Aegishjalmur

February 03, 2022 6 min read

Aegishjalmur : All About This Viking Symbol | Viking Heritage

Aegishjalmur: Viking symbol of terror

Land of the Vikings, Northern Europe is full of interesting stories. Within the Nordic mythology, the Aegishjalmur is a symbol as mysterious as powerful. In this article we will introduce you to it.

The origin of the word Aegishjalmur 

Before discovering its real history, let's recall the etymological meaning of the word Aegishjalmur. This word is composed of 2 distinct roots. First, there is "Aegis" which means shield in Old Norse. In this same language, the second root, "hjalmr" means bars.

The Aegishjalmur is also known as the Helm of Awe and Terror. First of all, we need to clarify one point about this. In the Nordic language, the words helmet and helm have the same root. This does not refer to the physical helmet that one may wear in battle. This translation has long put researchers on the wrong track. Some may have thought that it was a type of helmet that was common during battle.

In fact, the word bar also refers to the expression: "in the foreground", "in front". It is in this etymological conception that the Aegishjalmur has its full meaning. 

The meaning of this ancient symbol

Le mot et symbole Aegishjalmur n’est donc pas un casque que portaient les guerriers Vikings lors de leurs pillages et combats. Mais alors que signifie-t-il ?

Finally, this explanation is not so far from reality. Before leaving to fight their enemies, the Vikings drew the symbol Aegishjalmur on their foreheads. Painting this symbol on their face, between their eyebrows, was a form of good luck charm. This way they could protect themselves and hope to win their battles. This painting took place during a magical ritual, as the Vikings do so well.

From a more symbolic point of view, this sign allowed to protect oneself against direct and frank attacks. Indeed, on the battlefield, many warriors faced each other face to face in a fight with shields and swords. With this design worn on the face, a Viking would have been invincible, impossible to defeat.

This symbol was not only displayed for protection. The Aegishjalmur was also painted on the forehead to create fear in the enemy. Indeed, opponents who saw this symbol understood the strength of the Viking and thus developed a fear of fighting him, even to the point of terror. The nickname "terror spell" that was given to him is therefore totally justified. This double meaning shows the power of this symbol, which is quite old.

History and function

The Aegishjalmur is a magical Icelandic symbol that did not appear during the Viking Age. The traces of its presence go back much earlier. Many books and grimoires mention its history before.

For example, the fact that the Vikings decorated their foreheads with the symbol is true. The Volsunga saga is a legendary Norse saga, originating in Iceland in the 13th century. It tells of the rise of the Volsung clan to power and their fall. In chapter 18, one of the heroes, Sigurd, has a discussion with Fafnir, a man transformed into a dragon after being cursed for a golden treasure he coveted. In his battles, he wore the Aegishjalmur, which earned him many victories. Fafnir describes that the enemies were in great numbers but were afraid of the power delivered by this man.

The Poetic Edda is a collection of texts from the Viking oral tradition, transmitted from generation to generation. It is said of him:


I wore against the sons of men" A helmet of terror

When I lay on the treasure;

Stronger on my own

I thought I was stronger than all,

Unmindful of the number of my enemies".

The Aegishjalmur is a symbol that was also very well worn on oneself. In the form of bracelets or necklaces, the sign offered the same power to the Nordic warrior, as long as it was stuck to his skin. Some people even had it tattooed on their body in order to have it on a daily basis.

During the 14th century, some Viking clans painted it on the helmet used during battles. They think that the power is increased tenfold and more effective. Whether on the forehead or on the equipment, all agree that this lucky symbol works well.

The various accounts that we have on the Aegishjalmur do not really mention its functioning. However, it seems that it is linked to an ancient form of Viking magic called the Seidr.

Symbol design

Aegishjalmur

The Aegishjalmur is a circular symbol that consists of 8 tridents that point outwards. One could even say that they seek to protect the central point. This design finally reminds us of the very purpose of the symbol: protection.

The helmet of terror has a link with the Viking runes. These are the alphabet and writing system used by the Nordic people. They have a link with the Odin deity.

Its arms are strongly reminiscent of the Algiz rune: ᛉ. This rune is also called the Z-shaped rune. It represents the protection and security that comes from the connection with the gods and the sacred. The so-called "peak", represented by the rune Isaz "ᛁ", appears as an ice that freezes what is around it. Some people even describe it as the rune of perseverance.

Being connected to the runes, the power of the Aegishjalmur is doubled. It benefits from a physical protection against attacks as well as a spiritual protection. Indeed, a fight was not only played on the physical aspect. The mental aspect made it possible to overcome its fears.

This association of protections made it possible to consider the Viking Aegishjalmur as a symbol of courage making it possible to overcome each difficulty which occurs in the life.

The resemblance with Vegvisir

Aegishjalmur Vegvisir

There are many Viking symbols. The Vegvisir is one of them. It appears in two different sources: the Galdrabok and the Huld manuscript. In the latter, the Vegvisir symbolizes orientation and protection. The sources all show that this symbol would have been used for navigation purposes during their raids on Europe, allowing them to return home safely.

The one often associated with a compass consists of a compass with 8 branches. The symbols on these branches are circles, lines, semi-circles and dots. Viking runes are also present around the Vegvisir.

In the Galdrabok, this symbol must be drawn on the forehead with blood to guide and protect it.

Finally the Aegishjalmur and the Vegvisir have some similarities in their meanings and customs. However, they are not the same symbols and should not be confused. The Aegishjalmur is painted with lead or copper paint.

An artistic presence

This Viking sign was important in the Nordic culture. When they were on the front line, they disappeared after a while. But this was not the case when the Vikings tattooed them on their bodies. This is the most common art form in which the Aegishjalmur is used.

On Viking Heritage, we have a whole series of products that remind us of this symbol of protection and power. If you want to wear it directly on your skin, Aegishjalmur bracelets and watches are for you! Among the latter, the wooden watch models have their dials engraved with Viking runes. Finally, wearing it proudly on your chest is also possible with the Aegishjalmur t-shirt.

It is a branch of magic that the Nordic people used to deal with destiny. The masters of the Seidr, who are usually the elders of the villages, were able to perceive the lines of a person's destiny within their very existence. It would even be possible to modify them in order to change the future and thus rewrite history.

The Seidr would give its power to the Aegishjalmur through its branch entirely dedicated to illusion. The use of the sign would change the perception of the people around the wearer, whether they were enemies or friends. This is how a warrior appeared much more powerful and frightening.

It is important to know that this is a magic that Freya taught to the Aesir. Odin is said to be the only one who became its master. Seidr was apparently mainly performed by women, who were then called seiokona.