Björk’s Symbolic Tattoo: Vegvísir, A Protection Symbol

Björk TattooNorse symbol VegvísirBjörk, an Icelandic singer and actress, has a cute symbolic tattoo on her left upper arm. It is a Norse protection symbol called Vegvísir, which has a deep meaning. The Icelandic word literally means ‘guidepost’ or ‘direction sign’. In modern popular culture the Vegvísir is often called Runic Compass or See the Way. It is often associated with the Viking Age, which is not correct: this symbol is from the 17th century Icelandic grimoire called Galdrabók (‘magic book’). The origin of this type of witchcraft is difficult to ascertain: to some extent it derives from medieval mysticism and renaissance occultism, but also has a few connections with the ancient Germanic runic tradition. Vegvísir was drawn on one’s forehead with blood to prevent a person from getting lost. In 2008 movie Max Payne the tattoo artist who explains his theory about Viking wing tattoos, has a Vegvísir tattoo on his left shoulder.


Another Galdrabók symbol, even more popular in symbolic tattoos, is Ægishjálmur (‘helm of awe’). It is believed that this magic sign gives its wearer the ability to strike an enemy with fear and grants great magical powers. In 1667 Þórarinn Halldórsson was burnt in Iceland because he admitted that he carved Ægishjálmur on oak and practiced healing with the aid of magical signs.

hulinhjalmurAnother Icelandic magical sign deserves special attention, since it is reported to give the power to become invisible. Hulinhjálmur (‘helm of disguise’) has to be drawn on a piece of lignite (brown coal) and then pressed against one’s forehead. The most complicated part is the preparation of the ink. One has to collect three drops of blood from the index finger of one’s left hand, three from the ring-finger of one’s right hand, two from the right nipple and one from the left nipple. Then the blood must be mixed with six drops of blood from the heart of a living raven and melted with raven’s brains and pieces of human stomach. This kind of magic was used as the best protection against enemies.
Learn more about Norse heathen symbols.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }


I like this tattoo and I love Bjork! It’s a lot less goofy than some tattoos I’ve seen.



Dammit! I took 6 drops of blood from my nipples, but all of them from the left! Stupid Vikings!



I have the symbol for mjolnir or Thor’s hammer. One of the above will be my next.



A question for Esbjorn: Would you be able to tell me how to pronounce “Vegvisir” in English? I was assuming it would be like: “weg-wi-seer”, but I can’t find anything on the internet about the pronunciation! Thanks!



Weh-gh-vee-sih-rh… I’m pretty sure that sums it up. The English language has fewer vowels than Icelandic, so even with different pronounciations put aside, writing a speech guide can become quite sketchy :)

This is about as close as it gets though.


Lorne Jurgensen

Sarah says:

A question for Esbjorn: Would you be able to tell me how to pronounce “Vegvisir” in English? I was assuming it would be like: “weg-wi-seer”, but I can’t find anything on the internet about the pronunciation! Thanks!

January 23rd, 2010 at 8:58 am

That is the pronunciation

I have one 4″ diameter on my forearm, my wife and 3 sons written radially around it.



I have been a huge fan and supporter of Bjork for many years. So much so, that I had the identical tattoo that she has, tattood on my left arm about seven years ago. Bjork stated that
it was a ‘Viking compass’, but I am pleased to read that it also has a much deeper meaning! I’m thinking of having one or two other Norse tatoos, especially the ‘helm of disguise’ which is really beautiful in design. I certainly won’t be following the blood and raven ritual though!

I studied quite a bit of the Icelandic language a while back, so to Sarah, the correct way to pronounce ‘Vegvisir’ is: Ve (as in ‘very’), g as in the g in ‘get’, vi as in the vi in ‘virulent’ and sir as in the word ‘sir’ when addressing a gentleman. The important thing part is to roll the ‘r’ in sir – making a trilling sound with your tongue. All ‘r’s in Icelandic are pronounced this way. Most of the sounds in the Icelandic language are strong, harsh, almost. They also have a lot of the ‘th’ sound, which is not difficult of course if you are an English speaker. Most people mispronounce the name Bjork, too. It is actually pronounced ‘Bjeerrrk’ with the ‘o’ sounding like ‘eee’ and the roll of the ‘r’. The j is soft though, like the y in ‘yes’.

Thank you for a fantastic site!



You were right about everything in the pronunciation except the “sir” part rhymes with “ear”, not “sir”.


Björn - Iceland

It is impossible to explain to someone how to say things in Icelandic…
He is correct on the “ve” part as in “very” but the G is more soft…The sound comes from the bottom of your throat… it is hard for non-icelanders to get it but it takes practise.
The last V is just a v but the I is like “ee” or you could say the V and the I togather like you say the letter V when you were going through the alphabet in school when you were a kid…
The S is just a “s” and the I is said like the I in “virulent”.
The R is just “r”…

BTW. The way you say Björk could not be further from the way you should say it…
Ok… B is just “b”. The J is close to the way Edward sayd but it is better to think of the way your mouth is when saying the Y in “you”. then the Ö part…. it is NOT like EEE!!!!!! It is more like the U in “Must”. Then The R kind of rolls into the K.
When saying the R, don’t put the tip of your tongue pointing upwards… make it point forward… If you say it with the tip pointing upwards you sound retarded to Icelanders :) hehe

Thank you come again…



Actually my screen name is my nickname, dont ask long story. But I’ve been srudying the Elder Futhark (Viking Runes) and other aspects of Nordic lore for a little over a year and am deeply intrested in the lore. I’m actually thinking about getting the runes tattooed around a certain symbol i found. But now I’m also thinking about getting the Valkyire Wings tattooed on my back lol.



Viking runes would be younger futhark, not elder :(



Freki; Carefull about taking runic tattooes, they have a meaning and even though you might not believe in them regarding the spiritual sence, you should respect those who do believe in them, enough to well.. Not dishonor the runes ;)


Bone Breaker

I had my aegishjalmur tattoo done a year ago. My artist could not penetrate my skin until he used the finest needle. What should of taken 45 minutes took nearly 4 hours! No blood, no pain, no swelling. Freaked out everyone in the tattoo shop, including myself! I have yet to lose a conflict, contest, or business deal since. Still a bit freaked too.



I have the Vegvisir on my left breast in hopes to steer my heart and body in the proper direction…i also have a Good luck rune on my back so it is always behind me when i need it…and i have a battle rune that is meant to put fear into your enemy…i was considering a tattoo of the nine worlds on my back but I have yet to find any traditional designs for it…any help would be much appreciated. Also the Hulinhjálmur caught my eye witht the design, are there any superstisions about getting it? cause i know some runes carry spiritual power and have witnessed their powers.


Michael Bylander

The (ægishjálmr) or (Helm of Awe) is a magical symbol of protection used by early Vikings. Worn between the eyes, it may have been intended to confer invincibility in the wearer or instill fear in one’s enemies. Today, it is used as a charm of protection by Asatru believers.


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