to impress sailors.
This giant octopus-like creature is an agent of confusion.
If you think an octopus tattoo is a cliché, why not go wild with a Kraken tattoo?
This sea creature represents bangarang, 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 the pit 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 tattoo may be for you.
Frost Giant Tattoos
The Frost Giants in Norse folklore 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 ice at the beginning of time.
They are opponents, often traveling to one another’s worlds to pounce on.
That said, there are also several romances between the Aesir and the Jotnar. In short, it’s complicated.
Are you a nonconformist? 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 that person.
The object would then be placed in a large body of water to find and end that person.
A Tupilaq tattoo may represent the desire for vengeance or admiration for ancient magical practices.
Most ancient belief systems are animistic, meaning they see a symbolic 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.
In Norse mythology, Fenrir is a great giant wolf who cannot be held by any rope.
Fenrir is a great wolf who will one day finish Odin, and his sons will devour the sun.
It’s not hard to see why the dwarves built a magical rope to restrain him.
If you’ve been through difficulties, you may connect with the symbolism of the Norse wolf.
A Fenrir tattoo vs. Odin may reflect how you feel about your own temporality.
A Viking wolf tattoo could be a symbol of angst, rallying against the powers that be.
Fenrir tattoos may also represent unrecognized potential.
Skoll & Hati Tattoos
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 signal 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 things up.
His official job title would be a 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 sour streak.
Without being able to cause too much flap on his own, he gossips between these two, making them lose their temper.
We’ve all had a friend like that, haven’t we?
A Ratatoskr tattoo may represent someone who likes to stir things up or someone who doesn’t mind rattling a few cages to get what they want.
Norse Owl Tattoos
In Norse folklore, 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 symbolically significant because of their night vision.
They can be a human’s guide through the dark, whether that’s physical or symbolically 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.
An owl tattoo 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 get the bird, and Loki decided to wait until the last moment before flying away.
This backfired when Loki got stuck to the wall and was held in Geirroð’s castle.
This story is a reminder against acting too cocky or stirring things up for its own sake.
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 folklore.
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.
In many cultures, ravens are considered to be the messengers of the passed away, so this may also make a nice memorial tattoo.
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 improvement.
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 traditional Viking tattoo styles:
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 centuries.
Viking Borre tattoos have common themes with popular Celtic 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
Let’s go through some possible tattoo styles for your Norse tattoo to live in.
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 styles we’ve come across.
Realistic Viking 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 Viking tattoo looks just like that image.
Realistic tattoos are typically done in black and grey which has an outstanding vintage portrait effect.
But there are realistic tattoo artists who work in color, so there are options within the style.
These photo-realistic portraits pay homage to today’s Western 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 Viking tattoos are just so cool to look at.
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 the legendary subject matter.
It’s no wonder this has become a go-to tattoo style for stylized portraits.
A Neo-traditional tattoo style utilizes bold lines and saturated color fills with an American traditional tattoo, but with more freedom of variation.
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.
Black-work Viking 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 tattoo 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 Viking tattoos are going to be with you for the long haul.
It’s an outstanding choice to make, and well suited to Norse tattoo motifs.
Sketchy Viking Tattoos
Sketchy-style tattoos are a modern and innovative style that gives a piece that rough around the edges look.
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 the disorder, sketch tattoos are perfect in their unpolished-ness.
Sketchy Viking tattoos are usually done in black and grey and are a perfect choice for someone who wants something more stylized.
Illustrative Viking Tattoos
“Illustrative” is a versatile term in the world of tattoo art.
As you can see from our gallery of illustrative Viking tattoos, this tattoo style can go in many directions.
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.
An illustrative tattoo style is one that feels drawn on rather than realistic.
It’s a perfect choice for someone who wants a tattoo with high visual aesthetics that feels more painterly.
Illustrative Viking tattoos are a good choice for someone who wants to pay homage to the Marvel comics of Thor and other Norse figures.
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 get creative, and find the tattoo artist of your dreams for your illustrative Viking tattoo.
Etching Viking 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 decors.
It is only fitting then, to consider incorporating some woodworking themes into your Viking tattoo.
In an etching tattoo, lines and shading create the illusion of a piece that’s been etched or carved into the skin.
Etching Viking tattoos are authentic and original.
If you’re someone who works with wood or just likes to incorporate natural elements into your art, this tattoo style will flatter you perfectly.
Dot-work Viking 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.
In pointillism tattoos, 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 tattoo image.
The dots give this tattoo style a kind of ethereal vibe, something that works well for mythological characters.
Dot-work Viking 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 tattoo style, for example, could give you an interesting splash of color with that same artistic feeling.
Mixing dot-work tattoo style with something like black-work would give your Norse tattoo a stunning sense of contrast and dichotomy.
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 folklore 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.
Small tattoos 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 a tattoo artist 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.
So you’ve decided on an epic image for your Viking tattoo.
Each design is open to interpretation, and you can play around with various protective runes or symbols, depending on what the tattoo is intended to mean to you.
Are you just a big fan of munching on some popcorn during the latest Thor movie?
Is it because you love the adventurous spirit of Norse mythology and want to express some of that for yourself?
In a world where we hunt for meat in fluorescent-lit supermarkets and start our most epic endeavors from our couches, it’s easy to see why people have fallen in love with the Viking fantasy.
With a few exceptions, most Viking tattoos are going to be rather large.
To depict an epic Viking, you need to give him a little wiggle room.
If you have ties to Norse mythology and want to commemorate that with a tattoo or if you want something that feels illustrated and epic with a big visual effect, consider a Viking tattoo.
Viking Tattoo FAQ
Although the Vikings were concerned with appearance and body modification, there aren’t written records of whether the Vikings had tattoos or not.
Short answer: No.
There is no evidence of that.
For today’s Viking enthusiast, there are many tattoo designs to choose from. Here are the most common tattoo ideas:
1. Vegvisir Tattoos
2. The Helm Of Awe Tattoos
3. Valknut Tattoos
4. Yggdrasil Tattoos
5. Triquetra Tattoos
6. Jörmungandr Tattoos
7. Valkyrie Tattoos
8. Fenrir Tattoos
9. Odin Tattoos
10. Rune Tattoos
The traditional tattoo styles we most commonly associate with the Vikings are from the age’s popular art styles.
Here are the main ones:
1. Borre Tattoo Style
2. Mammen Style
3. Oseberg Style
4. Ringerike Style
5. Urnes Style