With shows like Vikings and The Last Kingdom, Viking culture and Norse mythology are on the rise again. They were fierce, great sailors, and had excellent hygiene, so I get where the fascination comes from.
An excellent example of just how widely these Scandinavians are beloved is the tattoo industry. Nowadays, people ink all parts of their bodies with Viking weapons, boats, and even their gods.
Bored Panda collected a list of these designs to give you an idea of how these designs look. Who knows, maybe you too are thinking of getting one. And if not, at least you can admire their dope looks!
Tattoo artist Piotr Szencel, who is also featured in this list, said Viking tattoos are quite popular everywhere but he thinks he feels there's a difference between Nordic countries and other places in the way they express the same ideas. "I think here in the North, the source of inspiration is more genuine," Szencel told Bored Panda. "That history lies within families' roots. It's real culture that is still alive, just maybe a bit hidden. For example, when I got a request for a tattoo from an old man, he brought a photo of a Hammer of Thor necklace, which his family found back in the day, and it was passed down from generation to generation as a family treasure."
"That necklace is now at a historical museum in Gotland. We did the same one on his chest but in my style. That's a fairly simple and popular motif for a tattoo but that background makes it extraordinary."
Szencel was a graphic designer for a long time and the first tattoos he did were on his own skin. Eventually, he decided he wanted to become a traveling tattoo artist and has been working hard to make his dream a reality. "During the last 3 years, I have visited almost all European countries but something always pushes me to the North. I had been spending a lot of time in Iceland and Norway and finally, I decided to move to the north of Sweden where I still live."
Piotr's tattoo that ended up on our list was a part of a person's half-leg sleeve. "The client was inspired by Ragnarok scenes. We chose Thor and snake Jörmungandr fighting in a storm and a Viking ship in the middle of the battle. We did it all in 3 sessions, spending 6 hours on each one."
Mark Gray is another artist whose work found its way onto this list. He has been tattooing for 13 years now and specializes in black and grey styles. "I have worked at conventions across Europe and at some amazing studios here in the UK but now work from my private studio," Gray told Bored Panda. "I take the time to create a piece for my client and only take on work I feel passionate about and will enjoy."
He thinks that mythological tattoos as a whole are becoming much more popular. "Personally, I think there is a rise of pagan influences and deities as inspiration as we are becoming more world and environmentally focused. These old gods of nature are more relatable, I think," he said.
His Viking tattoo was designed to show Norse culture instead of being focused on the raiding concept. "The runes running through it are from Codex Runicus, 202 pages written around 1300 which include the oldest preserved Nordic law."
"My client works in linguistics so we felt this suited him very well and gave the piece more depth due to his interest in Norse, and ancient languages and culture," Gray explained. "The Runicus shows a lot of civility in what can be perceived as raiding hordes, especially if you read how diplomatic and forward-thinking some of the laws were. It's very relevant to my client who has an interest in Norse and ancient languages and culture. As we are both a little Pagan at heart, it was amazing to share the same inspirations with the client and create to properly fit him."
The tattoo artist spent many hours researching and getting inspiration before creating a base concept within photoshop. "I evolve that during the tattoo process so it will work best with the body. I think we have spent around 35-40 hours on the piece and my client sat for 5-hour sessions at a time," Gray recalled. "You always get your good days and bad days when under the needle for that long but mostly the arms are one of the most comfortable places to get tattooed."
Simply put, the Vikings were Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes, who were usually farmers, traders, blacksmiths, and craftsmen. For various reasons, they took to raiding towns, churches, and monasteries. Often, they attacked places on the coast as they were easiest to reach. With their swift and easily-landed ships, the Vikings could quickly swarm over communities, killing and looting, and just as fast return to their ships and disappear. They were often gone before any defense or counter-attack could be made.
Even though the Vikings had the runic alphabet, they didn't have written history. Because of that, we don't know for sure why they began raiding. According to History on the Net, scholars have presented many theories why the Scandinavians began leaving home on extensive raids, trading missions, explorations and settlement, which include: population pressures and not enough good farmland, too many landless younger sons, easy targets of unprotected, wealthy church properties and towns, trade imbalances between European Christians and the pagan Vikings, competition among chieftains in their native lands, and the lure of adventure in foreign lands.
As we see in these pictures, the world of Norse mythology was full of gods and goddesses, giants, and other strange and powerful creatures, such as elves, dwarves, and land spirits. It might be difficult for a 21st-century person to fully understand the worldview of the Vikings, but the center of the Vikings' cosmos is the ash tree Yggdrasil, growing out of the Well of Urd.
Yggdrasil holds the Nine Worlds, the home of gods, man, and all spiritual beings. The gods live in Asgard and Vanaheim and humans inhabit Midgard. Giants live in Jotunheim, elves in Alfheim, and dwarves in Svartalfheim. Another is the primordial world of ice, Niflheim, while Muspelheim is the world of fire. The last world comprises Hel, the land of the dead, ruled by the goddess Hel.
The gods and goddesses venerated by the Vikings are Odin, Thor, Loki, Baldur, Frigg, Freya, Freyr and Njoror. There are many other gods and goddesses in the Norse pantheon but this gang received by far the most attention in their sagas and eddas.
Vikings are some of the coolest and most interesting figures in history and still have a cultural impact today. No wonder Norse mythology-inspired tattoos never go out of style.
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