Symbols are one of the ways that we express our culture and beliefs, and it was no different for the Vikings in the Old Norse era. They had plenty of them, the most notable one being the Helm of Awe. In this article, we’ll look at what it was, and also attempt to give meaning to the runes that circle the Helm of Awe.
What is the Helm of Awe?
The Helm of Awe, which is also called as the Helm of Terror, is a magical stave of Icelandic origins. It as a couple of other names, including the Viking compass, and the Ægishjálmur, a name that’s derived from the Aegir, God of the Jotunheim ocean. As per Norse cosmology, Jotunheim was primarily where giant creatures lived in cold temperatures, with other sea forms living beneath the frozen waters.
As per additional literate that exists, it is the item that Sigurd took from the dragon Fafnir after slaying him. The same is recorded in a section of the Völsunga saga. In the Poetic Edda, Fafnir is said to attribute his powers to the Helm of Awe. The marking is mysterious and considered one of the most powerful symbols of Norse mythology given how strong the dragon was to keep e everyone away from his ill-gotten riches.
Looking at it, the Helm of Awe is reminiscent of a compass, with the four cardinal points along with the in intercardinal points included. The other thing about Norse mythology symbols, they aren’t always fixed. In some places, you will find the eight points while in other areas the same is drawn with only four points. In whatever form, it was believed that warriors put the symbol on their warriors to channels the same fierce energy that Fafnir had.
From the works of runologist and linguistic Stephen Flowers, one can conclude that the Helm of Awe had a deeper meaning. It wasn’t merely a physical symbol that had magical properties. The Old Norse word used in the Poetic Edda was hjálmr, which means “covering.” Stephen suggests that the purpose of the Helm of Awe was to bring fear to the enemies. He further ties it to the powers that Fafnir had, paralyzing the foe with fear before striking.
Meaning of the runs around the Helm of Awe
Runes were part of the Germanic culture at the time, and it is no wonder that the symbol comprises of the same. Norse mythology states that Odin learned the secret language after being suspended on the Yggdrasil (Tree of Life) for nine days, held up pierce on the tree by his sword. The Vikings took the knowledge from Odin, and used it to make magical spells that would serve to help them in what they needed.
The arms of the Helm for a Z, with the initial meaning of it, meant to show overcoming one’s enemies and also protection from the same. With that in mind, it would make sense why the Helm features these Z runes. The other meaning offered is that it would also give someone courage and strength as they face their enemies, helping them overcome fear. Sometimes the symbol would be drawn with blood, interacting with the pineal gland, which is said to be the center of a Viking’s soul.
The spikes perpendicular to the arms is considered to be Isa runes. The reality with this part of the Helm is that there is no solid definition of what it is. There are differing definitions offered to tell us what the Isa runes mean. However, some say that Isa means ice. The suggestion is that it speaks of the hard nature of ice, and also the concentration that comes from giving someone an icy look. Further still, there is a reference to giants that live in dark wintery areas since they were known for the same. Even with that, one ought to take it with a pinch of salt, since after all, these could merely be decorative lines.
The circle found at the center of the Helm is thought to symbolize protection from anyone who wears it. The protection is not only physical but mental and spiritual as well. That is not something unusual since there are markings in other religions that hold similar features. One such symbol is the Buddhist dharma wheel. It’s is said to protect the heart and act as a pathway to enlightenment. The likeness in the placement of the dharma, between the eyes, bare a similar concept.
The people who currently find the Helm of Awe part of their religion are the Asatru group. It is a new religious movement under the Heathenry, Heathenism or Germanic Neopaganism which is a modern pagan religion. The Asatru region involves the worship of the ancient Germanic gods and spirits. The group came about in 1970s in Iceland, but the roots and practice of the same dates back thousands of years.
Odin is no longer with us to reveal to us the meaning of the runes around the Helm of Awe. We can, though, look at the context in which it existed and derive meaning from it. If you’re looking to be part of the Asatru religion or looking for a symbol for strength and courage, then you can consider the Helm of Awe. You don’t have to paint it on your forehead. You can get a tattoo or merchandise that would include a ring or a necklace. You want something with you to remind you that you are indeed protected physically, mentally, and spiritually.
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