Valknut

Also known as: Hrungnir’s heart, heart of the slain, Heart of Vala, borromean triangles

The emblem at left found on old Norse stone carvings and funerary stelés, is sometimes called “Hrungnir’s heart,” after the legendary giant of the Eddas. It is best known as the Valknut, or “knot of the slain,” and it has been found on stone carvings as a funerary motif, where it probably signified the afterlife. The emblem is often found in art depicting the God Odin, where it may represent the gods power over death. Some versions of the valknut can be drawn unicursally (in one stroke), making it a popular talisman of protection against spirits.

The Valknut’s three interlocking shapes are suggestive of related Celtic symbols of motherhood and rebirth- it may have been a goddess symbol at some point in history. The nine points suggest rebirth, pregnancy, and cycles of reincarnation. The number nine also suggestive of the Nine Worlds (and the nine fates) of Norse mythology. Their interwoven shape suggests the belief of the inter-relatedness of the three realms of earth, hel, and the heavens, and the nine domains they encompass.

The symbol’s nine points have an obvious correlation with childbirth; the placement of the symbol on funeral monuments mark it as a sign of rebirth of reincarnation. The Valknut is also an important symbol to many followers of the Asatru religion, who often wear it as a symbol of the faith. A variation called an “open” valknut, due to the looser, non-unicursal design:

Another, less common version of the Valknut, called a triceps, resembles a cut-away triangle, or a triangle formed of three diamonds (three ‘othala’ runes interwoven):

Triceps

The triceps was used into the middle ages as a magical sign of protection.  The othala rune signifies the home and one’s ancestors.

valknut3 vikingsymbolshorntriskele

More valknuts

Related Symbols:
Nine worldsJormunganderTriqueta
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Valknut, valknute, valknop | veruce blog
August 2, 2012 at 3:27 pm

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris August 13, 2016 at 2:27 am

Ok so I am American born and raised, but living in Ireland to get back to my mostly-Celtic roots. I have very little- if any- Nordic heritage, but am very seriously considering converting to Paganism. My first question is, as far as the terms “Pagan” and “Heathen” go, what is the relation of one to the other? Like are they interchangeable, or would I be a “Heathen” that practices “Paganism” or vice versa? Second, is there a way to believe in both science and the Old Gods, or is it one or the other? And finally, if I do convert, I want to be marked with the Valknut to show the Old Gods I will fight for them, but what is the best way to do so without disrespecting them (I’m 99% sure I won’t get the honor of dying in battle, but I’ll still want to earn my place in Valhalla)?

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Jennifer September 1, 2016 at 3:59 am

The answer to the first is really a matter of preference, as they are similar in meaning. “Heathen” is generally preferred by Norse neopagans. The second, unfortunately, I can’t answer. Perhaps battle might have a braoder meaning, now?

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Anonymous September 11, 2016 at 4:07 am

Pagan is really just a moniker given to any non abrahamic religion by early Christianity. Heathen (also spelled hedon) is similar in meaning, mostly pointing to habits of the pagans. The Norse religion has a name. I suggest u start there.

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Anonymous September 22, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Research Asatru religion. That’ll be the answer to your questions. Skall

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Jason Roberts October 8, 2016 at 10:13 am

Pagan and heathen both mean devil worshippers. Odin and Thor have horns on their heads. Just sayin’. The Norse gods lose the battle of Armageddon. Which should be any day now. https://penzu.com/p/5a59bb84

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Archegos November 26, 2016 at 3:05 am

First question – Pagan gets its roots from the Latin Paganus/is which meant country dweller. Since everyone in the Roman Military, and at times the entire empire, had to be worshipers of Jupiter and their Gods regardless of where they were…..however, the country folk out in remote areas, were usually slow to convert or just hadn’t been reached yet. As the Legions moved through the countryside, whenever they came upon these unconverted lesser people, they called them Paganu or Pagan, but used it in a derogatory way like stupid redneck is used today.
The Romans made it up to Brittania, took most of the Balkans, but Scandinavia wasn’t reached nor conquered, so the Latin influence and culture change didn’t happen. Since no Armies marched by, the slang term didn’t really reach the Vikings or any Scandinavian cultures…..sort of. Rome did take what is now Germany….somewhere in there a dude called someone Heath, which meant “inhabiting open land/country” basically BFE. And it caught on, and Heathen became the exact slang that Pagan was being used for, meaning dumb ass country bumpkin. Germany had extensive contact with the Vikings and all North cultures – so Heathen made it’s way up into the Scandinavian vernacular.

The Celtic resurgence really took a leap during Victorian England times, as spirituality, religion, ghosts, Goddesses, etc were popular. From that thrill seeking counter-culture came Wicca as Gerald Gardner published it – but he was not the first, Golden Dawn, Masonic ritual, Crowley – it was lit and just exploded after being a Witch was no longer outlawed in England. The cult mystery of it intrigued intellectuals, which is why I think we are more contemplative than others.

So, in that setting, Reconstructionism began. People were scrambling to either be the first to expose or make public a branch of non-mainstream religions and basically denominations so they could be the founders of….etc. Norse Reconstruction came a bit later in the game. So, with the probably too long explanation, I’ll tie them all together for you.

Since there were so many different non-Christian/Muslim/Jew/Hindi there was a call to group them all together – not as one faith or even ecumenical agreements, just for the sake of being “not them.” Hence throughout Europe the word which was already in use – Pagan, became the misnomer of Witches and Dianeics, Gardnerians, Alexandrians…..and being the rebels they were, they embraced it.
So Pagan was used throughout Europe and the US as an all encompassing description of the movement and diverse followers and worshipers.

And note I said Europe. On maps the have Scandinavia as Europe, but we all know better. And since Norse religious reconstruction started late, they didn’t fit into nor did they want to fit into the “Pagan” Celtic and growing faiths. And they stuck with the name generations of ancestors had used….Heathen. And since it was already know, Heathen became the term that most (not all) liked to be labeled if they were at all. You might call a Celtic Witch with a wand a redneck, but Vikings have axes, you call them what they tell you to call them.

So point in fact, Pagan and Heathen mean the exact same thing, on the same label branch etymologically speaking. You could call everyone not of Abrahamic faiths a Heathen and be correct, same with Pagan. Pagan is the more widely used title by far, so Norse Wicca, Asatru, Reconstructionists, and Scandanavians basically claimed Heathen for their umbrella of faiths and practices.

There are a lot of practitioners whom use the title Pagan as the highest coverage of the words, and Wicca, Druids, Asatru or Heathens fit under, so it really is up to you how you interpret the modern meaning. Outside of our counter-faiths both labels are used in a very derogatory way, meaning as mentioned above devil worshipers, evil doers, bad bad bad. So a Christian (majority not all) calling you a Pagan or a Heathen is a direct insult, not an equal of a good faith at all.

I’m retired Navy that served with the USMC as a bodyguard for chaplains (preachers and Priests) in combat. I spearheaded the Corps by starting the first Pagan (Wicca, Druid, whatever come all) meetings, worship services, and classes on a Marine Corps or Navy base. It caused all Hell to break loose when it had to get the exact same publicity as all the other services, so out on the front sign it went. But it got really bad on 9/11. So, the deputy Chaplain took me aside and asked me if there was anything else we could call our…..his loss of words….”group” that wouldn’t be so offensive. I said “sure, as long as you are willing to be called dicks, since you are all being the offensive ones.” He was a Commander, it was a huge risk, so I made lite of it and said “call us Heathens instead.” Rolled eyes and a laugh that meant my point was made got me out of there with a sigh of victory.

I added this little story to make clear that to most of the world, almost ALL of it, Pagan, Wiccan, Druid, Asatru, Heathen, etc. believe we are evil devilworshippers, Satans Army and it is their Bible toting duty to either convert us or destroy us. So while in the confines of friends we use the term loosely, but take care when you lift these titles onto your mantle – it is more than a name, it is a battle, it is a faith, it is magick, it is burnings alive, it is smiles and mead, Ale and fights and fun.

The Old Gods don’t ask us to bow to them, we walk together and live our lives as best as we can, and we put very high standards to reach. It’s not something to be done lightly.

As for Valhalla – nosesquid brings up a pretty valid point, that is something that might be open to a modern interpretation….it’s something I am going to think about. But I am a Blooded Warrior, and I will reach the Gates of Valhalla if I have to fight death and lose in the fighting……

I know these posts are 7 years old, I would like to know what path you took and how it has all worked out for you. If you ever have questions – and I mean to say that to YOU, reading this now whenever that is, feel free to contact me through the Norse Wicca Facebook page or whatever median is popular in the future, or go to http://www.norsewicca.com.

Stand tall with integrity and no man can look down upon you.

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Lee June 22, 2016 at 10:28 pm

I don’t think it matters who can and can not have this as a tattoo, as long as the tattoo had meaning behind it of a warrior who battled some sort of problem, addiction, loss of a loved one and or a crisis in their life. We are all Warriors in life and we all come from ancestries who fought in great battles.

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Einar Hagen May 5, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Hi, I wanted to get this as a tattoo in commemoration of my grandfather who battled and lost to a heart disease, I am also from Norway and living away, so I thought it could also commemorate my Nordic heritage. Would this be a suitable situation to get this symbol as a tattoo?

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Rick May 3, 2016 at 11:49 am

May grandfather was norwegian. And after his death I became immersed in Norske tradition and such to see if some of the thing he did with me had and significant savings and I’ll tell you I learned quite a bit. I’m proud of the heritage my grandpa bestowed upon me. And I did see this once growing up and he told me it was a symbol that when the valkyries came down from Valhalla that they knew which warrior that died in battle would be taken to Valhalla by that marking on the shield.

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JohnMC April 11, 2016 at 10:08 am

does the inverted Valknut have a different meaning than the right side up one?

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Claus Hansen January 2, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Has this symbol been used by the nazis or other radical groups in modern time?

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Jennifer January 9, 2016 at 9:43 am

It’s possible- Norse symbols are commonly used by WS groups. That said, many uses by modern pagans are benign and non-racist, so it’s all about context.

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Chaz April 1, 2016 at 2:41 am

I met a nazi today with this tattooed on his hand

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Adriano May 21, 2015 at 1:09 pm

I started wearing the valknut after the death of my grandfather (2 months ago). It is the only symbol I wear. The more I learn of this symbol, of the association with Odin, of the declaration of desire to earn my place in Valhalla… The more I realise I have chosen wisely.

Skal.

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Pamela Delph March 8, 2015 at 5:53 pm

The Valknut I’d used frequently in the Delta Delta Delta sorority. I wonder what they believe it means?

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Ryan October 2, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I would be willing to bet they think it’s three letter deltas woven together, as in to say that the words those letters represent (usually core values) are nessasarily interconnected to achive their ends: to be a women of good charactor.
I don’t think it has anything to do with the symbol’s origin.

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C funk March 20, 2014 at 4:11 am

The Valknut is also known as the Death Knot by Asatru practitioners. As a tattoo artists tend to research pagan tattooing and found some not so fun tidbits on this particular design. The Vikings believed that only those that died violently in battle would be ascended in Valhalla to feast with the Gods until Ragnarok approached. In tattooing the wearer typical prays to Odin and the mark itself was essentially a talisman that would help them die violently and go to Valhalla. Even with runic tattooing I highly advise that one spends a good deal of time researching their runes… They hold a great deal of power and ancient as they are, they should be treated with respect.

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Alvin July 6, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I am a Heathen and I find through most of my sudies that the Valknut is a symbol of the nine worlds inter conected and the power they hold through this connection.

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Gwydmiir Scottson August 11, 2014 at 8:35 am

As one of the Asatruar, I contend with C funk’s comment of “…only those that died violently in battle would be ascended in Valhalla to feast with the Gods until Ragnarok approached.”
This is not entirely true. There is a ceremony where one can be “marked for Odin” in which the individual has the Valknut ritually tattooed or carved onto the body.
The Valknut tattoo/scarification then signifies to the All-Father that they acknowledge Valhalla and wish to ascend should their death not be in battle.
The nobility and kings who couldn’t be allowed to die before their time were often marked for Odin so that on Vigrid, they could lead their men under Odin once more in Ragnarok.
Traditionally the mark is to be made by carving it into the skin with a spear, a symbol of Odin, but of course not everyone has a spear on hand, so some Asatruar tattoo it instead.
I plan on being marked for Odin very soon, the traditional way. You never know when the Norns have ordained your end to be, and I certainly don’t want to spend my post-mortem existence in Hel’s keeping when there’s feasting and mirth up in The Hall of the Chosen to be had.

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Kozmo September 1, 2014 at 9:58 am

Was planning to get a tat using an inverted valknut but in Pangender colors (roughly cyan, yellow & magenta), being an open non-binary Trans, I already have a high risk of untimely death.

Thanks for you article, and possible warning

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Ebba March 3, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Exactly, by wearing a Valknut you are promising the Allfather you will fight for him. Only a soldier or someone who is going to actually fight till death in an honorable battle should wear a Valknut, otherwise it’s highly disrespecful to the Gods imo.

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Jaylyn October 21, 2013 at 7:43 am

@Evan
I’m not trying to concur, or go against your words, but what was Christianity before it adopted its beliefs of Heaven and Hell? I’ve also read/heard of Christianity having Pagan(most likely Greek) rituals and traditions implemented into its practices. For example, Sunday: most ancient civilizations worshipped the sun, this was the day of the sun, and most Christians worship on this day.(Loosely explained)
But, I was just wanting to know what Christianity was before these beliefs, and where some of the places were that it attained it beliefs and practices.
(*I’m only 15, so I’m still learning this stuff.)

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Radboud November 9, 2013 at 7:43 pm

@jaylyn
Christians always have had some notion of heaven and hell. As far as I know their view of heaven is more or less copied from Judaism, with some adaptations along the years. The christian hell is primarily based on the greek concept of Hades. In the beginning of christianity hell was actually called hades. With the christianisation of Europe they decided to rename it to Hell, based on the norse/germanic Hel, to make the transition to christianity easier

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Odalric August 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Read up on the Babylonian captivity of the Jews around 540 BCE and the shift from a dull, Hades-like concept of the afterlife to a distinct Heaven/He’ll concept. The lineage of the Christian concept is most likely Zoroastrianism > Judaism > Christianity. From there, look at the historical importance (ie how important the clergy thought it was through artifacts, art and writings) of this notion over time, paying close attention to the time of the Black Death. Makes for some interesting reading!

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Josh November 23, 2013 at 8:38 am

Thursday is actually suppose to be Thorsday yay Thor!

Story of Adam and Eve was taken from the Norse Ragnarok in which only two people survive. The Christians made this to establish a connection with them to get the Pagans to convert over. That’s most of Christianity just stuff they made up to get more members. I would really just read up on other cultures and look for connections.

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Rachel Newman August 31, 2014 at 5:19 pm

These words you say, I don’t think they mean what you think they mean. Adam and Eve are a Judaical myth, and were loooong before the Christians came along. I seriously doubt that the Jews magically came in contact with the Norsemen in the middle east and stole their mythology.

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Renee Reinhardt September 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I disagree with you. If you actually took time to look up the maritime trade routes of the Jewish regions along Egypt, they include areas that extend as far as Italy. The Norse and Vikings had conquests long before as far as Italy. Get the connection? It was brought to the region years BEFORE and was present and available to the Jews.

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Renee Reinhardt September 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Oh… and since the Jews had been in that region for a very long time, who’s to say it wasn’t the other way around?

shaun December 4, 2015 at 6:28 am

Rachel is correct. I’m a Heathen myself and historical reader in Scandinavian history. Vikings never made any “conquests” in southern Europe (Italy) until around 860 AD. Christianity (which is a spawn of Judaism due to radical Jew Jesus) was already well established in Italy for centuries by the time Vikings came. Jews, just like any maritime culture had trades routes as far as Italy in the BCE era however the trade relations of the “Vikings” didn’t come till hundreds of years later. And if even the earliest of trades routes were made in far away Italy in the BCE era they would have come into contact with ancient Samnites, Etruscans, etc first. Celts were in the far north of Italy and beyond the Alps. Germanic tribes which believed in the Asatru religions were even further north of that, beyond the Rhine river at the time.

Ash January 31, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Sun day
Moon day
Tyr’s day
Wotan’s day
Thor’s day
Freyj’s day
Sætere’s (loki’s) day

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Marie September 30, 2013 at 2:51 am

The triceps is also the logo for the Mitsubishi car company.

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jag216 December 22, 2014 at 4:13 am

Mitsubishi literally means “three diamonds”

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ZickaN13 March 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Wrong.
Mitsubishi is translated as three diamonds.
Why, i have not been able to find out.
But Mitsubishi really means three water caltrop (water chestnut)
look for yourself.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi#History

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Vic October 5, 2012 at 4:30 am

As it seems, we do not fully understand the meaning of Valknut as it was understood during the Viking Age. Connections to Odin and death are suggested bacause of the other images associated with it on the runestones. Do various forms of it modify the meaning? Are there any connections to magic rituals? It remains a mystery.

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Norse September 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Valknut is an ancient Viking symbol. However, its exact connection with Odinism and warrior rituals remains unclear. Interpretation of the runestone images that feature Valknut are hard to interpret. It is a pity Valknut is sometimes used by hate groups.

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Hans Cappelen June 21, 2012 at 4:53 am

In Norway we use the name “Valknute” on the cross of St John.

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Evan May 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Jorgensen, I give respect to your knowledge. As with everything else in the religion/cult/sect/etc, Christianity had to get their image of hell and heaven from somewhere. They may have gotten how it was from the Greeks and Romans, but it seems the placement of heaven in the sky and hell underneath was gotten from looking at our great Yggdrasil. I wear the Valknut proudly on a rope around my neck and I am ready to defend my faith and my family in the name of the Allfather.

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Jørgensen March 25, 2012 at 9:23 am

May i ask what you mean when you say “earth, hel and the heavens”? There is no realm called the heavens, or earth for that matter. As i see it, i seems like you’re suggesting that there is a hell and a heaven, like in christianity?
Midgaard, hel and valhal, part of the nine realms on the branches of yggdrasil, is what you mean i think. Hel does not work the same way as hell, but is simply the realm of the dead, and is where you end up, if not choosen by the valkyries in combat to be slain and taken to valhal, waiting to fight in ragnarok. Maybe you know all this, but just wrote it anyway

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Jennifer April 20, 2012 at 10:06 am

Of course there were. One you are standing on, the other is above your head.

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Eric June 9, 2011 at 4:03 am

Hi I live in Minnesota and I am of Nordic decent and have the mark of the slain on me could anyone tell me how to find others that also follow. Anyone please feel free to email me at any time. My name is Eric ericfad@hotmail.com

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admin November 13, 2009 at 9:04 am

Actually, an illustration has gone missing in the move. the one on top left is not unicursal. I will see if I can’t locate the missing image.

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nosesquid November 8, 2009 at 7:08 am

It can’t be strictly unicursal, there’s too many spots with three vertices. You can draw it in one continuous motion without changing direction when you lift the pen, though, which just goes to show that Euler wasn’t a true Viking.

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