The Vegvísir: Exploring the Symbolism and History of the Viking Compass

The Vegvísir symbol is an ancient Icelandic magical stave commonly called the "Viking compass" or "Runic compass." It's a symbol of protection and guidance that's said to help the bearer find their way in difficult situations or when traveling in rough weather.

Vegvísir viking compass symbol

The word Vegvísir is derived from Icelandic and Old Norse, but there are a few different ways to break it down. In its entirety, the term "Vegvísir" translates to signpost in Icelandic. The first half of the word comes from "vegur" in Icelandic and "vegr" in Old Norse, translating to road, way, or path. The second half of the word is derived from "vísir" in Icelandic and "vísa" in Old Norse, meaning indicator, direct, or guide.

The Vegvísir is often closely associated with Norse mythology and is said by many to have been used by Viking seafarers as a navigational aid. According to some, the symbol was inscribed on ships and worn by sailors to help them find their way in stormy and treacherous waters. Some also believe it to have the power to guide lost travelers and protect them from harm.

Vegvísir symbol from the Huld Manuscript

The symbol is often associated with the Norse people, but the Icelandic Huld Manuscript depicts the first recorded Vegvísir. Geir Vigfússon wrote this book in 1860, centuries after the Viking age ended in 1066. The manuscript offers the name Vegvísir, an image of the symbol, and a description that only states, "if this sign is carried, one will never lose one's way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known."

While some believe the Vegvísir has the power to guide lost travelers and protect them from harm, depending on who you ask, the meaning of the symbol can vary. Others interpret it as a symbol of spiritual guidance and a reminder to stay true to their path and purpose in life. It can also be associated with finding one's true north or inner compass.

Vegvisir viking symbol wall art tapestry

The Vegvísir is still frequently used as a symbol of protection and guidance, often seen in Scandinavian-style jewelry, apparel, artwork, and tattoos. Regardless of its origins, the Vegvísir is a powerful symbol that has endured through the ages. Whether you believe in its magical properties or whether or not Vikings used the Vegvísir, there is no denying the beauty and significance of this ancient symbol that can always serve as a reminder of our connection to our ancestors and the wisdom they left behind.

Vegvisir viking compass symbol pewter necklace


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