Norse Symbols Are Not Hate Symbols

Norse Symbols TattooWhat would you feel if you saw a guy with a runic tattoo? Many would probably feel uneasiness, including myself. The question is why. I perfectly know that ancient Germanic peoples used the Elder Futhark not because they were white supremacists. I realize that vikings used the Younger Futhark not because they were racist skinheads. So where comes the uneasiness from? Let’s take another example. If you use the Bluetooth technology on your mobile phone, you should remember their logo. Do you? It is actually a bindrune, that is two blended runes: Hagall (hail) and Bjarkan (birch). These two represent the initials of the 10th century viking king Harald Blåtand (Bluetooth), who ordered the Jelling stones to be erected. Bluetooth team are certainly not a hate group, and their rune logo does not scare people away from buying their technology. However, tattooed on someone’s shoulder, it may make others feel uneasy. The question remains: why? My answer is: because western civilization has been too long obsessed by Classical Antiquity as its treasured source. All we usually know about Norse or ancient Germanic symbols is that nazis used them and neo-nazis still use them. That’s not a lot. The other answer is: many people with Christian background still feel that heathen convictions may be dangerous, especially if associated with Norse or Scandinavian culture (or with anything ancient Germanic). Even atheists have been educated in schools long dominated by Christians who admired Classical Antiquity. “Virgil and Homer, not Edda and Beowulf” has been their slogan for many centuries.

True, Norse heathen symbols were used by Nazis. For instance, the Hagall rune used in the Bluetooth logo is present on the SS Totenkopfring. In his description of the ring, Himmler wrote: “The swastika and the Hagall-Rune represent our unshakable faith in the ultimate victory of our philosophy.” This rune was also used during the SS wedding ceremonies. Does it mean that the Hagall rune is in itself a hate symbol? No way.

The origins and the cultural meaning of Norse symbols or Germanic heathen symbols, which may point to racism in certain contexts, are treated in a series of articles on this web site:

Photo © Daniel Meyer. Used by permission.

81 comments… add one
  • jason

    actually the swastika was used years ago by a lot of groups, unfortunately the Nazis used it so now it symbolizes hate among everyone. Even if you don’t believe that way there’s no way you can explain that to the casual bystander when they see it. sort of like seeing a person make out with a little person, you might think it is a kid if you didn’t look closer

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Jason. You are probably right.

  • Per Lundberg

    Great that you write about this topic. I live in Sweden and started my relationship with the Runes in the mid 90-ies.
    I find your argument to be poor in the text. You simply state that the Runes are not symbols of neo-nazis because are not.
    That is an opinion not an argument.
    My argument is that the symbols of the Runes are much older than the time period of WWII and after. Also not just the Runes but many other symbols.
    Where does the meaning and power of symbols reside?
    In the spiritual field of human collective consciousness and in the spiritual realms/heimen /dimensions.
    In these fields the symbols have been loaded and anchored to the nazi actions by the use of these individuals.
    How do we get rid of the anchoring and connection to the destructiveness from WWII to the Runes?
    By using them and educating others that do not know anything else than the connection to WWII.
    So great that this article is written.
    Äring and Frith!

  • Cobalt-Blue

    I am only uneasy with the idea of having runic tattoos is because you are inscribing on your body a symbol of power, and you are not only risting it, but since it draws blood and leaves behind ink, you are reddening it at the same time. That’s a lot of unfocused power to instill into your body simply to “look cool”. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then it could create difficulties for you.

    • Viking Rune

      Yes, knowing what you do is surely a prerequisite.

  • simon

    I have a tattoo with the whole elder futhark set around the outside, everyone who has seen it has simply asked about it and I have had no trouble or fear. merely curiosity. In my area I am also known for going around and casting runes for people, whilst many find this odd I have had no trouble calmly explaining their origins or my beliefs

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Simon. Sounds great.

  • Paul Rose

    Hello Peter,very interesting article,and very true.A couple of years ago I had a tattoo designed by a friend for my back it consists of a tribal eagle across my shoulders holding onto a tribal sun.Inside the sun is a Celtic knot,and around that are four groups of elder futhark runes.when on holiday with my family we met another English couple after a few days they admitted they were reluctant to speak because they had seen my tattoo and thought I was some sort Nazi,until I explained that the Norse runes were in fact my wife and 3 children’s names,education is the key.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Paul. Yes, educaton is the key. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Dee_Elle

    this is the most pitifully written essay I’ve read in a long time! If you want a Rune tatoo then research what you want and ensure (or not) that it has direct association with Nazism. Just because Nazi’s used a Rune symbol doesn’t make all Nazi!

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Dee. I think I tried to say pretty much the same: the use of runes by white power groups does not make the runes hate symbols. However, I respect your right to express your opinion that the essay is pitifully written.

      • Jeremiah

        I will exercise my right to disagree, I feel the essay was well thought. To the point. Good job, and thank you for taking on the subject. I happen to have a wulffsangel, a rather large one, and it symbolizes it’s first adopted meaning, a symbol of liberty and independence, and I shouldn’t have to explain how it’s not in anyway displayed as a hate symbol. I’d rather people educate themselves than educating them myself.
        Thank you for your effort, and the information contained in this site.

        • Viking Rune

          Thank you, Jeremiah.

  • Rich

    I am bald, have a long beard and am of German decent. I am also a Germanic heathen with runic tattoos. I was once asked by an old Jewish concentration camp survivor if I was a neo nazi. I sat and explained to him what these really mean in my religion. I think it boils down to education or re-education in some cases, for those misunderstanding the runes as well as those people still misusing these sacred symbols.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Rich. Thank you very much for sharing this experience. I admire people who take time to explain calmly and patiently what the Norse symbols are all about and how people came to mistakenly believe that runes and rune-like symbols convey the idea of hate.

  • Peter

    Not the best photo “Die welt in der wir leben macht uns zu dem was wir sind” with typo “label” instead of “leben”.

    I agree that most of the people see runic symbols as hate ones but meh … noone like us we don’t care :)

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Peter. Yes, the oblique stroke in the Naudiz rune is placed a bit high on the stave so that it may be confounded with Laguz. There are plenty of examples of such irregular rune forms in the actual runic inscriptions, since when you carve the instrument sometimes slips and the stroke gets a bit misplaced. For me, it makes the inscription even more alive, not ideal, not factitious. As far as I can see, everything is okay with the second symbol in the word Leben.

  • Rich

    I’m covered in Norse symbolism tattoos and runes. The Runic symbols are passages from the Poetic Edda. They are no more racist than language itself. The English flag is not racist despite being adopted by right wing factions, much the same as the Dixie flag in the USA was also not racist. No one can control what small minded groups adopt as their mantra, so why should that exclude those who know their true meaning from embracing them?

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Rich. I think we have to help those who are scared to understand that there is no inherent hate message in Norse runes and symbols.

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