Valknut Meaning – Heart of The Slain Warrior

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The Valknut symbol has been found in archeological sites dating as far back as the 8th-9th centuries. It has been found in various areas where Germanic people had settled. This suggests its use might have pre-dated the Viking Age. The name, however, is a modern term that has been applied to the symbol. There is no known name or word that is associated with the ancient symbol. This is one reason why it can be widely interpreted to mean many things. So what is the valknut meaning?

The Valknut symbol (seen below) is a series of three interlocking triangles. This is comparable, of course, to so many religious symbols that make use of the number three. In pre-Christian religions, three was as significant as the Christian trinity.

Stone valknut on Viking fur.

Valknut Theory and History

In 1855 some men were eel fishing in the Nene River, in England. They unearthed a ring that has become a significant find for the history of the Valknut symbol. The ring pre-dates the Viking Age by possibly full century. This means it stretches back into the Anglo-Saxon period. This can also be used to argue that Odin was worshipped beyond the area of Viking influence. The Norse Gods could have been the Germanic Gods. Not populirized, however, until

British Museum

According to notes by the British Museum, they were able to acquire the ring. It is now a part of their Anglo-Saxon collection on display. The ring was found about 300 meters above the site of what was known to be an ancient bridge. This ring, is commonly referred to as the River Nene Ring. It has been dated back to the 8th or 9th century. This would have been during the Anglo-Saxon period in England. Viking symbols were well known to the Anglo-Saxons. They had been experiencing raiding and then trading with the people from the north for quite some time. If this ring is from the 8th century, it could possibly pre-date the Vikings.


This small gold finger-ring had designs inscribed on two circular bezels. On one side there was a circular design made from continuous intersecting curves. The other side has a simple symbol depicting a triangular symbol, or more specifically, three interlaced triangles. The exact meaning of the Valknut is still debated in modern times. Its presence here shows influence of norse culture on the Anglo-Saxons of this region.

Heart of the Slain

Eirik Westcoat argues in his paper “The Valknut: Heart of the Slain?” that the triangular shape might represent a heart in some contexts. Specifically, he argues that the Valknut might represent the heart of Hrungnir. We find Hrungnir in the Prose Edda, which was a 13th century text written by Snorri Sturlson. Hrungnir was a jötunn (giant) who is described as being “stone-made”. In this text, Hrungnir’s heart is famously described as being made of stone and having three sharp points. These sharp points, of course, are thought to be a possible connection to the points of the Valknut.

Symbol of Slain Warriors

Westcoat goes on to claim that it may represent “the ideal, steady heart of the brave slain hero, dead warriors, or that of a worthy adversary.” He also surmises that the name Valknut might actually be a heiti. This is a synonym used in Old Norse, to mean “heart of the slain”. For this reason is has also been referred to as the “knot of the slain warriors”. It is also thought to simply be a viking symbol for warrior.

Lärbro Stora Hammars Stone

Much of his argument comes from the depiction of the Valknut symbol found on the Lärbro Stora Hammars stone. This rune stone was found on the Swedish island of Gotland. In this representation, the Valknut appears directly above a slain man. While there is much debate, there are a number of theories surrounding the Valknut. Therefore, literary sources and modern scholars have offered a variety of explanations.

While the meaning of this symbol might never be definitively known, we do know that it makes a great tattoo. This ancient symbol is being given new life by tattoo artists. Many are busy scrawling this Nordic symbol on the body of enthusiastic supporters. Norse culture and the Viking Age are continuously growing in popular culture. So, clearing up some of the misconceptions can help us reconcile the present with the past.

Symbol of Odin

The Valknut appears on another of the Stora Hammars stones. Next to it is a depiction of what is believed to be a human sacrifice. In the same region of Gotland, is the tängelgårda stone. This carved stone depicts warriors holding large rings. Beneath one of the warriors who rides a horse are symbols of the Valknut. This interpretation could lend itself to the belief that it is somehow connected to slain warriors. The horsed warrior is sometimes interpreted to be the figure of Odin, who is also linked to the Valknut. Odin is the All-Father and the one who welcomes the fallen warriors to Valhalla. Hence, it would make sense that this is a scene of slain warriors being led to Valhalla.

Cultural Representation of Contemporary Beliefs

It is sometimes difficult to glean information about ancient people. We see plenty of these enigmatic symbols in pretty much every culture known to man. Yet we cannot always discern their meaning. The Valknut is one of those symbols. We cannot be certain of its meaning. However, we are certain it was meaningful to the people who worshipped the old Gods.

Osberg Ship Burial

We know this because it appears in their everyday life. The Oseberg ship burial allows us to peer into the worlds of Norse mythology. The archeological record from this particular ship burial details the many grave goods that were found along with the ship. It contained pictorial memorial stones, like those found in Gotland amongst the ship burial. But archeologists also uncovered a large wooden bed which had this common symbol consisting of three interlocking triangles. Undoubtedly, the presence of this symbol tells us something of the owner. Clearly at the time of their death, the owner was a pagan worshipper. Additionally, the presence of the Valknut may have also been a symbol of protection.

Another popular tattoo

Nowadays, variations of the Valknut have emerged as great tat ideas. I’ve seen a number of people get some variation of the Valknut. The three interlocking triangles are quite popular. But there are also Celtic versions that have more of a tri-point design. These are all very similar in design and usually represent a connection to religion.

The everlasting influence of these brave warriors has left an impression on those who like to brand themselves modern Odin-worshippers. It is also alluring to those with an interest in modern heathenry. Our inner hero is often drawn to the display of noble virtues. Therefore, having the Valknut on our bodies connects us to these ancient Germanic tribes, if only in a symbolic sense.

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