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.

146 comments… add one
  • Sebastian

    How is odins vikings related with the supreme vikings confraternity and i want too know what is written on the gate of valhalla

  • Kevin Gilbert

    How do I dedictate myself to the Alfather, and how do I go about becoming a true pagan. I feel it calling to me.. I have had dreams of ravens, dreams I was a raven, calling out to something. I do have a valknut tattoo.. right over my heart, and I have no fear of death. It has all been so strange to me until I realized that this Christian god I thought I was following was not one I wanted to follow nor ever truly believed in.. I want to devote myself to the Alfather. I believe Odin is my father. How do I do this, who do I talk to? What kind of sacrafice needs to be made?

  • Torrey

    I am thinking of getting a valknut tattoo to go or my ancestors. My family desendants of anglosaxons . To me valknut can be used to even honor the fallen soldiers

    • Viking Rune

      Thank you for sharing this, Torrey.

  • Branden

    I’ve heard of the Valknut being a symbol of the Germanic tribes, although never seeing it in any scripture or physical form. Is the Valknut related to the Germanic tribes in any way? I imagine that because of West Germanic paganism, it could be, but I’ve never seen it historically associated with Germanic tribes and I know that West Germanic paganism is a little different than the paganism of my Norwegian ancestors.

    • Viking Rune

      Scandinavians are North Germanic so in this sense Valknut is a Germanic symbol.

  • Peter

    Hello I’ve done valknot tattoo and I read everything about it and I liked the way is the symbol of Odin and all that now when I have it done I found out that it’s not recommended to do it cuz of death and the death warriors I’m a bit freaked out now

  • Justin

    Ive been made aware that as a tattoo it is very meaningful to actual ancestors and could be seen as a sign of not really disrespect but of ignorance or lack of meaning to someone not of that decent due to its rich history and the soldiers that died wearing the valknut. I would like to get it done as a tattoo due to my strong admiration for the people who wore it and the way of life of those brave warriors. Do you think it is appropriate as a tattoo still?

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Justin. I believe that any reference to descent as the exclusive right to a certain cultural heritage is racism. It’s up to you to decide if you should respect such claims.

      • Atom

        Obviously (((you))) don’t care about the Nordic Race.

        • Viking Rune

          Right. What’s the problem about it?

    • George

      There is a ritual that must be done prior to receiving the Viking rune. It consists of Nine Days of silence. And starvation. In a dark room. The Alfather hung on the te3 of life for that pieod….. so should you. If. You are not of the spiritual path of a pagan then you really have no business getting it. It is the Worrior Rune. For those dedicated to the Alfather! To the! Folk! To the! Culture. Mean if the preservation of all the above…..

    • Steven

      Though I tend to agree keep in mind viking raids were hardly in racial lines. Vikings had slavs, franks, saxons and others in their service. The fact that nationhood didnt exist then and the only thing vikings cared about was plunder and service to odin it hardly seems to matter.

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