If you are a Norse Pagan or Asatru, you know exactly what this is. And if you’re a Marvel Comics fan, you probably know too. In fact, this is most likely the most recognizable symbol in Norse mythology because of its prevalence today.
This is Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer.
Mjolnir is a hammer most fearsome and most metal. It wasn’t just used for fixing houses or even as a simple warhammer. Mjolnir could levelmountains. There’s no way to understate the hammer’s raw power. If you need an example of how righteous the power of Mjolnir truly was, look no further than Snorri’s Prose Edda (with this translation from Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur):
“Then he gave the hammer to Thor, and said that Thor might smite as hard as he desired, whatsoever might be before him, and the hammer would not fail; and if he threw it at anything, it would never miss, and never fly so far as not to return to his hand; and if be desired, he might keep it in his sark…”
Mjolnir owes its creation not to its wielder, Thor, but to his nemesis, Loki. Loki's in the mood to piss Thor off, so he cuts off the beautiful hair of Sif, Thor's wife. When Thor finds out, Loki only avoids having every bone in his body broken by promising to make a newer, better head of hair for Sif.
He goes down to Svartalfheim to ask the Sons Ivaldi, great dwarven craftsmen, to make a grand head of hair, as well as the greatest ship, Skidbladnir, and the deadliest spear, Gungnir.
Because Loki can't leave well enough alone, he goes to two other dwarves, Brokkr and Sindri and dares them to one-up the Sons Ivaldi. Brokkr and Sindri get right to work. They create the magnificent boar with flowing locks of golden hair, Gullinbursti. They also create Draupnir, the beautiful golden ring, which spawns eight new golden rings every ninth night. If you're a LOTR fan, look no further for one of Tolkien's many Norse inspirations.
And finally, they create Mjolnir. Loki has been fucking with the dwarves this entire time, but they've remained steady. But in creating Mjolnir, he finally gets them. He turns into a fly and bites Brokkr hard on the eyelid, causing blood to run down into his eyes. Brokkr has to stop and wipe his eyes. Because of this, Mjolnir is made imperfect-- its handle is too short. Nevertheless, Thor loves it.
The symbol of Mjolnir is thought to even predate the Norse culture and religion as a whole. It’s very similar to a type of amulet called the Hercules’ Club. These pendants were popular in Germanic tribes who were under the control of Rome because they kind of had a hard-on for Hercules. Oddly enough, they are found exclusively in females’ graves, typically made of bone and antler, but sometimes made of bronze or other rare metals. The migration of the Alemanni Germanic tribes brought the symbol northwards.
The symbol is also found inscribed over ancient doorframes as a sign of protection– most particularly, as a protection against storms. In this instance and sometimes in the one above, they are attributed toÞonar, which is the southern Germanic version of the name Thor.
Oddly enough, most of the historical Mjolnir pendants and symbols are found in the Norse areas that also held the most Christian conversions. It’s thought that they were used as a way to subvert the popular new religion. The Christian habit of wearing a cross was just as popular at the time as it is today, and Mjolnir looks sort of like one. It could also just have been a way to identify like-minded folk in a sea of others.
People who choose to wear Mjolnir today still wear it as a symbol of protection. But it’s also the symbol of the Asatru faith, a modern version of Norse Paganism. Of course, it is also used by many metal bands on album covers, t-shirts, and jewelry.
But the symbol found a place in America in 2013 when it was added to the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs emblems for headstones and markers– meaning US veterans could choose to be buried beneath this symbol instead of a cross, Star of David, or other more mainstream religious symbols.
LOVE the look of this symbol but looking for someone a little more Christian? Or perhaps just something a little different? A later form of the symbol was found in Iceland. Dated to 900 AD, the Wolf Cross incorporates the shape of Mjolnir with the Christian cross, and a sunstone, which was used for navigation.