The Vegvisir

Vegvisir.svg

The Vegvisir (Icelandic Vegvísir, “That Which Shows the Way;” pronounced “VEGG-vee-seer”) is a symbol found only in one modern Icelandic collection of spells, the so-called Huld manuscript. That book has nothing more than this one sentence to say about it: “If this sign is carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known.”[1]

The Huld manuscript was compiled during the nineteenth century[2] – about eight centuries after the end of the Viking Age. While some of its material may date from the time when the pre-Christian Norse religion was still a living tradition, much of the rest of it is heavily influenced by Christianity and magical practices imported from more southerly parts of Europe. Thus, the simple fact that something is found in the Huld manuscript is no guarantee that the pre-Christian Norse and/or other Germanic peoples knew anything about it, let alone embraced it as part of their religion.

In the case of the Vegvisir, there’s no evidence whatsoever that it was known or used during the Viking Age or earlier. It’s possible that it was indeed known and used during that time, but it’s at least equally possible that it was imported or invented after that. In the end, we simply don’t know.

Calling the Vegvisir a definite “Viking symbol” or the like therefore requires quite a leap of faith.

Looking for more great information on Norse mythology and religion? While this site provides the ultimate online introduction to the topic, my book The Viking Spirit provides the ultimate introduction to Norse mythology and religion period. I’ve also written a popular list of The 10 Best Norse Mythology Books, which you’ll probably find helpful in your pursuit.

The Viking Spirit Daniel McCoy

References:

[1] Flowers, Stephen. 1989. The Galdrabók: An Icelandic Grimoire. p. 88.

[2] Ibid. p. 83.

The Ultimate Online Resource for Norse Mythology and Religion