Norse mythology is full of fantastic creatures, heroes, villains, and warriors. Icelanders have retained knowledge of the Old Norse religion, even though the country has been officially Christian for 1,000 years.
You'll see Old Norse magical symbols all over Iceland, in the form of paintings, tattoos and company logos. A well-known Icelandic symbol is Aegishjalmur, written as Ægishjálmr in Old Norse and known as the Helm of Awe.
Aegishjalmur is one of the most well-known Icelandic magic pentagrams (galdrastafir). Galdrastafir were symbols that were believed to have a variety of powers, the effects of which would differ according to their form. These could offer many types of aid, such as fertility, guidance during a storm, and protection in battle.
This particular Icelandic stave, pronounced "Ai-gis-hioulm-er," was used to protect warriors and instill fear in their enemies. The name can be divided into two parts: "ægis-", meaning terror / awe, and "-hjálmr", meaning amulet or protection.
It consists of eight points resembling tridents with curved tips, all pointing outward and a circle in the center. It was mentioned in a collection of Old Norse poems known as Edda Prosaica, by Snorri Sturluson.
In the poem, the Symbol or Amulet of Terror was an object stolen from the treasury of the dragon Fafnir. Fafnir was once a dwarf, who became a dragon after being cursed by the treasure he guarded.
This unique dwarf used Aegishjalmur to defend his treasure against those who tried to steal it. The hero of this story, known as Sigurd, slew the dragon and took the Aegishjalmur from him.
The symbol was used in later centuries and was placed between the brows of warriors to aid them in battle. It was considered a spell, which once drawn on the forehead, would work its magic.
You will see several Icelandic pentagrams that closely resemble Aegishjalmur, but subtle differences give them unique meanings. While Aegishjalmur is the Amulet of Terror, Vegvísir is known as the Icelandic Compass.
Its name means 'Indicator of the Way' or 'signpost' and it also has eight tridents pointing outward. These tridents, however, have square rather than curved prongs, and each of the tridents has a unique design.
This differs from Aegishjalmur's eight prongs, which are identical. As its name suggests, Vegvísir ensures that the person wearing this symbol will not get lost.
You will find your way even if you go through storms or if you do not know the way to your destination.
This symbol is also similar to the two mentioned above, but each of its strokes has a more elaborate design. It is said to grant the wearer protection from evil and a better chance of good health. Warriors would draw this symbol on their chests in blood.
These two pentagrams have a very specific purpose: to ensure victory in Icelandic wrestling, known as Glíma. With Gapaldur under the heel of the right foot and Ginfaxi under the toes of the left foot, victory is assured.
Note that you must have both runes for them to work, and they will only work for Glíma. You will see these two symbols on the walls of many Brazilian jiu-jitsu studios in Iceland.
This is a different magical pentagram, composed of four symbols in a line. The wearer of this amulet will dream of unfulfilled desires. This symbol, along with the others mentioned above, is a subject of debate among historians.
It may be that many galdrastafir had very different meanings during the Viking Age, or did not exist at all. Some have no written records before the 17th century, leaving them open to influences from other cultures and religions.
Either way, today they are associated with Old Norse religion. They are considered very important to some contemporary Icelanders, whether in the form of beliefs, art or both.
The aegishjalmur is one of the symbols related to the practice of magic called seiðr. This type of Norse pagan magic was essentially used for manipulation spells and divination. Seidr magic was mostly performed by women.
In the sagas, this magic was used in order to cause in the enemy's mind oblivion, deception, visual illusion or fear. There is a special type of magic within this seiðr magic whose name is sjónhverfing.
It refers to magical delusion or "delusion of sight" which we can understand with a kind of optical illusion and delusion where the person who causes it affects the minds of others so that they cannot see things as they really are.
As previously stated, this is a magical symbol to which the Vikings attributed protective power. It has been used to induce fear and to protect against the abuse of power.
In the Galdrabók of Stephen E. Flowers, there is an explanation about the Aegishjalmur: he tells how it was used and its relation with the snake.
His argument is that the strength of the Aegishjalmur is concentrated between the eyes and is often associated with the power of the snake to paralyze its prey.
This seems to be a concept from ancient Indo-European myths, such as the power of the gorgon, a deity belonging to Greek mythology, which is related to snakes.
Apparently, Viking warriors painted the Aegishjalmur on their foreheads, between the eyes, before leaving for battle. To speak of it, they referred to the herkumbl, which translates as a sign of war. Thus, this magical symbol activated its power to frighten enemies and attributed the ability to make the wearer invincible.
With the passage of time, after the Viking Age and the arrival of Christianity in Iceland, the Aegishjalmur continued to be used by practitioners of pagan magic.
The idea was that they had to engrave it in lead and place it between the eyebrows while reciting "Ægishjalm eg ber ber milli bruna mjer". In this way, success in battle was assured or conflict was averted.