The valknut is a symbol consisting of three interlocked triangles. The term valknut (knot of those slain in battle) is a modern development; it is not known what term or terms were used to refer to the symbol historically.
The valknut appears on a variety of archaeological finds from excavations of early Germanic sites, including cremation vessels from pagan Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in East Anglia.1 The valknut also appears on two Gotlandic picture stones – one on a scene depicting a sacrifice (Stora Hammars I) and one on a scene depicting a rider on a horse (Tängelgårda). It also appears on the 8th – 9th century Anglo-Saxon River Nene ring, and it is carved on a bed-post from the Oseberg Ship Burial.
The Valknut is associated with Odin and Hilda Ellis Davidson suggests it is linked to Odin’s power to bind men’s minds:
“For instance, beside the figure of Odin on his horse shown on several memorial stones there is a kind of knot depicted, called the valknut, related to the triskele. This is thought to symbolize the power of the god to bind and unbind, mentioned in the poems and elsewhere. Odin had the power to lay bonds on the mind, so that men became helpless in battle, and he could also loosen the tensions of fear and strain by his gifts of battle-madness, intoxication and inspiration.”2
The triangular shape of the elements of the valknut has also been compared to the description of the jötunn Hrungnir’s heart:
“”Hrungnir had a heart that was famous. It was made of hard stone with three sharp-pointed corners just like the carved symbol hrungnishjarta (Hrungnir’s heart).” 3
1, Ellis Davidson, H. R. (1964) “Gods and Myths of Northern Europe”, Penguin Books, p.147
2, ibid p. 147
3, Skáldskaparmál ch. 17