Odin Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Odin Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

One of the most fascinating deities in the world comes from Scandinavian culture and was among the most dangerous and wild Viking gods. We’re talking about Odin, of course, the one-eyed god of poetry, magic, war, and death. To enter Valhalla, his famous hall, one had to die in battle, but there’s a lot more to this god than this.

Today we’re going to tell you all about the significance of Odin tattoos. We’ll cover a bit of their history, meanings, and even some of the designs, so that those considering an Odin tattoo will know exactly what they are getting themselves into!

Let’s discuss the grim, one-eyed god from Viking-era history!

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What is the History of Odin Tattoos?

The history of Odin goes back quite some time. While most of the written lore dates back to the 13th century, his cult is definitely much older than that.

We’ve recovered artifacts from as early as the Bronze age (circa 3300-1200 B.C.) depicting a god with a spear – one of his earliest symbols, as followers used to throw a spear above their foes in the beginning of battle, as a way of ‘giving them to Odin’. By 500 A.D., clearer depictions of the one-eyed god were already commonplace.

As far as Odin tattoos, since Vikings did indeed tattoo themselves, they were definitely out there, but Odin tattoos were not for the faint of heart. While he was considered the highest of gods, many people were afraid of him, so Thor and Tyr tattoos were much more common.

That’s because Odin wasn’t afraid to cheat – making the greatest warriors fall in battle before their time, so that they would join his ranks in Valhalla instead of dying the death that a Viking warrior feared the most – old age. This was referred to as a ‘straw death’, because they died on a bed of straw, weakened, useless, and forgotten.

Odin’s association with death has definitely been established and is even evinced in his 8-legged horse, Sleipnir, who some say represents 4 men carrying a coffin. His power comes from the Runes, which he gained by hanging himself from the world tree for 9 days and nights. As mystical skin art options go, Odin tattoos definitely rank at the top.

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What Do Odin Tattoos Symbolize?

Tattooing Odin on yourself is generally a religious statement, as his cult still persists to this very day. It’s not an easy path either, chosen chiefly by those with a shamanistic bent, poets, or warriors who don’t intend to leave this world quietly.

That said, it doesn’t have to be a religious thing. Odin has a resurgence in popularity, thanks to movies such as Marvel’s Thor, so these tattoos can also simply symbolize that one enjoys graphic novels and comics.

If you study Runes, Odin is also a good tattooing choice, as he was the first to discover and master them. This is definitely a tattoo choice that is very personal, however, so the symbolism will really be up to you!

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What Do Odin Tattoos Mean?

Odin tattoos can have a wide range of meanings. For most, they represent an interest in mysteries, especially the Runes for which he is most famous.

An Odin tattoo can also mean that the wearer is a warrior – not just ‘in spirit’, but someone who truly knows how to fight, especially with martial arts or military experience.

These tattoos can also represent a spiritual affiliation, as wearing Odin’s visage was a way of publically stating your faith in this god, and Odin tattoos are also a popular choice for those who like to travel. In the old stories, Odin would disguise himself, wandering the world and often giving advice to heroes.

Odin also represents knowledge of everything – past, present, and future – as the old tales say that he sacrificed his eye for a drink of the well of wisdom and even knows the day when he too will die.

There are many interpretations behind the ‘Gallows God’ to be found, so take your time to find the perfect one that represents you.

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Characteristics and Styles of Odin Tattoos

You’ll find many styles out there to choose from when it comes to Odin Tattoos. Some people like a photorealistic depiction, with an eyepatch or one eye being unseen, beneath a lock of hair or a tilted, wide-brimmed hat.

Other people might prefer to go with the depiction styles from the carvings, such as the famous ‘Jelling’ style that weaves together in the form of a complicated knot. He is often depicted with 3-interlocking triangles –his symbol—which is known as a ‘Valknut’.

This translates to ‘Victory knot’ and represents past, present, and future as a knot that only Odin can untie. Aside from the Valknut, you might also depict him with Sleipnir, his 8-legged horse.

As far as styles, you could go with traditional Viking art styles such as Borre or Jelling, or go with something more modern. Think on your design and take a look at your artist’s portfolio to see what inspires you. The right style will come to you once you know the basic design!

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Where Do Odin Tattoos Usually Go?

The most common placement for Odin tattoos is on the shoulder or outer arm, and on the back. The chest is another popular placement, so that one’s dedication is readily visible when you are shirtless and ready to fight!

Some might also choose a spot like the ankle or the hip, but these are generally less common, as Odin tattoos are usually a show of faith. That said, the meaning and the placement is really a personal thing, so go with whatever feels right – it’s your tattoo, after all, so you are the one that makes all the rules!

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Odin Tattoos: Some final words on the subject

In today’s article we’ve discussed Odin tattoos, exploring a bit of their history and meanings to give you a more comprehensive view on the symbolism behind them. While most commonly a religious choice, they can also reflect a love of Marvel comics, Viking history, or even symbolize a shamanic bent.

If you love poetry, magic, Vikings, and battle, then an Odin tattoo might just be a perfect fit for you!

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