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.

98 comments… add one
  • RG

    I am of Norman decent and proud of my ancestry. I really want to get Nordic style tattoos. My concern is looking like a racist because unfortunately I am bald. Not by choice.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello RG. Yes, unfortunately, some people associate Nordic tattoos with hate groups.

  • Becca

    I am of Germanic/Norwegian ancestry. I am also Christian. What about the runic symbol “Ger” about which this ancient runic poem was written?: “Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven, suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits for rich and poor alike.”

  • John

    I’m a big fan of the Vikings show
    And could somebody please explain to me about the history of the Vikings hair cuts ?

    And different meanings of the different tattoos of each Vikings

  • Eric

    While some may question your tattoo of being a hate symbol ask them why they think that. Because I could say the same about the Christian cross. The crusaders used the cross for their symbol and they weren’t very nice, same with the earlier Catholics. So, leave my runes alone, they have meaning to me and if you ask I’ll be happy to share. Hail

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Eric. Yes, I think knowledge about the true nature of the Norse symbls dispels fear and rejection.

  • Jou

    I’ve never seen hatred towards people of Viking descent, and considering how many people in America have this lineage, I’m not really surprised. A few symbols will never be seen the same for a few generations at least, and there’s nothing that can be done about that until more time passes. I know no one who associates Vikings or Nordic cultures with Nazism nor have ever seen this. You’re giving people too much credit I think in regards to symbology. As far as pagans or hipster spiritualists crying discrimination, well, they are a group known to love to play victim and to have a ‘oppressed person with special religion’ status, so it’s not exactly representative of what is going on in the majority of culture.

    Although I find the african american person bringing up appropriation concerns about her getting a Norse tattoo interesting and refreshing. I think all cultures deserve some respect and while I’m not one of these people who think people from different cultures celebrating or appreciating other is wrong or should be avoided (if humans did this, the world would be a vastly different and undeveloped place), I think we should all -white, black, whatever- make sure we’re doing so in respectful manners.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Jou. Yes, being respectful towards each other is the best way to ensure we live in a world that is not based on discrimination and hate.

  • Lutra Belenus

    I feel the love and wisdom here. I have recently found myself drawn to the Norse culture, heritage, and religion. The rune speak to me of their symbolism and magical power, but the ink never has. I spent twenty in military service and never once thought about getting inked. I think for me the permanence of ink holds a place reserved for sacred acts of rites of passages and initiations into an order or brotherhood. I feel getting inked because it looks ‘cool’ profanes its intent. Then again, each his own. When I feel the power of the runes is needed for a magical operation or intent, I like to use paint. This allows me to rist my runes each time.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Lutra. Yes, many people feel the same about tattoos (I, for instance, don’t have any, either). And you are right, each his own indeed.

  • rooster

    to john, i disagree.i think more fear comes from the scary pagan symbols than the fact that it’s a tattoo.i’ve seen plenty of jesus tattoos.and the people that have them are the same type that would feel some sort of taboo about rune tattoos,or any tattoo that represents any type of religion that is not christianity.

  • John

    I think, in a way, the fear comes not only from fear of Norse symbols, but also from tattoos. Tattoos are often associated with what we call “hardmen”, gang members, and thugs. So if you see a rune as a tattoo, you’re more likely to feel anxious than if you saw it on a shirt or something.

    Of course, in this sick Christian society, there is a fear of the native people of Europe, especially the Norse. But when it comes to runic tattoos, I think most of the fear comes from it being a tattoo, and only a little fear comes from the actual symbol.

    • rooster

      why are there so many jesus tattoos then?

      • NicestPancake

        Well, most people who get Jesus tattoos often are getting tattoos for the act of either looking cool or sharing religion- and it’s something known to them instead of all the “scary” imagery and symbols. It’s just them being hypocritical while also joining in on the fun- which is an odd way to do so.

        Of course, that’s not always the case, some people are entirely open to the other tattoos but feel like they’re more connected to Christianity. It’s just a Human thing. All we know is that, regardless, they sure do love them some Jesus.

  • JS

    So, vikings were inventors of Bluetooth technology? :D

    • Viking Rune

      Hello JS. Vikings were people who invented the runes… now used as a logo for Bluetooth technology :)

  • Daniel higginbotham

    my bloodline is full of germanic and even farther back norse heritage and i am getting a tattoo of the norse runes of fire and of life under a hammer with valkyrie wings reaching out from it does anyone like this idea or have a better one

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Daniel. I like the design as you describe it. You may want to share a photo on my FB page.

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