Viking Compass Meaning

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One of the most prominent Viking symbols is the Vegvisir or Nordic compass. It's a popular symbol used by people during the Viking age to prevent them from losing their way. 

The Vegvisir compass, also known as the Viking Compass or Nordic Compass, is not merely an Icelandic Norse symbol but also a modern aspect of the ancient runic magic practiced by the Vikings. The rune is what protects people from getting lost on the way. The symbol depicts eight directions that symbolize the different paths one can take. 

The word Vegvisir consists of two Nordic words – vegur, which implies the way or path, and visir, which translates to guide or pointer. The Vegvisir meant The Pointer of the Way and helped those who wore it find their way back home. 

As great seafarers, the Vikings carried the Vegvisir with them or got it tattooed on the forehead, as they believed it would bring them back home safely.

viking compass meaning
A depiction of the Viking compass

History and Meaning of the Vegvisir

In 874CE, settlers arrived in Iceland, and they brought with them the Old Norse mythology. This included their belief in worshiping the Norse gods, Æsir and Vanir. Old Norse mythology also encompasses magic and how people could utilize it, written in Icelandic grimoire or book of spells. 

The original inhabitants developed Icelandic magical staves or symbols to channel magic, and the most popular stave is Vegvisir. 

Where Does The Viking Compass Come From?

While the symbol is associated with Vikings and Norse people, its first description is in the Huld Manuscript from Iceland, written in 1860, centuries after the Viking age.

Geir Vigfússon wrote this in Icelandic, and it states: “If this sign, called the Vegvisir (way-shower, way finder, or way pointer), is carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known.”

What Do The Points On Vegvisir Mean?

According to the Huld manuscript, the original Vegvisir symbol contains four diagonal, slightly longer Rune staves that fit in a square outline. 

Sometimes, the runic compass symbol is seen within a ring of symbols surrounding the center image. The eight staves are all of equal lengths to fit within the circle. Each of the eight spokes emerges from a single point, and the end of the spoke has various runes attached. 

Much like a compass, the points on the Vegvisir represent guidance and safety during travel. It depicts direction, protection, guidance, security, stability, finding the way, being in control, and always making the right decision. 

What Do The Runes On The Viking Compass Say?

The Viking runes in the circle around the symbol Vegvisir are not a part of Huld’s original design. Sometimes the runes are depicted around the compass symbol, as in the runic alphabet in a circle. Still, sometimes they depict the phrase not all who wander are lost.

However, there is no single way to depict and decipher the runes present around the Vegvisir, and people interpret them in a variety of ways.

viking compass meaning
Viking compass necklace

How Does the Viking Compass Work?

Vikings used a sun compass to navigate their way during travel as it indicated the correct direction. The compass consists of a vertical pointer placed on a horizontal surface. 

Throughout the day, they used to draw the shadow of this pointer, called a gnomon. The shadow curve differs at varying latitudes and during different times of the year. It requires a series of curves to help with navigation. 

The sunstone doesn’t resemble the Vegvisir much. Still, experts believe this crystal compass inspired the Vegvisir symbol, which comprises four lines and eight points. The eight points resemble the cardinal points present on the compass.

Wearing the Vegvisir Today

The Vikings wore the Vegvisir symbol as they believed it helped the wearer find their way home. It was also a clear reminder that on a deep spiritual level, the wearer will always get guidance through life’s twists and turns to find a safe harbor back to their spiritual home or themselves. 

People wear the Viking magical symbol today, especially as jewelry, because it’s fashionable. It holds a universal significance and not just religious implications, making it a relatable symbol for everyone. 

Wearing a pendant, ring, or button with the inscription of Vegvisir helps invoke the Norse magic to bless people on their travels and ensure they return home safely. The symbol is an integral part of jewelry and decorative items.

viking compass meaning
The Vegvisir tattoo can symbolize protection and a safe homecoming.

Viking Compass Vegvisir Tattoo Meaning

People often choose Vegvisir for Viking tattoos because of its intricate, mystic, beautiful design. It’s not just because of the simple graphic image that looks good as a tattoo but also due to its significance of giving safety and protection while ensuring a safe homecoming for the wearer.

The Icelandic singer and songwriter Bjork has the Vegvisir symbol tattooed on her arm. She states that she got it to find her way back home. 

If you’ve found this article helpful, check out this post on Viking runes and meanings.


Vanessa's liberal arts background has prepared her well for Symbol Scholar. A self-proclaimed theology nerd, Vanessa has interests in world religions, Reformation theology, history, and more. When she's not working, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family, reading, exercising, and watching professional basketball.

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