The Vikings thrived in their symbolism. They would often attach spiritual meanings to many of their symbols and would carry these with them in whatever forms they possibly could as a means of invoking their Gods for safety, guidance and strength amongst others. Viking symbols are not exactly the same as Viking Runes and each viking symbol alone has much that can be talked about.
These viking symbols can surely have entire books written upon them to include their emergence or creation, their significance and use during the Viking Age and amongst the Nordic Gods as well as how they continue to live on in their symbolism even today in so many different ways. However, for the purpose of this blog post we will focus on the symbol that Mjǫllnir is.
Story of Creation
The creation of the Mjǫllnir is an absolutely fascinating one. While the hammer belongs to Thor, the story actually begins with the trickster known as Loki. As one of his pranks, Loki made the grievous mistake of cutting the hair of the wife of Thor; Sif. When the Nordic God of thunder learned of this situation, he called upon Loki and threatened to break every single bone in his body. Desperate to save himself, Loki looks for a solution and according to the Prose Edda, compiled by Snorri Sturlson, he finds it with the dwarves.
Its use and significance for the Viking Age
Mjǫllnir was gifted to the protector of Asgard, Thor, who often fought off many evils with his weapon of choice being the famed Mjǫllnir hammer. According to the manuscripts of the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, which details much of what we know of Nordic mythology, amongst the names attributed to Thor are "Wielder and Possessor of Mjǫllnir and of the Girdle of Strength, and of Bilskirnir; Defender of Asgard and of Midgard". In fact from the poems recorded in the manuscripts of Sturluson is the following, praising Thor in his battle against the sea fish:
The followers of Nordic religion, as well as many who continue even today to seek inspiration from the stories of Norse mythology, value Thor's role as the defender of Asgard and Midgard and attach that protection to the symbol of the Mjǫllnir. For this reason, many a times Rune stones that have been found from the Viking Age have inscriptions on them invoking Thor to sanctify and protect the inscriptions (Sawyer, 2000).
The Mjǫllnir of Thor is primarily noted to be a weapon of incredible abilities as detailed in the Prose Edda:
The Nordic thunder God fought many battles in which his hammer was essential to his victory, we will dedicate a separate blog post to those battles as they are worthy tales of greatness which deserve exclusive attention.
How we make the symbol live on
While the hammer Mjǫllnir is not amongst us, it continues to live on through its symbolism. Perhaps the most common way the Mjǫllnir is represented is through amulets worn with the shape of the hammer around one's neck.
However, plenty of those who are inspired by the Nordic symbols continue to find new and creative ways to show their appreciation for Mjǫllnir and its greatness. At Heimdall's workshop for example, one of our devoted and extremely talented woodworkers came up with this design of a stunning chopping charcuterie board to honor the famed hammer.
Many who have values that are embodied in the Mjǫllnir constantly seek to find new ways to show those sentiments through these symbols. The quest to represent and live by courage and to fight for safety against evil will continue until the end of times and there will always be those who strive for such, openly bearing the true symbols of strength.
Sawyer, Birgit (2000). The Viking-Age Rune-Stones: Custom and Commemoration in Early Medieval Scandinavia. Oxford University Press. p. 128. ISBN 0-19-820643-7.
Snorri, S., & Brodeur, A. G. (1916). The Prose Edda. New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation.