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.

129 comments… add one
  • Curious Utlendingur

    What are your thoughts on the relationship between this mighty symbol and the number 9? ie three triangles with three sides = 9
    Given the prevalence of the number 9 in Asatru beliefs this seems significant. e.g. Nine Noble Virtues and such

    • Viking Rune

      This may or may not be coincidence. We simply don’t know.

  • Dan

    I am wishing to get a Valknut done. My biological mothers name was “Bjarnason” My Father was a “McIntyre”.

    The symbol has called to me since i wzs a boy in the early 70s. Finally found an artist I trust to put ink to skin.

    Do you find any objections or reasons my wish for this to be inked should not come to pass. If so please let me know.

    • Viking Rune

      As for me, I don’t have any objections at all.

  • Kirsty

    I am writing a fiction story which includes some sections of different myths and I wanted to use this symbol on a character I have created who came from valuable. But I don’t know much about it can you help


    • Viking Rune

      Didn’t the article above help you, Kirsty?

  • Devdath

    I had a valknut tattoo done,is it true that vikings carried the Valknut on their shields so that the Valkyire may take them to Valhallah?

  • B. Widhalm

    If I get a valknut tattoo (a modest one), because I come from a Scandinavian family, I’m not being disrespectful, am I? It will be my first and I just want to be educated more about it before I make any permanent decisions.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello. I don’t see any reason to think you are doing something disrespectful.

  • Julia

    If you familiar with a divine masculine and a divine feminine you may know already that you can see/feel your divine masculine within yourself . Its also comes with the simbolic/simbols in some cases. Meditation or visual practices may help you to see your special simbols…it may be a warrior or a peace keeper ..Its a great and deep experience to look and see your multiple self :)

    • Viking Rune

      Thank you for sharing this, Julia.

  • Anonymous

    I am a professional mma fighter of Nordic decent and overall fan of Viking lore. I’ve been planning on having the Valknut as my first tattoo to symbolize to myself before each fight that I’m not here to just win, that I’m looking for an adversary worthy of a good death and to fight with warrior spirit – also how I generally tackle all challenges life throws my way. Would this be an appropriate interpretation of this symbol?

    • Viking Rune

      Hello. I think your interpretation does not contradict what we know about the Viking Age warrior values.

  • 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

    • Viking Rune

      Thanks for the feedback, Suriel.

  • 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.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Aesc. Thanks for the warning.

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