Valknut is one of the most prominent and popular Viking symbols. Despite having many names, including Valknut, Hrungnir’s heart, Odin’s knot and three triangles, it also has a long history and is widely used and applied. It appears on a variety of objects from the archeological record of the ancient Germanic people. The compound noun “valknut” is from the modern era. The term used for this symbol during its historical employment is unknown.
This Nordic symbol was first discovered on an ancient carved stone named Valknut. This carved stone is also called Hrungnir’s heart in memory of Hrungnir in the Prose Edda. Its most famous name is Valknut or the Slain knot. This symbol has been found on several carved stones with funeral patterns and is considered an emblem of afterlife. The three interlocked triangles and nine points in the Valknut symbol sometimes is used to stand for the cycle of rebirth, fetation and regeneration. The interlocking also suggests the interconnection between three worlds: earth, hell and paradise, which include nine realms.
The valknut appears on a wide variety of objects found in areas inhabited by the Germanic people. The symbol is prominently featured on the Nene River Ring, an Anglo-Saxon gold finger ring dated back to around the 8th to 9th centuries. The valknut appears prominently on two picture stones from Gotland, Sweden, indicating that it has a symbolic meaning.
Chapter 17 of the 13th century Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál contains the following description of the heart of the jötunn Hrungnir; “Hrungnir had a heart that was famous. It was made of hard stone with three sharp-pointed corners just like the carved symbol hrungnishjarta [Hrungnir’s heart].”Comparisons have been made between this symbol description and the symbol known as the valknut.
Odin and mental binds
Hilda Ellis Davidson theorizes a connection between the valknut, the god Odin and “mental binds”:
For instance, beside the figure of Odin on his horse shown on several memorial stones there is a kind of knot depicted, called the valknut, related to the triskele. This is thought to symbolize the power of the god to bind and unbind, mentioned in the poems and elsewhere. Odin had the power to lay bonds upon the mind, so that men became helpless in battle, and he could also loosen the tensions of fear and strain by his gifts of battle-madness, intoxication, and inspiration.
Davidson says that similar symbols are found beside figures of wolves and ravens on “certain cremation urns” from Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in East Anglia.
Due to the Norwegian name for the symbol, valknuter, and the fact that the symbol appears on picture stones with Odin and on burial gifts in the Oseberg ship burial, Rudolf Simek says that the symbol may have been associated with religious practices surrounding death.
The valknut symbol plays a role in modern Heathenry, where numerous explanations and interpretations of the symbol are given. It has been used by various political groups, and sometimes sees use in modern popular culture. In Europe, the Swedish pulp and paper manufacturer and consumer goods company Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget uses a triquetra valknut as their logo, which can be commonly seen on many products produced by the company;
the DFB has used a logo inspired by the unicursal form of the valknut for the German national football team since 1991. In the United States, the symbol is used as a logo for the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. The symbol appears as the fretboard inlay on some of Arch Enemy/Carcass guitarist Michael Amott’s signature Dean Guitars “Tyrant” models, and it is also used as a logo by American engineering firm RedViking.
The symbol, like many others associated with Germanic paganism, is used by some white nationalist groups to represent their heritage.Despite this, the valknut has not been classified as generally objectionable by the German government.