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Valknut: the Norse Mystery

Valknut is one of the most prominent and interesting symbols in Norse culture. Its origin coming from words 'valr' that means "slain warrior" and 'knut' that means "knot". So, we can say that “Valknut” is translated like “The Knot of the Slain Warrior”. It's also known as Odin’s knot, Hrungnir’s heart  and the Heart of Vala. It's considered to be Odin's symbol. And it’s not a surprise as in Norse mythology Odin isn’t just the Supreme God, he is also the God of war and death.

On the numerous archeological findings Valknut is often depicted with Odin, ravens or wolves symbols who were his constants companions. This is also proves that this sign belongs to Odin.

The association of the symbol with the God of Death led to the Valknut being regarded as the symbol of a ‘Cult of the Dead’. And there’s a big meaning in it. The Valknut symbolizes the recognition of brave individuals in the prime of life who sacrificed themselves for the good of the clan.

Valknut and magic

Odin is known as one of the most powerful magicians and shamans. In literary sources it’s often said about his abilities. The historian H.R. Ellis Davidson says “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.” Weaving in this symbolic sense and spiritual power were almost synonymous, so it should come as no surprise that a symbol involving power over life and death would be visualized as a knot.

Notwithstanding the Valknut was the symbol of the Supreme God, nowadays we know so less about its exact meaning and use. There’s no writing sources about symbol from the time it was used. Everything we can is to make the conclusions from the context within which it appears in archaeological relics. The Lärbro Stone or Stora Hammar is the most well-known site about our question.

The Lärbro Stone

The Lärbro Stone or Stora Hammar is the huge monolith on Gotland Island, Sweden. There’re few scenes from the Norse mythology are depicted on its front side. One of them shows the figure with spear and raven on the shoulder blessing the warrior interred in a burial mound. Above the warrior is a Borromean Valknut, indicating that he was slain in a battle, and above it, another raven soars.

The Tängelgarda Stone

This stone was also found at the Sweden land. On this stone was depicted two Valknut symbols. Here, Odin is shown as the warrior on the horse, with weapon and shield, leading an army. The triangular spaces formed the first and second legs of Odin’s horse, and the second and third legs, are each filled with a Valknut.

Hrungnir’s heart

Some scholarships propose the variant the variant that the Valknut could be the Hrungnir’s heart. In Prose Edda you can find these words: “Hrungnir had a heart made of hard stone and pointed with three corners, just like the carved symbol which has been called Hrungnir’s heart ever since.”

According to this information, we can make a conclusion that the meaning of the Valknut has much to do with death, the transition from life to death and probably back again, Odin, and the power to bind and unbind. But even though all these tells us something of its meaning, but this is so general that it can hardly be the whole picture.