Top 173 Best Viking Tattoo Ideas – [2020 Inspiration Guide]
Aside from rowing boats and beheading enemies, you might be surprised to know the Vikings lived with quite numerous positive principles.
For instance, Norse mythology believed that rune writing gave a man his power. Bathing and grooming weekly were essential to respecting one’s body. This outlook was far from the norm back in European times of the early middle ages.
For memorials, the dead were sent out to sea with all of their belongings. Not an article of clothing or jewelry was to be missing; even their animals rode along!
They also believed in bravery, though it was considered that only a fallen warrior would reach the Norse afterlife, Valhalla.
Even though the term Vikings meant “a pirate raid” in Old Norse, they still led ships across the sea to trade precious metals for timber. To them, wood was everything. By everything I mean the fabric of the universe that was kept intact by the World Ash, Yggdrasil. You could find light oak and heavy pine mast in throughout the long ships. From the deck and oars to the longbows too. Their arrows were more commonly made of birch.
From AD 800 to 1066 the Germanic Norse seafarers had traveled from Scandinavia all the way to northern and central Europe. During travel they placed their fate in the three Norns, which ruled over the future, present and past. To maintain a good health out on the seas, observance of religion was critical while medicine meant death. In other words, medicine angered the gods like Thor and Loki.
Read on for the top 73 best Viking tattoo ideas and discover brilliant designs for your tattoo artist to help capture the essence of bravery and martial skill.
1. Viking Compass Tattoos
The Viking compass is a bit of a mystery. Only mentioned in one Icelandic manuscript, it supposedly keeps the wearer (or bearer) safe in all types of horrific weather and keeps them from getting lost. In addition, it can help get travelers where they’re going, even if they don’t know where that might be. Although mysterious, it sounds like a great tool to keep handy!
Nordic compass tattoos often incorporate runes at the end of each line. These can be used to spell out the name of a place you’re headed, the place you call home, or the name of a loved one. You can choose to get one or several Viking compasses, and they look great on virtually any part of the body. The chest and back are popular spots, with only the boldest choosing a compass on their hand. Remember that precise linework and blackwork are essential for a bold Viking compass. Each rune should be crisp and readable.
2. Viking Tattoos with Knotwork Designs
You may associate knotwork with Celtic history. You wouldn’t be wrong! The Celts – people of early Scotland and Ireland – had a very distinct art form consisting of knot patterns. When Vikings began to invade and colonize these lands – between 600 and 1200 AD – they adopted some of these popular patterns.
While Celtic knotwork features a never-ending line bent into a circular or other design, the Norse took a slightly different take. They used the look of Celtic knotwork but put their own spin on it. Nordic knotwork does not have to use one continuous line, and often makes a person, animal or object the star of the design instead of the knotwork itself. Precise linework and, in many cases, shading is crucial for this type of Nordic tattoo.
Since many people are only passingly familiar – if at all – with different types of Northern artwork, don’t be surprised if passers-by assume your Norse tattoo to be Celtic in origin. Have a quick explanation ready – you’ll teach them something new and show off just how much thought you put into your artwork.
3. Forearm Viking Style Tattoo
Forearm tattoo inked in the viking genre comes in a wide variety. Whether they are depictions of the Vikings themselves or symbols of these great warrior’s lifestyles and mythology, a forearm tattoo is an ideal location for storytelling.
The forearm is a great place to show off any tattoo, as it is in an easily viewed area. Simultaneously, it is a relatively simple spot to cover up if need be, assuming one is comfortable wearing long sleeves. That being said, not everyone is required to cover their tattoos by their work or other responsibilities, so to them, the forearm might be all the more attractive as a spot to place their next Viking tattoo design.
5. Viking Ships Tattoo
One of the many things Vikings remembered for in our modern times are their means of transportation. Traveling primarily by sea, the Vikings often navigated the fierce waters in their trademark longships .
Needless to say, these ships were a vital part of the Viking life and culture. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see them inked into a Viking tattoo. Such a tattoo might show longship in the middle of a voyage. It could also be shown alongside some other element of Viking life. Longship tattoos are a fitting way to show one’s connection to the Vikings of old.
6. Nordic Tattoos Featuring Runes
At once everyday and mysterious, runes comprised the Viking alphabet. These symbols – very few of which survive today – were an ancient method of communication. It’s easy to see why they’re frequently incorporated into Nordic tattoos! There are a few things to consider when designing a runes tattoo. First, remember that runes are primarily linework. Select a tattooist skilled in this area.
Next, be absolutely sure of what you want to say. You’ve probably giggled at botched, misspelled tattoos in English. Imagine how much more common that might be when tattooing in a foreign – or dead – language. Work closely with your tattoo artist to ensure your finished art spells things out perfectly. Lastly, understand that are three major and several more minor sets of runes. Northern Europeans, Brits and Scandinavians all had their own different sets of runes, so be sure to use a set or image depicting the Norse runes.
7. Nordic Tattoo on the Arm
The arm is another great place for a tattoo. This is particularly true of viking tattoos as many of the most common viking -inspired pieces, such as those that incorporate longships and warriors, seem to make a strong appearance on the arm.
This is partially because the bicep-arm area can be a particularly good place for tattoos, especially those symbolizing strength, and masculinity. V iking tattoos certainly do an impressive job of representing strength , whether it be in the form of actual physical power or even bravery. It is not uncommon at all for someone who has very few or only one tattoos to have an arm tattoo. Perhaps this speaks to the effective and desirable nature of this particular placing.
8. Blackwork Nordic Tattoos
The world of blackwork encompasses many specific components, from artistic styles to techniques like dotwork. Quality linework and shading make up many of the best Viking tattoos, while weak lines and blotchy fades tend to create Norse tattoos to avoid. This is true across virtually every genre of tattoo.
Since much Viking and Nordic artwork and lettering consisted of wooden carvings, knotwork and runes, keeping things crisp and sharp is essential for truly paying homage to this proud and fierce part of your ancestry.
9. Color Viking Tattoos
While we tend to think of the Viking lifestyle as being filled with endless grays, blacks and cold, misty landscapes, this is untrue. Sure, there was a lot of snow and fog – but the Vikings had summer too! Get colorful with your Norse tattoo ideas. There’s no reason to exclude color, and there are a million ways to use it for maximum impact. A vivid splash of red is a great way to suggest bloody battles, while virtually any color can be used to make a design pop or to personalize it.
11. Viking Age Tribal Tattoo
One exceedingly interesting type of tattoo is a viking tribal fusion piece. Often including a mix of both styles, one example could be a viking symbol such as a warrior incorporated with various tribal symbols or patterns. These are strong and stand out tattoos for sure. Not all tattoo combinations work well or effectively, but the elements of viking tattoos and tribal tattoos are undoubtedly a good fit.
12. Norse Tattoos Featuring Wooden Carvings
13. Viking Warrior Tattoos
Tattoos of Viking warriors can be a statement of toughness, bravery and brute strength. They come in many different styles. Some are designed with realism in mind while others might be more animated.
Similarly, a Viking warrior tattoo might be done in black and gray or full color. The point is that these tattoos do not all look the same, but they all contain, or at least visually reference, the same type of essence and toughness of a Viking warrior.
14. Viking Design Back Tattoo
Where one might find some of the greatest Viking tattoos is on the back. Back Viking tattoos can be extreme, immersive and heavily-detailed. They often cover the entire back and can include any combination of a multiple elements of Viking lore and culture. They could depict warriors in battle, visually reenact a scene or reference Norse gods. The number of possibilities and level of depth a back Viking tattoo can go to is impressive to say the least.
15. Sleeve Viking Culture Tattoo
A good way to combine a multitude of different viking symbol elements is to get a sleeve viking tattoo. These sleeves are beyond badass as they can incorporate a whole swath of different viking culture ideas, whether tribal tattoo design, viking ships or other form of Norse tattoo.
Any two sleeve viking tattoos could look quite different from one another as the particular pieces chosen to be put together and make the sleeve are mostly dependent on the wearer’s personal taste and choices. It could also depend somewhat on the style the wearer is looking for, (say, realism) as well as the artist’s own personal style.
16. Calf Viking Tattoos
Another great place to put a viking tattoo is on one’s calf. This is essentially true for the same reasons as many of the aforementioned tattoo placement locations in the sense that there are a variety of choices for what viking symbols could go here and the spot is fairly spacious.
The calf is also a somewhat unique spot as it can be covered easily with pants or shown rather easily with shorts. This of course may depend somewhat on the seasons and climate one lives in as well as their comfort level wearing pants or shorts in that particular climate.
17. Side and Chest Viking Tattoos
Some of the most aesthetically placed tattoos are found on the chest. Similarly, a man’s side is a great spot for a creative tat as well. When it comes to side and chest Viking tattoos this seems especially reasonable.
One can easily picture a Viking warrior tattoo on the chest or a Viking-inspired design on the side and see how fantastic that could look. Viking tattoos look good are many body parts, but something about the chest and side seem to especially stand out as a good, high-quality space in which to fill up with a Viking tattoo.
18. Nordic Tattoos Featuring Animals
The importance of animals to the Viking and other Nordic cultures can’t be understated. Whether they were raised as livestock or revered as friends of the gods, animals played a huge role in everyday Viking life. Fish were a massive part of the Viking diet, as were sheep, cows and pigs. Dogs and cats were kept as pets, just as they are today, alongside now-uncommon pets like bears and raptors. Spiritually, the raven, wolf, bear, raptor, horse and dragon were most significant.
Your Nordic tattoos can reflect several different things. If you identify with or revere Odin, for example, you may desire a wolf or raven. If you want to pay homage to your ancestors as simple farmers instead of bloodthirsty beserkers, a Viking-style barnyard would be a fun and fascinating piece of skin art. These animals look amazing in virtually any style, from the world of blackwork to full color dotwork, and everything in between.
Viking Tattoo FAQs
What is Viking symbolic tattoo?
Viking and Norse tattoo is a symbolic tattoo culture, with most tattoo design ideas incorporating Nordic tradition, culture and religious beliefs into their design . Traditional Viking tattoo design centered on martial power – the sword, axe, and warhammer -strength or honoring the traditional Gods of Norse Mythology.
A viking tattoo is a great style of body art for those of the Scandinavian Isles – or even Brits and other Europeans – claim ing ancestry to the Norse.
What are the most popular Viking tattoo styles?
With a focus on tradition, martial prowess, and the Norse Gods there are a range of awesome tattoo designs you can apply to your body art apart from viking warrior symbols . These include :
- The Valknut
- Rune and Wyrd lettering
- Viking Longship
- Norse God Designs
- The Helm of Awe (Viking Compass tattoo)
A Valknut tattoo is three interconnected triangles, whose name was coined by the Old Norse word valr , meaning ‘slain warriors’, and knut , meaning ‘knot’. It is assumed the Valknut is associated with death and the afterlife.
A Viking rune tattoo today refers to the Norse tradition of symbols that many believe held magical powers, which is corroborated by archaeological and anecdotal evidence.
Viking Longships navigated the fierce waters. When they rolled up on your shoreline with a crew of bloodthirsty warriors, you knew you were in for a bad time.
A Norse God or mythology makes for great tattoo design. Odin and his raven flock, Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, Loki the trickster, beautiful Freya or the host of Valkyrie set to help a viking warrior to Valhalla. They’re rich characters filled with the attributes of the best and worst of humanity.
Yggdrasil is an immense mythical tree that plays a central role in Norse cosmology, where it connects the Nine Worlds. It is similar in symbolic meaning to the tree of life, or the world tree.
A Helm of Awe tattoo, known also as Aegishjalmur or Viking Compass, is an ancient Norse symbol granting spiritual protection and power.
Did you enjoy Viking tattoo idea and designs. Are you looking for more inspiration? Click on the links below for more awesome galleries featuring Norse paganism ink in a range of styles, or look at our list of the 50+ best tattoo ideas .
- Top 57 Odin Tattoo Designs
- Top 57 Odin’s Ravens Tattoo Ideas
- Top 50 Yggdrasil Tattoo Designs
- Ragnar Lothbrok Tattoos