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.

Copyright notice: Valknut images above are by © The Viking Rune. Images of Stora Hammar and Tängelgarda stones are public domain.

163 comments… add one
  • Andrew Mowbray

    It’s a symbol of the All-Father, Odin. Tattoo, necklace, ring it doesn’t matter – just honour your Father regardless of whether it’s a war death or ‘straw’ death.

  • Phil

    I had a Valknut inked onto my left wrist 8 years ago. I have an earlier tattoo on my right wrist of a pentangle, as I used to be a believer of Wicca.
    I became disillusioned with Wicca as no matter what you did, nothing ever sprang out to me from the rituals, so I drifted away & began reading about my ancestors, the Norse & Saxons.
    I got my Valknut for two reasons. The first was to compliment my pentangle & to show that I was taking a different path. Whilst the second, but most important reason was that I wished to dedicate my life, as well as my death, to Odin & all that he means.
    It was strange, as soon after getting my Valknut, a plan began to form in my mind & I’ve no real idea of where it came from?
    To cut a long story short. During 2015, I found myself making a 3,500 mile long journey of remembrance to the millions of soldiers from both sides who had died during the Great War a century before.
    Was the idea for this journey a gift from Odin himself, or was I just doing his work?

    It was a long & difficult journey with a lot of hardship & challenges that I had to overcome. Such as attacks by packs of feral dogs, Illness, fighting off a mountain bandit, but the most symbolic trial which occurred was when I ran out of money & food. It took my family nine days to put some funds in my account. I was living off the land, but I was still starving…. Those that know, will understand the meaning of this!

    Despite these problems, I never truly felt threatened, as I strongly believed that somebody or something was watching over me.
    I also felt & sometimes saw the presence of those dead warriors & this greatly reaffirmed my belief in the afterlife.

    For those who don’t believe me, look up Trail of Poppies.

    • Viking Rune

      Thank you for sharing this, Phil.

  • Patrick

    Hrungnishjarta, what some call valknut, is a symbol of strength. Hrungnir was strong. They call it hrungnirs heart because it means having a strong heart or a strong will. This is why it is found near warriors. The giant Hrungnir had a heart of stone but I do not think the symbol Hrungnir’s heart represents being stone hearted. That was more of a way of insulting Hrungnir to say he was stone hearted. It just seems like a symbol of strong willpower. I am not sure why people call it valknut when it has a name given to us in the prose edda.

  • tatty

    [ have been studying the runes for over 20 years now , there is a lot more too it ,than a simple tattoo , like the kanji ,, may as well have a rose , or cross , look beyond theses things ,there is true history there

  • Nik

    The valknut is a beautiful symbol, I too thought about getting it persisted under my skin, but when I was having conversations with people who are deeper into Asatru or just Norse history, those always were covering the matter, that it has been a promise or talisman which was used to increment the probability of encountering a violent death, one which may please the concerning gods.

  • Kreg

    Hi I’ve just recently started looking into this symbol. I have no ancestors or anything close to a Norse connection. On the other hand I truly respect what the symbol is meant to represent. Would it be okay if I got this tattooed? At first I saw the 9 virtues linked to each corner but as I started to learn more it made want to know if it would be okay for me to actually get it tattooed on my chest. Please I’d appreciate any feedback. Thank you

    • Greg

      You don’t need anyone’s permission to get the tattoo that you want. If you know what it means and that holds meaning for you, I don’t give a shit if you’re from Mongolia or Peru or where ever else, just please stop with the cultural oversensitivity nonsense if you get a viking tattoo. And hell, it’s better than those people who think they’re getting “authenticity, strength and beauty” kanji tattoos and end up with “thunder apricot shoestore”.

      • Reaver

        I kind of want a “Thunder Apricot Shoestore” kanji tattoo now. lol

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