Cambs Uni Publications


Icelandic Symbolism – Part One

14th November 2015
Posted by S Taylor

The Icelandic for Swastika is Hakakross. 

This symbol has appeared in a great variety of contexts over the centuries; it appeared on cremation urns, as a charm for fishermen in all weathers and as a commercial logo for a shipping company.


The rectilinear Hakakross had been in regular use from prehistoric times. It is found on rock-carvings and other objects of the Bronze Age. It must have been used as a symbol of Thorshammar from comparatively early times. The Lappish god Horagalles (a derivative of Thor, perhaps dating from the early Iron Age, across the water in northern Scandinavia) is depicted not only with a hammer, but also with a Hakakross.  Originally it had a more cursive format, as illustrated here.

These symbols appear on Memorial Stones, to register Thor’s role as Protector and Hallower of the dead.  A recent example of this association is found in the inscriptions on the grave-stone of the late Sigurđur Vigfusson and his wife.  He had been the curator of the Antiquarian Museum (which later became the National Museum) in Reykjavik from 1874 -1892. He was an ardent worshipper of the old pagan gods. His grave-stone was set up in 1917 in the old Churchyard in Reykjavik with an inscription in runes.

In Part 2 we take a closer look at some traditional amuletic usage appropriate to a sea-faring nation.

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