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Viking Rune Tattoos: All You Need Know Before Getting One. Norse Runes & Icelandic Staves in Tattoos

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

Viking mythology and lifestyle have lately been incredibly inspiring to the movie and music industry.

And when something becomes so popular, many aspects become twisted to accommodate the “hype”.

Runes are ancient and not completely studied, from an academic perspective, tradition.

But if you want to use them, be it for a tattoo or magic, you need to spend time studying and working with them. With that said, it is probably in your best personal interest to do so, if you want to permanently put them on your body.


Every Rune has a meaning and an old tradition associated with it, for which reason they are wildly used in magic and rituals.

I trust many of you reading this post are not just thinking about doing this tattoo for hype. I hope you want to connect with the Rune and live life experiences through this Rune.

If this is the case, then you will find my Blog post very helpful.

Also, by a popular request, I have written a second blog post on the subject of Norse tattoos. Make sure to check it out after!

tattoo artist doing a viking style rune tattoo and vegvisir tattoo
Viking Tattoos: All You Need to Know Before Getting One

Blog Post Outline:

(My blogging platform does not have an option to jump to a specific section yet, apologies)

  • Overview of Viking Style tattoos

  • Use of Runes in Tattoos

·Writing names or sentences using Runes for a tattoo

·Understanding the relationship between the Gods and Runes.

·Using Runes in tattoos based on their meanings alone.

·Hiring an expert to advise or create your tattoo design.

  • Galdrastafir - Icelandic Magical Staves in Tattoos

  • What to Do Before You Decide on Getting a Runic Tattoo

  • Getting a Rune Tattoo: Choose an Artist that Knows the Runes!

  • Elder Futhark Rune Meanings in Tattoos

About the Use of Runes in Viking or Nordic Style Inspired Tattoos

Let’s start our conversation with the types of Rune alphabets and writings.

First of all, there are different alphabet types. There are Elder Futhark and Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian Runes. There is also Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, Armanen Futharkh and Slavic Runes.

In this blog post, I will not be covering their details but I will in my upcoming course on the proper use of Germanic Runes in divination and magic.

If you are interested in this subject, don’t forget to subscribe to know about the course release date.

The point of me mentioning the different alphabets is for you to understand that there are quite a few variations and due to the lack of complete information and in-depth study of the Runes, you can find mixed-up information on the internet.

Writing names or sentences using Runes for a tattoo.

So, you want to write the name of your partner or child using Runes? Or maybe you found an inspiring quote and want to use ancient Norse symbols to tattoo it on your arm?

For this reason, we had the above conversation on different alphabets and symbols.

If at the end of this blog post you want to go ahead with this type of Rune tattoo, make sure you know which alphabet you are using and stick to it.

Nevertheless, in all these systems there are absolutely few “dark” Runes, so to speak, just as there are Runes connected to fertility and Gods. If you compare Runes to Tarot cards for a second (not saying you should in general), just as there are Tarot cards with devastating, upsetting and life-changing meanings, there are Runes that bring warnings and signals of significant and life-altering events and consequences.

So, not only do you need to do your research with regards to the alphabets, so that you don’t end up being added to a collection of “stupid tattoos,” you also need to understand that you will inevitably use Runes with different meanings and energies, even if you don’t intend to use them for any specific purpose.

Understanding the relationship between the Gods and Runes.

This is also something to consider when selecting Runes for your tattoo.

If you look at my page with Elder Futhark Rune meanings, you will see that each Rune has a connection to a certain God.

And quite often the nature of the God will influence the behaviour of the Rune. For example, Rune Ansuz is related to both Odin and Loki and when the energy of Loki shows up in the Rune, it completely changes its influence on a person.

If you are choosing a Rune for your tattoo, consider studying not only the Rune’s meaning but also do your research on the Gods and see if their energy and purpose align with your intention.

Using Runes in tattoos based on their meanings.

I just want to cover a few points here.

If you are using Runes solely based on their meanings, then there are multiple paths you can take:

· You can choose one specific Rune you like, have a connection or work with and do a tattoo based on its significance to you or general meaning.

For example, many people choose Rune Algiz, a protection Rune, for their tattoos.

In this way, you will simply scroll down to the Rune Algiz in a Tattoo meaning section, read on the proper use of the Rune in a tattoo and you are good to go.

rune algiz
Rune Algiz is commonly used for protection. Rune deck by Cocorrina.

· You can choose multiple Runes that you will incorporate in a single tattoo that will be a part of the design.

If you are doing this, look at the meaning of each Rune, the best location for the Rune and its safe use.

I advise against using Runes to write names of your children, dogs and lovers. This will result in you creating a message you did not intend to create.

· You can combine the Runes in a single Bindrune for a specific purpose. This is a good way to incorporate a unique design into a tattoo and strengthen your intention.

Galdrastafir - Icelandic Magical Staves in Tattoos

I want to briefly cover Icelandic Magical Staves, as they also seem to be incorporated into Norse tattoos quite often lately. And funnily enough, by you getting this type of tattoo in Iceland does not guarantee the knowledge of the subject of your tattoo artist.

Vegvísir Photo
Vegvísir Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Steininn

If with Runes of Elder Futhark you can come up with a safe and creative tattoo project by learning and understanding their meanings (although information is still limited), with Runes of Younger Futhark and other alphabets the situation is a bit more complicated, as you need to learn their tradition along with meanings (take Slavic Runes, for example), then with Icelandic Magical Staves the situation becomes even MORE complicated!

At this time, there are quite a few versions for using separate Magical Staves but what’s important is being able to differentiate between a true Icelandic Stave (by looking for the source) and some new creations by Ásatrú followers or simply artists. Vegvisir is a good example of that. It does not however decrease the potency of the energy of the stave if properly created. The stave doesn't necessarily have to be created by someone who lived 1000 years ago to be powerful but if this aspect is of importance to you, make sure the stave you choose is actually from that age.

Woman with a cat an a tattoo of vegvísir is an Icelandic Magical Stave
A Vegvísir is an Icelandic Magical Stave originally used to help the bearer find a way through rough weather.

Choosing a Galdrastafir for a tattoo requires competency in the subject and I am not saying that no one is competent, I am merely recommending you look for someone who can advise you on a proper tattoo design.

I have seen the tattoos of Magical Staves which honestly raises more questions. People back in the day used those staves for their mundane day-to-day struggles.

But when I see a man with the Icelandic Stave as a part of his sleeve tattoo that represents luck in fishing, I’m honestly quite astonished by such an important relationship between a man and fishing in 2022, unless, of course, you are a fisherman!

There is also another important aspect to Galdrastafir. Most staves have their own procedure for how they need to be carved, which material is to be used and if it needs to be painted with blood, as well as where it should be placed. I guess technically you can say that tattoo is a way of activating the stave with blood. But the question is: do you REALLY need this stave on your body for life?

For this reason, many people claim that the idea of using Magical Staves in tattoos is wrong.

I personally don't think it is, just understand what the stave means.

A good book to purchase if you are interested in Icelandic Magical Staves is by Matthew Leigh Emberton.

What to Do Before You Decide on Getting a Runic Tattoo

So, before we move on to talking about the meaning of each Rune of Elder Futhark in a tattoo, I want to give you some suggestions on what you can do before you settle on the Rune/s you want to use for your tattoo.

1. Start by Connecting with the Rune of a Deeper Level.

When you selected a Rune for your tattoo, read and understood its meaning upright and reversed, if applicable, spend some time feeling the energy of the Rune.

This involves meditation, hand-drawing the Rune, and chanting Galdr (Rune Chant).

2. Learn More About the God/s associated with the Rune.

Old Viking statue of Odin, the Allfather
Old Viking statue of Odin, the Allfather from the Göteborgs Naturhistoriska Museum

Just as you would do with the Rune itself, read more on the God, Goddess or Norn associated with the Rune. Do their actions, based on the mythology, align with your character and values?

This would also be a good time to think of the offering you can do to God to connect with them on a deep level.

3. Before Getting an Actual Permanent Tattoo, Consider a Temporary Option.

This would probably be my most important suggestion and I do truly think that this is a MUST.

And there really are some options for you but I suggest staying away from those stickers that peel off in a few days.

You can use henna or even draw it yourself with a pen and see how your day or week goes.

4. Consider hiring an expert to advise or create your tattoo design.

I would advise that you consider hiring an expert in Runes, Viking Age, or Icelandic Magical Staves to create your design.

Maybe you can even find someone to do it for free for you.

I believe you can already understand that there are far too many “fakes”, where people come up with large writings in Old Icelandic, and combine them with Magical Staves and Bindrunes. All this is accompanied by a string of orthographic, grammatical and pictographic mistakes. And, of course, the incorrect use of the Runes and their meanings.

Getting a Rune Tattoo: Choose an Artist that Knows the Runes!

I had to put an exclamation mark there, just had to.

Just as with the above point, this is something that gets so overlooked.

Please, don’t pick your artist solely based on their popularity, proximity to your home or discount offers.

You want to pick an artist that “knows how to carve,” because, yes, doing a Rune tattoo is the same thing as carving it on a stone or wood.

When you are drawing or carving the Rune, there is a specific way of doing it and the artist you work with should be aware of that.

Not to mention, if they know nothing of the Norse tradition or Germanic Runes, they can make a mistake. We all laugh at people with misspelt tattooed words but what makes a quote or a sentence written with the Germanic alphabet any different?

Still have a question or need advice about your tattoo? I have two options for you!

1. Ask your question on a forum! I will try to get back to you asap + you may start an interesting discussion that will help or inspire others.

2. Book a consultation with me! We will go over all of your questions, search for and implement solutions, pick the Runes that will work specifically for YOU and create necessary Bindrunes that will change your LIFE.

OR you can book a live chat with me where you can ask all your questions about Runes, tattoos and your spiritual or Norse journey.

Elder Futhark Rune Meanings in Tattoos

Viking style pendant with Tiwaz rune in the middle

For the purposes of this Blog Post, I will only cover the meaning of Elder Futhark Runes in tattoos. If you want to learn more about Rune meanings in love & relationship, health, career, finances and more, I have a detailed meaning of every Elder Futhark Rune on my website.

Also, special attention will always be given to the Runes that are read reversed.

The general rule is that they are not recommended to be used in tattoos unless you have a connection with them (i.e. work with them). But see for yourself what their meanings are both upright and reversed before making a decision.

Rune Fehu in a Tattoo:

Fehu IS read reversed, so be mindful when doing any Viking or Ásátru style tattoo that includes this Rune, as you don’t know how the shadow side of the Rune will play out in a particular moment.

Fehu is quite a materialistic Rune, so when talking about the shadow side, we would be able to see how it can affect monetary possessions and decisions. The Rune also does not tolerate any fraud and shady activities for improving income or business, so if you want to have this Rune tattooed, do a reality check of what kind of person you are and what kind of business you do.

In general, if you have any money channel blockages due to past life or current life circumstances, Fehu can help with clearing those up.

Many choose the amulet with three Fehu Runes, which is said to substantially increase its influence, you can think about this idea for your tattoo.

Rune Uruz in a Tattoo:

Rune Uruz Elder Futhark
Rune Uruz Elder Futhark

Uruz is a very powerful Rune, folks. Its energy is strong

and swift and not meant to work for a continuous period of time because it has the aggressive qualities in it that are meant to be used ONLY when there is a need for them. Otherwise, you put yourself at a high risk to destroy what you are trying to build.

Therefore, it is my recommendation NOT to use this Rune in a tattoo. Uruz that goes out of control is like a tornado that destroys everything on its way.

Rune Ansuz in a Tattoo:

Ansuz is a very powerful Rune, folks. It is the Rune governed by two magnificent Gods, Odin and Loki, which gives the Rune two polarities or sides: that of light and of darkness.

The Rune is also read reversed, so you will need to think ahead about how to position it. In any case, what you need to know is that this Rune on your body will not give out only the characteristics YOU are interested in.

As soon as you have this Rune as your tattoo, be ready for it to show its different sides based on your interaction with it and how it reacts specifically to you. It is not clear how the Rune will show itself in a specific situation, so do a tattoo with it understanding this risk.

Rune Thurisaz in a Tattoo:

Rune Thurisaz is a very poor choice for a Runic Tattoo. Consider its powerful DESTRUCTIVE force.

The Rune can be worn as a talisman while you are working on specific problems or shifts but it is NOT a good choice to have it permanently on your body as you WILL attract problems.

Thurisaz can be used as a part of a protective Bindrune. It gives an active form of protection.

Rune Kenaz in a Tattoo:

Rune Kenaz Elder Futhark
Rune Kenaz Elder Futhark

Frankly, the meaning of Rune Kenaz is quite dual. There are a lot of sides to this Rune and I am not talking just about its reversed position.

Perhaps, if you are an artist, or value knowledge and learning, this Rune will work well with you.

But if you continue to reverse it, such as having it as a part of your arm tattoo, it can attract a lot of unexpected problems, misunderstandings and conflicts.

Rune Gebo in a Tattoo:

Rune Gebo Elder Futhark
Rune Gebo Elder Futhark

Gebo is one of a few Runes that is truly a safe choice for a tattoo. This symbol looks identical upright and reversed, which for you means that you can’t really attract anything bad or cause chaos with this tattoo, unlike with some others we’ve discussed so far.

On the contrary, Rune Gebo can help boost your confidence in yourself and your strength and help obtain an internal balance.

Rune Wunjo in a Tattoo:

Rune Wunjo is a very bright and positive symbol, so I understand why some may want to have it as a tattoo.

The Rune has a reversed position where its meaning takes quite a negative form.

It is highly NOT recommended to tattoo Wunjo on the arms and legs.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of this wonderful Rune, choose places like the chest, back or neck where its position will always remain upright.

Rune Hagalaz in a Tattoo:

No. Nope.

Sorry, one more time. NO.

Imagine yourself in this situation. You just got yourself a brand-new Mercedes. You drove to a mall, parked and when came out someone scratched your car. Ok, things happen, you think to yourself. You get your car fixed and the next day, you get into a snow storm, lose control and hit a stop sign. Oh, Gods, you think to yourself, two times in a row. You go and fix your car again, only for someone to smash into you from the back while you are just standing at a red light.

How long can you survive like this? A day, a week or a month?

This is a small example of what a life with Rune Hagalaz tattoo can look like.

This Rune has its qualities and meaning for a reason but it was never meant to serve as a permanent tattoo.

Rune Nauthiz in a Tattoo:

If you read the Complete Guide to Rune Nauthiz on my website, you will notice that I don’t even recommend wearing this Rune as an amulet for a long time.

You see, Nauthiz is the Rune you would work with during the time of struggles and need. You can even put it on your body but for a time being.

To live your entire life under the influence of this Rune can be difficult and truly is not the best idea.

Rune Isa in a Tattoo:

Despite the fact that there is no reversed position for Isa, this Rune is a questionable choice for a tattoo, unless you want to spend you whole life in a “frozen” condition.

You may face difficulties during the times when you need things to move faster make a breakthrough.

The Rune can also negatively impact your health. It can prolong an illness, not giving you a chance for a quick recovery.

Rune Jera in a Tattoo:

After a few “no” from me, I can finally give you the green light again.

The meaning of Rune Jera always stays positive, as the Rune symbol is nit read reversed, which means you can safely use it for your Norse style tattoos.

Just remember to be ready to act and not just dream. As long as you set goals in life and act upon them, Jera will really help you reap what you saw in all areas of life.

There are also no limitations with regards to body part selection for this tattoo, as long as it is a single Rune tattoo. If you are combining multiple Runes, then you have to consider those Runes and their restrictions.

Rune Eihwaz in a Tattoo:

You can use Eihwaz in your tattoos safely. This Rune also does not have a reversed position, so it can’t have a significantly bad influence on your life.

That said, this Rune won’t offer much influence at all, if you ask me. So, if you are anticipating some mystical events and transformation, they won’t come under the energy of this Rune.

Eihwaz is too much in tune with your PERSONAL power. It can aid in guiding it, strengthening what you already have. So, think about what you have to offer first.

Rune Perthro in a Tattoo:

Like I have mentioned in my Rune Reading & Divination section, Perthro is not so much read as a “reversed” Rune but more of a direction Rune. If the Rune faces right, it represents Life. If it faces left, it represents Death. This is due to a fact that Perthro denotes the cycle of life & death and releases one from a fear of the latter.

For example, look at this image that people commonly use in their Norse or Viking-style tattoos. Perthro here looks towards the left, facing Rune Algiz, a powerful protection Rune, whose qualities are now diminished. So, this would be an example of a Norse tattoos to avoid.

If you asked me, I would have moved it to the top, so it faces the right and gives birth to any positive powerful Rune, such as Ansuz, Fehu or Wunjo.

Runes are VERY powerful, and it is important that you use a selection of safe Runes and know how to place them in your tattoo.

Rune Algiz in a Tattoo:

Rune Algiz is one of the most popular Runes used in Norse and Viking style tattoos as a protection symbol. It may seem like it is the perfect Rune to tattoo, however this Rune is actually not amongst the list of the “safe” Runes to tattoo, so to speak.

The Rune can be tattooed much more safely than, say, Thurisaz. Nevertheless, it is not recommended for people that have NOTHING to do with the Runes, don’t have a personal connection to Algiz and want to do it just for fun, thinking it will offer any kind of protection.

Understand, each Rune is quite complicated and can take different courses and paths, depending on your actions and intentions. Algiz has a VERY POWERFUL energy and can have a strong influence on a person and their life.

Moreover, the Rune is read reversed and you should carefully consider how it will be positioned because its meaning changes drastically.

What to do if you already have Algiz tattooed?

I suggest taking time to develop a connection with the Rune. At the very least, perform a candle Ritual, activating the Rune and do a few meditations to really tap into the energy of the Rune.

I still have some Runic candles on my Etsy page, and you can send me a request for a custom Runic candle. I will hand carve the Rune on a crystal and insert it in the candle specifically for you.

Rune Sowilo in a Tattoo:

On one hand, the good thing about tattooing Sowilo is that it does not have a reversed meaning. It is also overall one of the most positive Runic symbols of Elder Futhark, so it is really not dangerous to have it as a tattoo.