A Norse charm also known as the Vegvísir, the Viking compass derives its name from an ancient Icelandic manuscript.
The symbol became known as “the sign post,” a charm to guide one through treacherous weather and terrain without getting lost.
In recent years the Viking compass has sparked new interest, and is now a much-revered tattoo subject.
The Viking compass consists of eight staves branching out from a shared point, with each stave representing a cardinal or intermediate direction. Each stave point ends in a unique symbol believed by Norse scholars to be a protective rune.
While some depictions of the Viking compass have all the staves sharing an equal length, other adaptations show a variation depending on each direction. It is generally believed that the length of the staves does not deter from the charm’s central meaning, with artists and historians alike stressing only that the prospective tattoo wearer make sure they’re picking an accurate design.
The Viking compass tattoo can be a powerful symbol to honor one’s lineage or bestow guidance and protection upon one’s self. Just as the Vikings were unflinching warriors and adventure-seekers, they were also bound by a deep loyalty to their communities and loved ones. The man who wears the Viking compass does not run from battle nor stray too far from his purpose, but cuts his own path and leads the way for others.
You may have to explain the compass’s origins to the uninitiated, but once you do it is highly unlikely you will be forgotten.
1. Viking Compass Tattoos with Color
While black and grey work is a hugely popular and gorgeous medium for your viking compass tattoos, don’t discount color. A strategically placed pop or smear of a bright color can pop your tattoo right off your skin, drawing attention and creating a bigger impact.
Red is an obvious choice, as many associate Vikings with battle and, accordingly, blood. Red is a classic power color and works perfectly in a tattoo paying homage to a race of truly hardcore warriors. Trash polka is a stunning way to incorporate color while modernizing ancient times.
2. Viking Compass Tattoos Featuring Animals
Animals were very important to the Vikings. Certain animals associated with gods and goddesses. Powerful god Odin is frequently associated with ravens, horses and wolves. Goddess Freya is often represented by a boar, while goats can be linked to Thor. While not a god, Fenrir is a giant wolf of Norse mythology.
The lifelike appearance of photo-realism is a great technique for any Viking tattoos featuring animals. It lends your ink an epic, timeless appeal while paying homage to a proud culture. Animal features like feathers and fur require a great deal of experience and skill, so choose your artist carefully.
3. Double Viking Compass Tattoos
While a single compass is generally all that’s needed to find your way, double Viking compass tattoos are a powerful statement. This is due to the specific runes at the end of each spoke. These runes can represent many things. Depending on interpretation, they can spell out the name of a person or place. You might choose to spell out a location that’s significant to you. Runes can also be used to read fortunes, and so your compass tattoo may spell out a desired life goal or achievement.
Double tattoos can also represent a dual nature, much like Jekyll and Hyde. They can also be a sweet yet hardcore way to link a couple romantically. Regardless of what they mean, double compass tattoos look their best when inked with precision line work. A complementary background can make a compass pop, whether its a black and gray fade or a splash of vibrant color.
4. Viking Compass Hand Tattoos
Your hands steer your life. They control where your motorcycle, bike or car goes. They do just about everything that creates destination – what better place for a compass? Hands are also one of the most hardcore places for a tattoo, declaring your love of ink in an extremely visible way.
When considering a Viking compass hand tattoo, remember that hands – like feet – are a bit tricky. The skin is very close to the bone, which requires an experienced artist and a delicate touch. For the same reason, these tattoos can also be more painful than thicker-skinned areas of the body like the forearm or back.
While palm tattoos are striking, they’re also notoriously difficult and fade early. Find a tattooist skilled in this area and be aware that palm tattoos usually require regular touch-ups.
5. Black & Gray Viking Compass Tattoos
When contemplating a viking compass tattoo design, you may notice that a majority of existing ink is done in shades of black and gray. While there was certainly no lack of color in the Viking world, we tend to think of it as a cold, foggy and misty place in time.
All these elements, combined with the pure visual punch of quality black and gray tattooing, make this technique a great choice for your upcoming viking compass tattoo. Expert shading, blending and dotwork can make an otherwise-ordinary design leap off the skin, conjuring images of navigating the rough seas through fog on a knorr or langskip.
6. Linework Viking Compass Tattoos
Viking writing was composed of symbols called runes – these are the shapes you see extending from the spokes of a Viking compass. Runes were very simple letters, composed almost entirely of straight lines. For this reason, sharp and crisp line work often makes the best Viking compass tattoos. While these tattoos may look simplistic at first, they’re the most faithful recreations of the runic alphabet.
Viking Compass Tattoo FAQ’s
What is the Meaning of Vegvisir?
Combining the Old Norse words vegur (way or road) and visir (pointer), the literal meaning of Vegvisir is to point the way. According to the Huld Manuscript – an Icelandic collection compiled in 1880 – the symbol was quite powerful. If carried, the Vegvisir would keep a person on track through storms and all types of bad weather, even if they didn’t know where they were going.
Did you dig these Viking Compass tattoos but need more inspiration? Check out the links below for more Norse related ink expressions: