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Viking Symbolism: The Helm of Awe

  • Helm of Awe

Viking Symbolism: The Helm of Awe

This symbol is called the Ægishjálmrm or more commonly, the Helm of Awe.

Helm of Awe

Helm of Awe

For the ultimate protection, the Norse (particularly women) would draw this symbol between their eyes on their forehead. And of course, to make things even more metal, the Helm of Awe worked best when it was inscribed with either blood or spit. They were also popularly drawn on the inside of helmets.


The purpose of this symbolic placing is not just because it looks cool. The protection that the Helm of Awe invokes isn’t just physical in nature, you see. It’s also a sign of dominance in conflict, and more than that, it represents the ability to cause fear in others and suppress the fear of one’s own mind.

Helm of Awe

Elhaz Rune


The magic behind the Helm of Awe lies in the runes that make it up. The Norse runic language is one fraught with symbolism and magic. Now, if you recognize any rune from the symbols that make up the Helm of Awe, it’s probably Algiz (or Elhaz), also known as the z-rune. You may recognize it as the symbol for Deathrune Records, the purveyors of many European death/black metal bands. While Elhaz is commonly called the life rune, when placed upside down, it represents death.


Not only do the outside arms around the Helm of Awe make up Elhaz runes, but the larger spokes of this wheel also show the rune. Because of this, it’s thought that not only does this symbol invoke physical protection, but mental and spiritual as well. After all, conquering your own fear is the first step to making your enemies fear you.



Helm of Awe

Siguard slaying the great dragon, Fáfnir






If you’re looking for the Helm of Awe in the Poetic Eddas, look no further than Fáfnismál, which tells the tale of Siguard slaying the great dragon, Fáfnir. Tolkien fans might find similarity between Fáfnir and Smaug from The Hobbit, or Glaurung from The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin, for Fáfnir too loves riddles and great hordes of gold. But the dragon himself wears the Helm of Awe symbol between his eyes, saying:



The Helm of Awe
I wore before the sons of men
In defense of my treasure;
Amongst all, I alone was strong,
I thought to myself,
For I found no power a match for my own.



A Helm of Awe engraving on a tankard or ale horn would make a great gift for someone who is going away on a journey and needs the protection. Whether they’re traveling the world as a merchant marine or just starting college in the next town over, the Helm of Awe is a great way to let them  know that you care about them and wish them protection in their new endeavors. This is also a great symbol to inspire courage in those who might suffer from mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression. 

Of note: this is one of those symbols that white supremacists sometimes use. Unlike the swastika, which also has Norse roots (and roots even more ancient), however, the Helm of Awe is not widely-considered to be a racist or harmful symbol. These days, it is also a symbol which marks those of the Asatru religion. 

2016-12-14T18:01:03+00:00 December 14th, 2016|Categories: History, Norse Mythology, Uncategorized, Viking|

About the Author:

Sam Uliano is a 2012 graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where she won the Elise duBois Award for her short story, Prodigal. Her writing is currently featured on AleHorn and WhiskeyMade, but she also works full time as an editor. In her time away from the computer, she plays tabletop roleplaying games, teaches storytelling, and, of course, brews mead. Feeling bam-booze-led? Feel free to email her at with your questions or pose your questions on Twitter to @samuliano1.

One Comment

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