Valknut: A Norse Viking Symbol

The word valknut is a neologism: it is formed in modern times through combination of ON valr, ‘the dead’ or ‘the slain’ and knut, ‘knot’. Valknut is a Viking symbol of three interconnected triangles. The triangles may be joined in two ways: either as Borromean:


or unicursal:


Note that other types of valknuts, such as closed three-link chain, never occur in the original Viking ornaments. One should keep that in mind when using the valknut in Viking tattoos or runic tattoos, since only the above two designs are genuine Viking valknuts. Consider the Borromean triangles type, which occurs on the Stora Hammar rune stone.

Stora Hammar runestone

Here above the valknut we see a raven, Odin’s symbol. Below the valknut is probably a burial mound. A dead warrior is put there by someone with a spear and accompanied by another raven. The spear is probably Gungnir, Odin’s weapon. The other sign of Odin’s presence is a warrior hanged on a tree to the left of the mound. All the symbols around the valknut, which is in the central position here, point to death and to Odin as a god of slain warriors.
The unicursal type of valknut (which can be drawn with one stroke) appears on Tängelgarda stone:

Other instances of the valknut in Viking ornaments are Lärbro stone, River Nene ring and a bedpost found on the Oseberg ship.
However, knot of the slain is not the only possible interpretation of the valknut. It is also called Hrungnir’s heart. This name is based on a description found in the Prose Edda:

“Hrungnir had a heart that was famous. It was made of hard stone with three sharp-pointed corners just like the carved symbol Hrungnir’s Heart (hrungnishjarta).”

The original meaning and function of the valknut is not wholly clear. The number three is a very common magic symbol in many cultures. However, in Scandinavian context three multiplied by three might designate the nine worlds, which are united by the Yggdrasil tree. In modern times Valknut, like Triquetra and Horn Triskelion, is often interpreted as a symbol pointing to heathen convictions.

70 comments… add one
  • Suriel rocha

    El valknut es un símbolo que ha estado en mi familia por mucho tiempo y ahora lo llevó yo hace unos años lo llevó en el brazo ,no sabía su historia hasta este blog s maravilloso darme cuenta de por que esta en mi familia quizá los que lo llevmvamos en el cuerpo es por que así debe ser . gracias

  • Aesc

    The valknut is associated with violent death and should be used very carefully,it is not a trivial symbol that one should use based on aesthetic qualities alone.
    Be careful.

  • Lucas

    As for Tattoos> Celts settled on the northern shores of continental europe, Northern France, Belgium, Netherlands… and the tip of Denmark where the Picts were settled aside the south and northern tips of great britain believed in tattooing their bodies with a particular blue pigment presumably emulating a dead body or a corpse come from death, likely to inflict fear and terror in rivals. Nobody can confirm exactly if there was NO tattoing at all in the viking era but they were certainly aware to say the least of it, being the travellers they were and having dealt with almost all the trading cultures on the planet of the time. I have heard that viking warriors would either paint but also likely tatto BIG eyes on their biceps as to distract oponents while the lifting of an axe in battle, but this could also be accounted for the Berseerkers… so there lays the benefit of the doubt…
    On the matter of Hrungnir’s valknut, Hrungnir rises as a challenger to Odin to race his stallion XXXX *(Gullthroppr…?) versus Sleipnir (Loki’s gift to Odin) leaving Odin to win the race. Hrungnir is invited to drink meadd at the Valhall and gets violently innebriated when Thor is called upon and kills Hrungnir. The Valknut is the shape of the heart of Hrungnir which could also be interpreted as the cut made on the chest so as to retrieve the Heart… as would someone do in an autopsy nowadays.

  • Noah Christensen

    Is there a difference in meaning or significance between the two variations of the valknut ?

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