Depending on where you come from, death can either be seen as a great loss or a chance to celebrate someone’s transition from life. For the Norse people, death was very much a part of their culture, particularly when they went into battle. Here, we’re going to look at the Nordic symbol of death, the Valknut, and all that it represents.
The symbol of death in Nordic countries was referred to as The Valknut. The word is in two parts; there is ‘valr,’ which means ‘slain warrior,’ and the other part is ‘knut,’ which in Nordic languages means ‘knot.’ The sign is synonymous with Odin, who was the god of war and death. For that reason, you’ll find the Valknut is also called to as Odin’s knot in some texts. Other names for the same symbol include the heart of Hrungnir (a stone-made giant that Thor defeated in battle) and the heart of Vala (a female shaman and seer).
The sign itself depicts the transition from life to death. It is composed of what appears to be three triangles fused in the middle, where you can’t tell where one starts, and the other one ends. The design is unique, which makes this symbol one of the most well-known Viking symbols. The triangles combined have nine points, which are believed to represent the nine realms in Norse mythology.
Death was not considered mysterious among the Nordic people, mainly when they went to war. It was said Odin would welcome warriors slain in battle. It would therefore be comforting for a soldier to know that in death, they would meet one of the greatest gods there ever was. No one wanted to end up in Niflheim, the world of the dead where evil men ended up. Hel was the goddess that ruled this realm, and she ensured suffering for those who came to her.
For these warriors, their fate was straight forward. In death, half would go to Valhalla and the other to Fólkvangr. In the first realm, Odin would handpick warriors who then had the pleasure of going to an enormous and majestic hall in Asgard to spend the rest of their days. These lucky men would be escorted by Valkyries, female figures responsible for choosing who lived and died on the battlefield. The remaining soldiers went to Fólkvangr, a meadow realm, ruled by the goddess Freyja.
Many tombs and monuments in the north have the Valknut drawn on them, along with animal drawings known to refer to Odin. Such findings make it easier to piece the meaning of the symbol together, owing to their location. Having these symbols showed faith in the cycle of life and death and a belief other world existed beyond the earth. It would perhaps be comforting for them to know that in death, the Nordic people would experience the gods they prayed to.
Some might find having a symbol for death morbid, but one can go beyond the surface meaning. If you’re looking to adopt it, consider other aspects of death, such as the afterlife or chapter of your life that’s over. The more person your reason for using the symbol, the better.
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