Björk’s Symbolic Tattoo: Vegvísir, A Protection Symbol

Björk TattooNorse symbol VegvísirBjörk, an Icelandic singer and actress, has a cute symbolic tattoo on her left upper arm. It is a Norse protection symbol called Vegvísir, which has a deep meaning. The Icelandic word literally means ‘guidepost’ or ‘direction sign’. In modern popular culture the Vegvísir is often called Runic Compass or See the Way. It is often associated with the Viking Age, which is not correct: this symbol is from the 17th century Icelandic grimoire called Galdrabók (‘magic book’). The origin of this type of witchcraft is difficult to ascertain: to some extent it derives from medieval mysticism and renaissance occultism, but also has a few connections with the ancient Germanic runic tradition. Vegvísir was drawn on one’s forehead with blood to prevent a person from getting lost. In 2008 movie Max Payne the tattoo artist who explains his theory about Viking wing tattoos, has a Vegvísir tattoo on his left shoulder.


Another Galdrabók symbol, even more popular in symbolic tattoos, is Ægishjálmur (‘helm of awe’). It is believed that this magic sign gives its wearer the ability to strike an enemy with fear and grants great magical powers. In 1667 Þórarinn Halldórsson was burnt in Iceland because he admitted that he carved Ægishjálmur on oak and practiced healing with the aid of magical signs.

hulinhjalmurAnother Icelandic magical sign deserves special attention, since it is reported to give the power to become invisible. Hulinhjálmur (‘helm of disguise’) has to be drawn on a piece of lignite (brown coal) and then pressed against one’s forehead. The most complicated part is the preparation of the ink. One has to collect three drops of blood from the index finger of one’s left hand, three from the ring-finger of one’s right hand, two from the right nipple and one from the left nipple. Then the blood must be mixed with six drops of blood from the heart of a living raven and melted with raven’s brains and pieces of human stomach. This kind of magic was used as the best protection against enemies.

72 comments… add one
  • James

    16th Century you say yet there is no real documented proof that both symbols were not existent at an earlier time. When it comes to bind runes and old symbols such as this , there is a lot of information out there . And …i dont believe your perception of the background of these symbols is accurate at all..Timing wise nor the origin.

    • Viking Rune

      Documented proof that something didn’t exist? You made my day.

  • Alexandra

    Is there a spiritual significance to the placement of a norse tattoo on the body?

    • Viking Rune

      It’s very subjective, Alexandra. I think it depends on your own beliefs.

  • Alex

    How can I “activate”, for example, Vegvisir one?

    • Viking Rune

      Not sure what do you mean by ‘activate’, Alex.

  • Tomas

    In some images i found that the vegvisir has futhark letters all around in the shape of a ring, i wanted to know what the two together mean thank you

    • Viking Rune

      The full set of the Futhark runes was supposed to have supernatural power.

  • Joshua hood

    Yes I am wanting to get the runic compass as a tattoo but I’m wanting to know what it means and what the surrounding means on it can you help

  • Vishh

    @viking rune I’ve heard that tattoos affects your life. So what kind of effect it’ll give me in my life, if i get a tattoo of Vegvísir on my left forearm? will it be a positive effect or a negative?

  • Maga in Aeternum

    Of course “magic” is real.
    (Let’s call it “magic”, but I think of it more as tapping into the energies that exist in our cosmos.)
    Magic is not white/ light or black/ dark. The mindset of the person excersising the magic, determines it’s hue, if you will ;-)

    Primary rule: What you send out, returns threefold.
    Soooo…What you receive you can return in threefolds, as well… sort of ;-) Very much “sort of”.
    Example: if someone commits a criminal act against you, you are ‘allowed’ by the powers that be, to ask that this person receives his or hers “just reward”, for their crime.
    First: you report the crime to the authorities, of course.
    Second: figure out what you believe is a fair punishment to ask from the powers you pray to.
    Third: write the spell and perform it.
    Spellwriting is quite easy. Rhyming is best, since rhythms connect you better to natural wavelengths, earths rhythm and vibes etc.
    Performing the spell is also quite easy. Use appropriately colored candles, herbs, crystals, woods, metals, materials, fabrics, blood (drops), hair etc.
    Make sure your mindset is right, when performing the spell.
    This is VERY important!
    Also keep in mind, that particularly vengeance spells or curses, can be tricky. Avoid them, unless completely necessary or justified.
    Perform binding spells instead, when in doubt.
    Chant your bind, while wrapping neutral colored ribbon or cloth around a personal item or photo, of the person you need to bind :-)
    This will only prevent the person from harming you, others or themselves, and has neither significant positive or negative effect on their life.
    Most likely you will only experience that the person drifts out of your life/ surroundings.

    Lots more to be learned about this, but you can find some nice books on the subject.

    • Viking Rune

      Interesting, thank you.

  • Anton Keene

    Hi I would like to know if he vegvisir is authentic like the north men used in their era because I am planning on a sleeve tattoo in the traditional Viking theme and want one of the compasses on the top back of my neck l. Thank you And much appreciated:)

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Anton. If you mean Viking Age, Vegvísir is from a later period, namely 16th century.

      • Justin

        Vegvísir is late 17th century, as are almost all complex galdrastafir. Their first appearance, in very simple form, is 15th century.

  • Branden Stanfield

    Hello, I am a little confused. Is tattooed symbol on the woman’s arm above the same as the “Helm of Awe?” What is the Helm of Awe and is it related to the tattoo in the picture above? Is it from the 16th century as well or does it have connection to Norse mythology?

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Branden. No, it’s Vegvísir. Helm of Awe is the same thing as Ægishjálmur. It is from the 16th century, too.

  • amir

    hey is that magic black magic or white magic ?

    • Viking Rune

      Does such thing as magic exist?

      • amir

        so what is that exact ? can you say ? please

        • Viking Rune

          The blackest one.

          • Peter

            This is the greatest thing I’ve seen all day.

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