Home Art and cultureWere Viking Tattoos Historically True?
Were Viking Tattoos Historically True?

Were Viking Tattoos Historically True?

Did the Viking ever get a tattoo on their skin just like the way we do in the modern times? Were the runic inscriptions historically true? Did they bring tattoo culture or learn to ink themselves when they were on voyages across the oceans? While physical archaeological evidence might not offer few evidence, one piece from literal evidence gave a solid “yes”. In this piece of article, we discover the existence of Viking tattoos as well as the trendiest Viking tattoos in the modern time.

Viking tattoos told by trading partners

Surviving materials about the Vikings or the Norsemen were few. That’s why we have to rely much on sources that came from other non-Vikings. Many of these came from the Arab chroniclers who were lucky enough to trade with the Vikings.

Indeed, the Vikings would not make money only. They exchanged culture and learnt new things from their partners. And so did these outsiders.

Viking trade in their time. The Vikings traded not only for fortune but for knowledge and cultural exchange as well.
The Vikings traded not only for fortune but they also wanted to learn something new from their trading partners.

An Arabian traveler whose name was Ahmad Ibn Fadlan from Baghdad went on a diplomatic mission to Middle Volga, a part of Russia now. The first time that this Arabian traveler encountered the Vikings was when he saw these fierce warriors rowed their ship along the Volga river. These Vikings intended to trade with the Arab world, not to trigger any war. There, Ahmad also met a Viking trader bringing a slave to the local markets as well.

Literal texts mentioned Viking tattoos

Surviving writing pieces by Ibn Fadlan described the Vikings:

I have never seen bodies as nearly perfect as theirs. As tall as palm trees, fair and reddish, they wear neither tunics nor kaftans. Every man wears a cloak with which he covers half of his body, so that one arm is uncovered. They carry axes, swords and daggers, and always have them to hand. They use Frankish swords with broad, ridged blades.

At one point, the Arabian scholar mentioned that the Vikings had something covering up from their fingers to their neck. This “something” was what we call “tattoo” now. Viking tattoos according to the literal texts were dark green. The major patterns were trees, intertwining animals, and symbols.

Rollo character in the "Vikings" TV series got inked around his chest and shoulder arm
Rollo character in the “Vikings” TV series got inked around his chest and shoulder arm

Many modern scholars believed that Ibn Fadlan must have encountered the “gripping beast” pattern – a Viking style. To the newcomer, these Viking tattoos resembled the women’s neck rings.

Viking Tattoos – Trendy for the Inked community today

Some might think that the Vikings were long gone. They were physically gone; yet, their legacy stays and continue to become a trend in the modern times. Many in the inked community show their favor for any Viking-related tattoos.

One of the most famous Viking tattoo must include the Vegvisir symbol which is the Viking compass. Vegvisir means “That Which Shows the Way”. Any vessel that had a Vegvisir symbol while on the sea would never get lost. No matter what, they would come back safe and sound.

Vegvisir tattoo and the Tiwaz runic letter in the middle
Vegvisir tattoo and the Tiwaz runic letter in the middle

Helm of Awe which looks quite alike the Vegvisir is one of the trendiest Viking tattoos now. Helm of Awe is Aegishjalmur in the Norse language. The symbol is a protection against any enemies and any negative vibes in the modern times. Once the symbol is applied, one will become invincible.

Helm of Awe Viking tattoo in the chest
Helm of Awe Viking tattoo in the chest

Rune tattoos are also popular in the inked community. However, runic letters are not something easy to interpret. Every runic letter carries a message inside. Some scholars even call the runes the Wheel of the Universe that contains all secrets of the cosmos.

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