Norse mythology and viking culture is more popular than ever, with lots of appearances on big TV-series and video games. This has lead to many people from all over the world being fascinated by this culture, and some might even like the mythology or culture enough to get a tattoo of it.
When it comes to getting tattoos from other cultures and mythologies, it can easily come off as cultural appropriation and offend a minority that feels like they own this particular culture. So, how do Norwegians and Scandinavians feel towards people getting tattoos with symbols from Nordic, Norse or viking culture? And are even Norse tattoos offensive for Norwegians?
It is not considered offensive towards Norwegians or other Scandinavians to get a Norse or Nordic tattoo. We do not consider this cultural appropriation, and would not be offended by it. However, there are some Nordic symbols that are associated with nazis and neo-nazis in Scandinavia, so do not get a tattoo of any of these!
That said, there could always be a few odd people who are offended, but 99 % of the Norwegian population would not care about this at all. Most Norwegians don’t really feel an ownership towards this culture and mythology, and have generally accepted that the Norse mythology is part of the mainstream entertainment industry and are loved by people all over the world.
Also read: Getting a tattoo while visiting Norway.
How much do Norwegians care if Americans and other people get a Norse tattoo?
I asked some friends and family when researching this article to get a few more opinions on the matter, and most people responded with a surprised face. The thing is that most Norwegians are surprised that this is even a question. No one said they would feel like it was cultural appropriation, and do not feel like they have the right to be offended by something like this.
In other words, go and get your Norse tattoo. No one in Norway will get offended by it.
Do you have to have Scandinavian heritage to get a Norse tattoo?
Whether or not you have any Norwegian or Scandinavian heritage will not affect how Norwegians feel towards you getting a tattoo with Norse, Nordic or viking symbology. So you do not need to have a great-grandmother that emigrated from Norway in order to get a Norse tattoo. Get one if you feel like it’s something you want, and don’t worry too much about what other people think.
Norse, Nordic and viking symbology to stay away from
Nazis and neo-nazis have unfortunately stolen a lot of the symbols and runes from Norse mythology and the viking culture, and getting a tattoo with any of these symbols might make people mistake you for being a nazi. Neo-nazis in all of Scandinavia do have a long tradition of getting Norse tattoos and they often use Norse symbology on their banners, logo and things like that.
Some of the runes to stay away from are Tiwaz (ᛏ), the victory rune (ᛋ), and the Odal rune (ᛟ). There are probably more, but I’m not an expert on this, so make sure to do some research before you get your tattoo.
Also be aware that you might get mistaken for a neo-nazi if you have your body filled with Norse tattoos, even if you stay away from the ones that are commonly used. Many people associate Norse tattoos with neo-nazis here in Norway, and they might just assume you to be one if they see your Norse tattoos.
This will obviously depend on how you go about it. A tattoo of Thor’s Hammer or Yggdrasil on your arm will be much less likely to mistake you for a neo-nazi compared to if you get your face filled up with runes.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.