|Mjölnir pendant by BorealForge.|
Though this isn't directly Rune-related, it's a topic important to many people following the Runic paths due to its general Heathen nature; and the same questions keep coming up. So I find it useful to explain a few facts here about Mjölnir and its symbolism to ancient Heathens. As a side-note, at least one historic Mjölnir pendant has been found with Runes inscribed on it (more on this further down the article).
The Hammer of Thor?
Mjölnir, Mjolner, or Mjollnir is commonly known as the Hammer of Thor, the Thunder-God. This is how it is described in the Eddas, and there seems to be unanimous agreement in Norse-derived cultures that it is a hammer made by dwarves for Thor. The hammer is described in the Prose Edda as having the mass and power to level mountains and kill Jötnar (giants), control the thunder, and protect Midgard (the physical plane - not merely planet Earth) against the Jötnar, the forces of chaos and entropy, and the ability to always fly back to Thor's hand after being thrown. Yet it is also said to be able to shrink small enough to be hidden in Thor's garments. Somewhat paradoxically, this weapon has also been described as a symbol of fertility, which brides would place under their beds in their wishes for bearing many strong, healthy children. The Eddic Lore about Thor's sons Modi and Magni being the only gods capable of wielding Mjölnir besides Thor himself, is telling of this usage. This heavy use of descriptive language, of course, has much metaphor and symbolism behind it.
However, in ancient Bronze-Age artifacts in Continental Europe believed to depict Thor, the weapon often can look more like an axe or a club. In fact, the evolution of the accepted form of Mjölnir from a stone hand-axe or cudgel, to a bronze mattock, to an iron hammer, is one that seems to have occurred gradually over thousands of years from a primal Indo-European mythos. Early carvings from the Nordic Bronze Age generally held to represent Thor, show a figure carrying an axe or war club.
|"Thor" carving in Nordic Bronze Age petroglyph|
The association of an axe or club, or a stone hammer, probably date back to the Neolithic with the arrival of the first Indo-European farmers in Northern Europe from further east, though farming seems to have already been present in much of Southern Europe for a few millennia through intermediate demic dispersion from one culture to another. The Celts, one of the first large Indo-European waves in Europe, were masters at working flint and diorite into axe heads, which were prized possessions handed down over many generations, taking on a highly ritual air. This is not to be taken lightly, as these axe heads were the hardest tools known in Europe at the time.
|Neolithic Celtic stone axes|
In time, these took on a symbolic meaning as the very life or soul of a family line, reincarnated repeatedly; thus a young male descendant of a powerful chief would venture into the family burial mounds of his ancestors, and in a rite or passage whose symbolism has subtly filtered down to the present, seek the familiar precious object which he possessed in a past life - the axe blade or war club. Upon finding the correct one in one of the graves, the youth communes with the spirits of the ancestors, and remembers memories from a past life. Coming out of the grave or grotto, he is then "reborn" (emerging from the womb of Erda or Jord, mother earth) with the full Cognizancy of his ancestors who also wielded this heirloom weapon. The club, axe, or hammer returning to the thrower, represents the life of a warrior who died a noble death, returning to the physical plane to guide his family towards greater nobility and victory. As the Disir (female ancestors) return to guide the family in sensing and navigating the flow of the Wyrd, so do the Harjar (Herren, male ancestors), sometimes called Alfar in Scandinavia, return to lead the family in building proactive Garma or new actions.
The early Bronze-Age axes of the Halstatt Nordics and Corded Ware cultures replicated the same general blade shape, which evolved in time into a two-headed device - sharp on one end for cutting, blunt on the other for bashing. This was a weapon designed for power.
Eventually this basal Indo-European axe shape evolved, in Germanic cultures, into the depictions of Thor's hammer we are familiar with.
|Thor wading through the Ocean, by Lorenz Frohlich. |
Here, Mjölnir is depicted as an axe with one sharp and (presumably) one blunt end.
Thor was known as Thunarr to the Saxons and some southern Germans, and as Donar or Donner to northern Germans and Netherlanders. The Proto-Germanic root of the name was Thunraz; all three of these names mean "the Thunder" itself. Interestingly, in the Poetic Edda, Odin is known as Thundr, the thunderer, or more literally, the sender and progenitor of Thunder - thus a somewhat different role than Thor, but nonetheless, it indicates Thor is not the only "Thunder-God' in existence for the Germanic worldview. This also points out an important reality in Norse and Germanic (and indeed all Indo-European) cosmologies - that there is no neat and strict division of roles for the Gods as you find in hunter and herder religions. There is not one god for rain, one for snow, one for thunder, one for fire, and so on. The Aesir and Vanir have their own natures, and were not die-cast in a factory somewhere to fit only into certain slots. Thus when someone says "Thor is the god of Thunder" they are only telling part of the story. He is one of at least two thunder-gods, and also is a god of virility (like Freyr), of warrior prowess (like both Odin and Tyr), and of strength (like nearly all of them to various degrees, though this emphasis is more pronounced in Thor).
|Thor, sculpted with an ancient axe-like hammer|
|Vire-Thragna (right) with his Meel (club) and a local king. Nemrud Dagh (presently in Turkey), Selucid era. |
This sculpture is of Armenian origin but shows some Greek/Selucid influences.
Thor, as the Proto-Germanic Thunraz, was also known in other Indo-European cultures. The Celtic Taranis is a Thunder-God symbolized by a chariot-wheel, which is reminiscent of Thor's chariot. Thunraz and Taranis in turn, are names with the same Indo-European root as Thuragna or Vire-Thragna, the Thunder-God of ancient Iranian, Armenian and north-Indian peoples, who was part of the Asura (= Aesir) pantheon of Arya-Varta and Aryanam-Vaejah (Indus Valley and Greater Iran, respectively). It was this club-wielding Asura god, and not the later arrow-shooting Daeva Indra, who was the Eastern Aryan form of Thor. The name Vire-Thragna translates roughly as "Smiter of Resistance", which is a description directly pertinent to Thor, not just as thunder, but as a crushing chain-strike of thunder that breaks the trolls, a supernatural force whose blow none can resist.
|Vire-Thragna (Vahagn) of Nemrud Dagh, carved by the old Armenian Empire.|
|A pair of wooden Meels, made by BodyMindFit. Note the Thorn-Rune logo; evidently |
someone is very wise to the Indo-European connection between Mjölnir and the Meel.
Mjölnir may not always have been depicted or understood as a hammer, but in all cases it is consistently a weapon of war, symbolizing a protector deity.
Symbolism of Mjölnir
Mjölnir is described in the Norse Lore as having several important attributes:
1. It is usually thrown at an enemy
2. It has vast power to smash Jotuns (giants) and even physical formations
3. It always returns to the hand of Thor.
Thus in a symbolic sense, Mjölnir was often understood by ancient Heathens and Indo-European Pagans across Europe (and probably Eurasia in general) as a symbol of the soul or life-force of the warrior; thrown at a corrupt enemy, it would cause damage, and then return back to the physical plain as a reincarnated soul. It is no secret that this return from death was known to the Norse people, because the association of Mjölnir with the grave and with grave artifacts is a recurring one.
The return of the soul from a victorious death, was thus symbolized as the Mjölnir being a sort of guidepost in the graves of the Disir or female ancestors, so that as long as they continued to reincarnate, the warrior men would continue to have noble mothers and conduits for their return to Midgard - the esoteric return of Mjölnir to the hand of Thor, Midgard's protector.
The Shape of Mjölnir
While the Eddas describe Mjölnir as having been forged "with the handle too short" due to Loki's meddling with the Dwarves, this is a uniquely Icelandic, or at most, Scandinavian quirk to the mythology. Long-handled Mjölnir pendants have been found in Germany, and in some parts of Scandinavia. Thus it appears there was no universal consensus on the length or shape of Mjölnir, only that by the Iron Age it was regarded in most of northern Europe as a war-hammer. One particularly old specimen, made by the Goths in the 4th Century CE, has a rather small head and an extremely long handle. Similar finds have been uncovered in Anglo-Saxon graves.
|Thor's duel with Hrungnir, by Ludwig Pietsch (1865) based on the Prose Edda's description of Mjölnir. |
Note the hammer-axe combination shape and the EXTREMELY short handle!
Thus, it is reasonable to extrapolate that the oral Lore traditions surrounding Mjölnir also would have differed in their descriptions of its shape, and that the somewhat comical sabotage attempt of Loki transformed into a gadfly biting the eye of the dwarf Brokkr seems to be more or less a specifically Scandinavian (and possibly just an Icelandic) insertion into the story.
|Ceremonial blót Mjölnir, following the Nose description of a short handle.|
In the poem Gylfaginning in the Prose Edda, and also the Þórsðrápa (Lay of Thor) written down by the Norwegian Skald Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Thor is also said to possess additional devices made by the dwarves, to be able to wield the hammer with maximum effectiveness: Megingjörð, the "belt of power", and Járngreipr, the "iron grippers" or gauntlets. These are considered in esoteric Heathenry to have mostly symbolic meaning, and are probably unique to the Scandinavian branch of the ancient Heathen religions.
In Continental Germania, the popular story about the sabotage of the dwarves by Loki and the resulting short handle for Mjölnir is not found in any surviving Lore or even secondhand accounts, and may not have been present at all. Loki appears to have been a far more minor figure on the continent. Long handles for Mjölnir or Mjalniz, tended to be the rule in German and Gothic pendants rather than the exception, and several German Mjölnir pendants predate the Scandinavian ones by a few centuries.
|German Mjölnir pendants. Image from Roter Geysir.|
Were there special Rituals for Mjölnir pendants?
These days, some people fanatically claim that you need to "blood" your Mjölnir pendant/necklace before you put it on, or go through some kind of blood initiation before you wear one, to avoid "offending" the Gods. There are actually some self-proclaimed "Heathen" kindreds that seriously believe these practices are "required" by the Gods or by Heathen tradition, and will get very worked up about them.
I'm going to be blunt about these modern beliefs: from a traditional Heathen point of view, they're utter nonsense.
The Gods of Heathenry don't get offended at every little thing you do; that's not a Heathen belief at all, it's a herder-archetype (specifically Christian) fear-dogma. The Aesir are not Yahweh; they don't micromanage and torture humanity to feed their own egos; they have far more cosmic-scale concerns to deal with. Nobody had to ask the permission of the Gods to start making little pendant replicas of Mjölnir when the first ones appeared among the Goths in central and eastern Europe, and nobody asked their permission when the Vikings were using such pendants in Scandinavia and Iceland.
The fact is that NO rituals survive in written records for Mjölnir-shaped necklace pendants. However, some descriptions from Snorri Sturluson (Prose Edda) do exist of larger ritual tools fashioned in the shape of Mjölnir being used for ritual blóts or offerings for an entire community. This is interesting, as there are written accounts of blóts to the Gods involving blood offerings, as well as the use of ritual objects, and even the use of blood sacrifices to the Runes (one's own blood of course). However, contrary to popular belief, there are no mentions anywhere of "blood consecrations" for personal Mjölnir pendants or necklaces.
These pendants are not merely a Viking-Age invention; they go back far further, at least to the 4th Century with the Goths, in mainland Germany and Greater Östdeutschland stretching as far east as the Ukraine, and thus were much older than merely Scandinavia's reaction against Christianity. But it is telling that even that early, the Goths in Germania were already struggling against Christianity in a far earlier battle for their souls. Thus, while it is certainly possible that the Mjölnir pendant had other, older uses besides simply a visual symbol of Heathen religious identity to resist the spread of the Cross/Crucifix pendant and its Church of the "nailed god", this sort of "protest of the necklaces" certainly did exist. Indeed, it seems to have become the driving force behind the creation of the large numbers of personal Mjölnir pendants by the time any of the currently surviving pendants were made in their respective lands.
I know the burning question on many minds reading this for the first time, is whether anyone in ancient times acutally "bled on their hammer" or was required to blood-consecrate a Mjölnir pendant or go through some sort of painful ritual before wearing it; many "kindreds" today believe you have to do this before your wearing of a Mjölnir is "acceptable" to the Gods.
This is simply false.
There is no surviving account, in any written source or ancient artifact, of anything like "hammer-blooding" being practiced by ancient Norse or Germanic Heathens at any time in history. Runes were blooded in the Sagas because of Odin's advice (recorded in the Havamal) of blóta (blood-offering) to the Runes before asking something of them, as the Runes themselves are in fact esoteric forces of creation behind the Runic symbols, superior to even the Gods themselves. But no record of any blood offering for Mjölnir pendants exists, nor did Thor ever undergo a blood sacrifice ritual (in any Edda, Saga, or Lore poem) to earn his Hammer.
In addition, the actual source of this "hammer blooding ritual" accepted as gospel in some modern Ásatrú kindreds, has nothing to do with ancient rites at all - it's a purely modern invention that started in the U.S. prison system in the 1970s, among gang members interested in Heathenry who literally had almost no access to reliable Heathen books, and invented their own "initiations" based on modern gang rituals. Other derivatives of this practice, such as "sitting in a treehouse and bleeding on the hammer for 9 days and 9 nights", while also dangerous and possibly unsanitary, are based on a massive misunderstanding of the Hávamál, where Odin (not Thor) pierces himself with his own spear (not hammer) upon Yggdrasil for 9 days as a sacrifice to himself, to gain consciousness of the mysteries of the Runes - a highly symbolic and esoteric event that has NO connection to Thor or Mjölnir at all.
Thus, the modern practice of "bleeding on a Mjölnir" is just that - a modern, made-up practice. It's never mentioned in the Eddas or Sagas, and it doesn't even have a basis in the old oral traditions of any esoteric Heathen lineages - not Stáv, not Hagzûsa, not Armanenschaft, none of them.
There are some other "keyboard experts" on the internet, mostly eclectic neopagans, claiming that you "have to" consecrate your Mjölnir pendant in milk or mead on the night of a full moon to "activate" it; this idea too, is total New-Age nonsense; it's copied directly from Wicca with its herder-archetype Lunar obsession and its postmodernist construct of "credit-card/vending machine spirituality". That isn't real Magick, nor is it Heathen - it's a weak, pathetic placebo delusion. Mjölnir pendants are not credit cards or battery-powered toys that need activating; if you didn't forge, carve, or cast your own, or add anything into the maker's molten ore, then there's nothing of your own energy or substance in it - you're certainly not going to add anything to it, Magickal or otherwise, by sprinkling milk in the moonlight.
Indeed, based on all the archaeological evidence, personal Mjölnir pendants were probably never meant to serve as magickal amulets anyway - they were simply external symbols of Norse/Germanic spirituality.
Additionally, the popular "Hammer Rite" which involves moving a ritual hand-sized Mjölnir in a cross pattern and "calling the cardinal directions" or "calling quarters" is also a New-Age fraud - it was copied from a Christian-derived Wiccan ritual by Stephen Flowers and the old Ásatrú Free Assembly in the 1970s (and later, the Ásatrú Folk Assembly and the Ring of Troth in the 1980s), who added a Mjölnir into the ritual, and pretty much left it at that. This is a uniquely American innovation as well. Traditional Heathenry in Europe has never used the "Hammer Rite", and it is totally alien to old-rooted Forn Sidr and Armanenschaft groups in Europe.
Likewise, the practice of "making the Sign of the Hammer", also popularized by Flowers, is also nothing more than a New-Age invention, an obvious imitation of Christians making the "sign of the Cross". Some modern authors claim they got this Christian-like "signing" gesture from a real Heathen practice attested in the Saga of King Haakon "the Good" (in reality, his murderous forced conversion campaigns were not so good), as in the following passage, where the Heathen Jarls (lords or chieftains) assembled at Haakon's feast were confused by the King's Christian gesture:
The King accordingly sat upon his high-seat. Now when the first full goblet was filled, Jarl Sigurd spoke some words over it, blessed it in Odin's name, and drank to the king out of the horn; and the King then took it, and made the Sign of the Cross over it.
Then said Kar of Gryting, "What does the king mean by doing so? Will he not sacrifice?"
Jarl Sigurd replied, "The King is doing what all of you do, who trust to your power and strength. He is blessing the full goblet in the name of Thor, by making the sign of his hammer over it before he drinks it."
- The Saga of King Haakon, Chapter 18
However, what the Saga is describing in this passage, is anything but a Heathen practice. There was no "sign of the Hammer" because Jarl Sigurd literally had to invent the concept out of thin air to explain away the King's making the Sign of the Cross as something harmless to Heathen interests. Kin Haakon for his part, bent on converting all of Norway to Christianity one way or another, refused to invoke any of the Old Gods, but only made the Sign of the Cross over the mead.
|Haakon the Good and the Peasants at the mercy of Maize (1860), by Peter Nicolai Arbo. |
In this scene, King Haakon is attacked by a farmer who distrusts his attempts to sneak Christianity into Norwegian culture.
In reality, Jarl Sigurd was simply a pro-Christian sympathizer (though not a devout Christian like the King yet, as he did pray to Odin) lying to try to cover for King Haakon's actions and subtly persuade the people at the feast to let down their guard about Christian rituals. Jarl Sigurd here tried to justify the Sign of the Cross, which the Norwegian Heathens found suspicious and foreign (and by extension, King Haakon's silent refusal to invoke the Gods), as merely the King quietly making the "sign" of Thor's hammer as an alternative means of offering/sacrificing the mead to Thor, instead of actually reciting a prayer to Thor verbally as Jarl Sigurd himself had recited a prayer to Odin earlier. Christianity often used such syncretist tricks when trying to gain early converts in Europe: "our god is like your gods, our ritual is just like yours, we honor your gods too, we believe in brotherly love and tolerance, etc.", before gradually tightening its grip on the people and changing its tune to one of fanatical intolerance.
However, the fact that Jarl Sigurd had to explain away the King's behavior with a lie, shows that Kar of Gryting and the other important Heathen dignitaries at the feast clearly did not understand the Sign of the Cross to be similar to their rituals. They didn't seem to possess any "Sign of the Hammer" ritual either, as Kar had objected: "What does the king mean by doing so? Will he not sacrifice?", implying that the Sign of the Cross looked totally unfamiliar, and that there was no similar "Sign of the Hammer" in the Heathen religion that Kar or the other Jarls would have recognized as a ritual of sacrifice. The entire spectacle of the King's behavior baffled Kar, and probably many others Jarls too, as Jarl Sigurd had to reply: "the king is doing what all of you do, who trust to your power and strength" to put them at ease. This does not imply that ancient Heathens had a similar sign-language gesture for Thor's hammer (for otherwise why was the Sign of the Cross so foreign to them?), but rather, that Jarl Sigurd meant to fool them into believing that the Sign of the Cross is simply an alternative means of doing what all of them actually did (i.e. blessing the mead, which they did through verbal prayers to the Old Gods). At the same time he was subtly shaming them, implying that if they really "trusted in their own power", they would do things Haakon's way, instead of invoking the blessing of Thor verbally as was their ancient custom.
In other words, what Jarl Sigurd was really communicating under the surface with his lie was more like: "if you fools had any confidence in your own manhood, you would realize King Haakon's arm gesture does the same thing as your verbal invocation of Thor, and better". It was a way to humiliate the other Jarls into accepting the King's odd behavior as just another take on Heathenry, exploiting both the King's political position and the desire of Heathens to maintain Frith, to slowly start opening the door for Christian practices and ideas to sneak in and become accepted over several decades, in layers, like an onion. The next step would be the open promotion of the new faith a few years later as a syncretictic "reform movement for the downtrodden" alongside Heathenry; followed by its promotion a few decades later (after an ill-fated war or famine) as an "urgently demanded" public salvation creed altogether distinct from Heathenry; and finally to be followed a few generations later by the Church's full social and ritual monopoly over Norwegian life, and the abolition of the Old Way. The Church's road-map was a well-trod one by this point.
Thus, not only was there no actual "sign of the Hammer" among the rituals of the Heathen Norse; but Jarl Sigurd was actually making the far more extreme argument that their their old rituals don't matter at all! While ancient Heathens in some Continental lineages may have made a "sign of the Hagal-Rune" with their bodies, as the traditions of Stáv and Armanen Stadhagaldr seem to indicate, there's no evidence that Mjölnir was ever "signed in the air" in such a way.
|The so-called "sign of the hammer" popularized by the AFA and the Troth in the 1980s. |
NOT an authentic Heathen practice!
Many Heathen groups have long since abandoned Christian-imitating New Age practices like the "hammer rite" and the "sign of the hammer" though a few still maintain them, unable to let go of personal attachments to concepts that were not even Heathen, but rather, Christian or Wiccan in inspiration.
If the use of rituals to consecrate or use a Mjölnir pendant was as important as, say, offering a sacrifice to the Gods, or blooding a Rune inscription to consecrate it, then it almost certainly would have been recorded by the Skalds who wrote the Eddas and Sagas, and had recited the Eddic poems for centuries before they were written down in their current form. After all, the blooding of carved Runes is mentioned in the Sagas, especially the Saga of Egil Skallagrimsson, as well as alluded to in the Hávamál; and there are multiple rituals of blót (offering a sacrifice to the Gods, Land-Wights and Ancestors) recorded in the Eddas, Sagas, Beowulf, and other ancient sources. If the Gods truly required hammer-blooding too, why did no Skald or Rune-carver seemingly ever bother record it?
No consecration rituals are ever mentioned in the Lore for consecrating Mjölnir pendants, Lunulas, Solar Crosses, Gungnir-tip pendants, or any sort of historical Heathen pendant. This indicates that the pendants probably were not involved in any special ritual, and not seen as sacred or powerful individual objects in and of themselves - instead, they served as symbols of one's Heathen religion and reminders to the wearer of their connection with the Gods and their own Heathen Folk. This was probably just as true for 9th Century Norse Vikings, as for 4th Century Goths. Thus, Mjölnir pendants were probably never seen as magickal talismans, but as symbols of faith to distinguish Heathens from Christians (although in post-Viking Iceland, the "Wolf Cross" pendants merged the forms of Mjölnir and Christian cross into an inverted "St. Peter's Cross" shape, to try to conceal Heathen identity in a Christian-looking symbol - probably under pressure from Church authorities to convert).
As a side note, the upside-down cross actually was accepted by the medieval Catholic and Orthodox churches as a Christian symbol, due to their belief that St. Peter was crucified upside-down; it did not take on any of its current connotations of blasphemy, atheism or satanism until modern times. Indeed, the concealment of a Mjölnir pendant into the shape of an inverted cross only worked because the medieval Church in Iceland would not have considered inverted cross pendants to be heresy.
|The syncretic "Wolf Cross" pendant from Foss, Iceland (10th Century, Norse). |
This pendant could be either a Heathen Mjölnir or a Christian "St. Peter's Cross", depending on how you look at it - which was exactly the point.
A large part of the modern misconception that you have to "consecrate" a Mjölnir pendant also seems to stem from the centuries-long impact of Semitic and Hermetic magick systems upon the Western psyche; the newcomer unfortunately assumes that since pendants routinely are treated as spirit-sigils in one culture or tradition, that it must hold true for all traditions. But let's be honest; you didn't come here merely to be fed a regurgitated Solomonic demon-summoning trope wrapped in different packaging.
The real strength of Heathen Magick (Runic and otherwise) is that it does NOT depend on over-complicated summoning spells or material talismans, and thus cannot be suppressed or hobbled by others through the deprivation of material objects or substances. A personal Mjölnir pendant is a wearable symbol of exoteric (religious) Heathenry; it is not required to own one at all in order for the esoteric (magickal) side of Heathenry to function.
Likewise, it is unknown whether ancient Heathens had any special ritual for "earning" your first Mjölnir pendant/necklace as in some modern Ásatrú kindreds. The existing accounts of the Norse and other Germanic cultures tell that young men had to learn to survive in the wild for a time, and be judged by their elders as strong, brave, and worthy of earning their arm-rings, upon which their first oaths to the tribe as a man were sworn. The arm-ring or oath-ring was indeed treated as an earned symbol of the holy bond with the Folk and the Gods, because it represented a man's place in society as an honorable, responsible and contributing member of the Folk; this status of respect had to be earned and it could be lost. So just because the modern "hammer blooding" rituals are nonsense, it does not mean that the concept of being tested and earning one's place is not important in Heathenry; indeed, we know that ancient Heathens had rites of passage and oaths, and took them very seriously.
But Mjölnir pendants were not mentioned in any part in these rites, nor does any Saga or even any outsider account (such as Saxo, Adam of Bremen, Ibn Fadlan, or Ibn Rustah) associate them with any sort of oath or earning ritual. A Mjölnir around your neck didn't mean you had made an oath, or fulfilled one, or accomplished a great deed - all it meant, as far as we can tell, is that you were a Heathen who honored Thor. Indeed, the relative rarity of Mjölnir pendants in ancient Norse, Saxon, and ancient German graves suggests that many Heathens didn't wear them at all. There were plenty of other gods one could honor, and there are a whole host of other types of Heathen pendants which are far more commonly found in Viking burials from Dublin to Kiev: from feminine Lunulas to masculine Gungnir-tip pendants and axe pendants, to pendants featuring tiny images of gods and goddesses such as Freyr or Freyja, as well as silver filigree globes, beads, Solar Crosses, goose-foot pendants, and flat tile-shaped pendants.
|Many other pendants were far more common than Mjölnirs in Viking burials or hoards.|
In the Viking Age in fact, basic non-decorated Mjölnir pendants were produced quickly and easily using simple open-top stone molds, some of which also included niches for molding Christian crosses in case the local village got conquered by a Christian king and people had to switch pendants in a hurry. Usually made of bronze or silver, these little prefab pendants could later be cold-hammered into the desired shape and stamped with the classic Viking triangle or circle punches.
Thus is is unlikely that Heathens of that era saw these ready-made pendants as anything more than a symbol of their faith; even more expensive and decorative silver and gold versions were more likely seen as symbols of faith in the Old Gods, rather than a ritual tool or any sort of protective amulet. However if journeying far over the seas, in the absence of a Gothi or priest with the larger ritual tools, Vikings may have used a personal Mjölnir pendant in rituals to bless events and people - if no alternative was available - but that's purely speculation on my part.
Long story short:
1. There are no surviving ancient rites to "earn" or consecrate a personal Mjölnir pendant or necklace, and there probably weren't any to begin with; most likely people just bought and wore them straight from the smith. There were no "trials" or rites of passage to earn one, unlike an arm-ring or oath-ring.
2. There were, however, group ceremonies using larger hand-held Mjölnirs, led by gothar or priests.
3. Don't fool yourself that things like the "hammer rite" or "blooding a hammer" are in any way required in Heathenry, or have anything to do with ancient practices; they don't. These ideas are purely modern late 20th Century inventions copied from prison gangs or non-Heathen religions. Just wear the thing and stop creating imaginary obstacles. It's not an oath ring for Thor's sake!
Ritual use of Larger Mjölnirs
In all likelihood, there were no formal rituals for earning or consecrating personal Mjölnir pendants or necklaces. Ceremonial hand-held Mjölnirs, however, were indeed used as ritual tools in blóts by a Gothi, as mentioned in the Prose Edda and depicted in some pre-modern paintings by northern European artists. These larger ritual tools in the shape of Mjölnir , were used to bless marriages, births, funerals. However they were not owned by everyone; they were specially made custom items, probably consecrated by the Gothar themselves (though details are scarce), and usually the possession of a Gothi or of the community as a whole, kept in the trust of the Gothi and the local lord or Jarl, as the entire community was blessed at public ceremonies with this Hammer.
Such "blót hammers" were made of wood, likely oak as a remembrance of Thor, as it would have been prohibitively expensive to make them out of gold or silver, and so they have not turned up in the archaeological record. Why large ritual Mjölnirs were not made of cheaper metals like bronze or tin, or why such objects have not survived, is a mystery, as Jarls and Kings of the time were easily wealthy enough to afford them. One likely explanation is that ritual tools were traditionally made of the wood of the tree sacred to the relevant god; hence, ceremonial Mjölnirs would have been carved from oak, the tree sacred to Thor.
Different types of Mjölnirs
Mjölnir pendants historically came in a number of different shapes, depending on the local style and beliefs surrounding the weapon of Thor.
The most common type is the "Anchor head" Mjölnir, usually associated with the Viking Age, though it is an older design. This is the classic angular Mjölnir with a bottom point, found across northern Europe. It can have either a short (Norse) or a long (Anglo-Saxon or Continental) handle. Those found in Norway often have handles of medium length. The Norse varieties are often decorated with incuse punches of a triangular shape, or in the more expensive and elite versions, with silver and gold filigree, either dotted or vine-shaped.
|Skåne, Sweden. 10th Century (Norse). Probably the most famous historical Mjölnir pendant.|
Gärsnäs (Herrestad), Sweden. 9th or 10th Century (Norse).
Ödeshög, Sweden. 10th Century (Norse).
|Bredsättra, Sweden. 10th Century (Norse).|
|Norway? 10th or 11th Century (Norse).|
|Mandemark, Denmark. 8th Century (Norse).|
Rømersdal, Denmark. 10th Century (Norse).
Another type, mostly limited to inland sites, is the more squared "forge hammer" Mjölnir, which lacks the distinctive anchor shape. This sort of Mjölnir was a very old design, first appearing in Germany long before the classic Viking Age finds of Scandinavia.
|Laby, Sweden. 10th Century (Norse).|
|Immenstedt, Germany. 8th Century (Old Saxon). Image from Roter Geysir.|
|Kent, 5th Century (Anglo-Saxon).|
|Nebel (North Frisia), Germany. 8th Century (Frisian). Image from Roter Geysir.|
|Warendorf, Germany. 8th Century (Old Saxon). Image from Roter Geysir.|
|Ukraine, location uncertain. 3rd-4th Century (Goth).|
Leire, Sjælland, Denmark. 7th Century (either Norse or Anglian/Jutish).
This pendant, unusually for the time, is made of iron.
Long Mjölnir pendants with more ornate handles are also known from a number of Scandinavian and Gothic sites.
|Birka, Sweden. 9th century (Norse).|
|Ukraine, 4th-5th Century (Goth).|
Sometimes, large numbers of Mjölnir pendants were hooked onto a ring, which may have been worn around the neck like a Torc. These were usually Viking-Age Norse pendant sets made of iron or steel, and may have been worn on the belt like a key ring.
|Hesselbjerg, Denmark. A Mjölnir, a scythe of Freyr, and a fire-striker, |
whose shape may recall Bragi's Lyre. 9th or 10th century (Norse).
|Birka, Sweden. Iron ring of Mjölnir pendants and an axe pendant. 9th or 10th Century (Norse). |
(Photo: Ola Myrin, SHMM: CC BY 2.5 SE)
|Birka, Sweden. More of the same.|
These rings of Mjölnir pendants, especially the larger ones that carried many of them, have long been a mystery to archaeologists and practicing Heathens alike; some eclectic neopagans have even argued that a person collecting so many Mjölnirs on a large ring or hoop, somehow "proves" they were seen as magickal talismans (because more is always better, right?).... But in reality these multi-Mjölnir rings meant something else entirely. Most are made of cheap, rust-prone iron, and have been found in the remains of funeral pyres or cremation graves, indicating that they were not valuable enough to be handed down or buried in some other way, and that burning them was probably not a big deal to the Vikings - generally not something that would make sense for a magickal amulet that someone put a lot of esoteric ritual work into. The rings have a clasp that allows them to be opened to add or remove pendants, as well as a wire coil to allow them to be strung on a belt at the waist, like a ring of keys; the small size of these Mjolnirs indicates (again) that they were most likely symbolic, and just like a ring of keys signified ownership of a household, these rings of pendants may have symbolized invocations to Thor for the protection of said household.
It may even be a far simpler matter than that. While a few of the smaller pendant-rings, such as the Hesselbjerg ring, are a permanently closed, self-contained set without any repeating pieces, the larger pendant-rings which had loose clasps and carried many duplicate Mjölnirs, appear to be simply a means of storing pendants that could later be sold or given as gifts to others, or traded at Viking outposts abroad - which makes sense given that these larger rings contain other types of pendants resembling axes, fire-strikers and Draupnir-rings along with the Mjölnir pendants, with no real consistent symbolic pattern in the relative number of pendants of each type.
Södra Möckleby, Sweden. Silver ring with Mjölnir, Draupnirs, and fire-striker. 10th century (?) (Norse).
A few of these pendant-rings were made of more precious metals like silver and found in regular graves around the neck of the skeleton, indicating that these were at least valuable enough to preserve intact for the person's eventual reincarnation and mystic journey into the burial mound to reclaim their past-life memories, symbolized by the hammer as the soul's return to Midgard and a lifelong psycho-spiritual anchor for such memories. In addition, the ring with its unique combination of many pendants could serve as a record of the person's life and exploits, further cementing the events of the past life-memory for re-discovery by the reincarnated soul nearing adulthood. This funerary connection still was, nonetheless, a far more cryptic and symbolic use of the Mjölnir than the Hermetic meanings and talismanic conjuring uses that eclectic neopagans wrongly try to force onto it.
There are also a couple of highly detailed variants of the bird-head Mjölnir pendants, clearly inspired by the same handle design as the already detailed Skåne Mjölnir, that don't resemble a hammer at all, but were apparently popular in the Viking age regardless. The first is the Hiddensee Mjölnir, from a Viking hoard in the coastal island of Hiddensee in northern Germany. This place was long inhabited by Vikings after their initial raids. There are actually many of these gold Mjölnir pendants known from Hiddensee, of different sizes, all in excellent condition. A bit like the Foss "Wolf Cross" version, this one incorporates cross shapes, but this time each arm of the inverted cross splits into its own inverted cross with three more arms.
|Hiddensee, Germany. 10th Century (Norse).|
|The Hiddensee hoard is the largest find of Viking gold in Germany, and one of the largest worldwide.|
The second extreme bird-head design is the Sigtuna Mjölnir. This pendant is pure gold, covered in gold filigree, and as its name suggests, was found in Sigtuna, Sweden. Its extreme detail and expense are a good sign it belonged to royalty, though as no date has been firmly established for this pendant, precisely who ruled Sigtuna at the time of its creation is a subject of debate. This pendant has no hammer-head, but rather, the bird head that would normally sit on top of the handle, is now at the bottom where the hammer head would be. The tunnel for the necklace is of the same design and style as in the Hiddensee and Skåne hammers. Modern replicas are relatively common despite its odd shape and obscure history.
|Sigtuna, Sweden. Age uncertain "medieval" (Norse).|
The most unusual Mjölnir -type pendants aside from those, are probably the reverse-angled "boomerang" Mjölnirs found in Ukraine from the period of Kievan Rus; these are sometimes known as "roof home" Mjölnirs as they resemble the shape of a roof; their handles are tiny and little more than a bale for a necklace to be threaded through. They are not well-understood, but seem to have served as symbolic pendants for the head of household, perhaps connected with the Odal Rune in a symbolic sense. A few also have curved undersides, a sort of merger between the Mjölnir and the Lunula (which was also sometimes carved with the Odal Rune), and were probably worn by women.
|Kiev, Ukraine. 10th (?) Century (Rus).|
|Lunula with a "winged" Odal Rune; reproduction of Kievan Rus find, 10th or 11th Century.|
Rarest of all are historic Mjölnirs that have Runes inscribed on them. In fact there is only one that is officially acknowledged to have Runes, the Kobelev Mjölnir - and it is a fairly recent find. Being from the Viking Age, these Runes are a variant of the Younger Futhark.
|Kobelev, Denmark. The Runes read "HMAR * IS", meaning "A Hammer [this] is!"|
The Hammer's Runes are read holding it head-up. The three chevrons on the handle are believed by some scholars to be a shorthand form of the Valknut, though this being a Thor's Hammer and not an Odinic pendant, it's more likely they represent a triple-repetition of the Thorn-Rune which is often associated with both Thor and the Giants.
However, another recent find, this time from a cluster of Viking settlements in Iceland, may also have Runes carved on the head of the hammer. This pendant, some 900 years old, is made of sandstone - an extremely rare material to survive mostly un-eroded for so long.
Tips on buying a Mjolnir pendant
There are many Mjölnir pendants available for sale today, and if you have an internet connection and a paypal account you can easily buy most of them. But many of the ones available today are purely modern designs, and some obviously look like they have bits and pieces stolen from other cultures and even modern phenomena like the copyrighted logos of famous metal bands.
So how do you go about finding a good Heathen Mjölnir pendant, that reflects the Indo-European ethics and aesthetics of genuine Runic paths? How do you make sure you are buying a quality pendant to honor Thor, and not just some copycat recasted ripoff?
Well, at the end of the day it comes down to a few basic factors.
1. Materials - is it made of traditional material(s) that would have been available from natural sources or ingredients? (wood, copper, bronze, silver, iron, steel, and even gold are all fair game).
2. Aesthetic - is it visually pleasing and reminiscent of traditional Heathen Mjölnirs or Heathen art aesthetic? (all the shapes seen above are fair game). If it's marred by wiccan pentagrams, horned skulls, satanic goat skulls, or anything copied from some postmodern punk subculture, forget it!
|Heathenry is a Life-Cult . . . . . NOT a Death-Cult.|
3. Methods - is it made by hand, or at least with a quality process and by someone who is Heathen, or at least actually cares about the product having a Heathen spiritual use? If so, then go ahead.
4. Replicas - if it's a replica of a well-known museum artifact, like the Skane or Gärsnäs Mjölnirs, and the casting quality is good, then go for it. If it's not a replica, it should still be easy to tell if it's a worthy traditional-style Mjölnir that honors Thor, or simply cheap factory-produced junk from Taiwan. If it's hand-forged iron and well-shaped, then you can easily tell it's an original piece and hard work went into it.
5. Price - is the price reasonable for what you are getting? Generally if you're paying less than $20 US for a metal Mjölnir pendant, chances are it's cheap mass-produced pewter made in Taiwan or Hong Kong. I've rarely seen anyone willing to carve a wood one for less. If you're dead-broke and feel that you have to have a Mjölnir no matter how awful, then go for it, but keep in mind a lot of that cheap pewter is made in downright awful factory conditions, and may also have lead or other toxic materials in it. I'd rather save up for a better one if I were in that situation. On the other hand, if the price is extremely high for the size and the material, say above $150 for a large iron Mjölnir, you might be getting ripped off. However, large sterling silver ones are normally pricy, and rightfully so.
If you have a budget of anywhere from $25 to $100 or more, there are literally thousands of better options, from small-batch castings of bronze and silver Mjölnirs, to hand-forged iron pieces that are one of a kind. Avoid the mainstream big-box shops like Grimfrost, VikingMerch, or WestWolf Renaissance; they talk a good game, but overcharge for mass-produced stencil pendants you could find elsewhere for much less.
6. Beware of scams - auction sites like Ebay have many private sellers who claim to offer "authentic" Viking-age artifacts; since Mjölnir pendants are consistently the most popular Heathen pendants, these shops produce tons of fake "ancient" Mjolnirs and sell them for hundreds of dollars. Don't be fooled. If there isn't an assay certificate in the pictures to prove the metal content is an ancient mixture, or the stamps/punches and the oxidation/patina look too even and perfect to be ancient, or there's little or no information about the location and time period of the pendant, it's probably a scam.
I suggest avoiding any Mjölnir listing that claims to be an ancient artifact anyway, unless you're a professional collector with expertise in ancient artifacts and cash to burn; not only are there a lot of price-gouging scammers out there, but even with genuine ancient artifacts there could also be a mess of legal issues with ownership, depending on the antiquities laws of the country of origin, the title to the land, and how the artifact was dug up. All in all, usually not worth it. If you're just a Heathen looking for a hammer, stick to affordable new ones (whether reproductions of historical pendants, or simply inspired by them) that don't claim to be valuable ancient relics.
7. Reviews - don't forget to read what past customers have said about the product and the service. Even if the Mjölnir looks good, you may want to pass if the shop has a lot of negative reviews. And if you buy from a shop and you like the product and service, it's common courtesy to leave a good review to support the maker, this is always a good move as it helps attract business and they may even give you a discount in the future. It helps out the Heathen artisan, especially for small shops with high overhead.
That said, nothing is better than experience when it comes to buying Mjölnir pendants (and all other Heathen pendants), and based on my experience, here are some solid, reliable makers I highly recommend if you want to flaunt a REAL traditional-style Heathen Mjolnir around your neck:
Warfire Forge (USA): Southern shop specializing in iron and steel blades; they also do great custom Mjölnirs now and then, with a unique dimpled texture. Message them and specify what you want.
Practical Heathenry (USA): thick, hefty iron and patterned-welded steel Mjölnirs inspired by Norse short-handled historical finds. Great customer service with a skull-splitting sense of humor!
BoarLord (USA): solid, consistent, no-nonsense Mjölnirs in iron and Damascus steel. No two are alike, but they're all shaped to the same template pattern. Also offers iron Rune sets, Viking knives, and Gandr.
Taitaya Forge (UK): hand-forged pure iron and sterling silver (yes, you read that right, hand-forged silver!) Mjölnirs and other Viking pendants, using the traditional Viking-age forging methods and decorative punches found in historical Mjölnirs - they offer custom work as well, including Runes carved into your hammer, or even inlaid in silver using traditional Norse Koftgari inlay methods.
MatthiasMetalsmith (UK): extremely high-quality bronze and silver Mjölnirs, both replicas of historical finds and new ones inspired by them (decorated with historical Viking and Saxon punches); the only shop offering museum-quality replicas of the famous Repton Mjolnir, rumored (though not proven) to have been worn by Ivar the Boneless himself!
OdinGrove (Germany): a very unique shop in Germany making simple handmade wooden Mjölnirs and Runic pendants in wood, bone, and deer antler; the maker puts red ochre into the Runes like ancient Rune-carvers. Each piece is unique and will never be duplicated!
ArtKrechet (Poland): small boutique shop making intricately hand-carved wood Mjölnir pendants. Each is an original design inspired by Viking art; no two are alike. Also offers statues of the Gods.
MichalForge (Slovakia): forged steel axes, seaxes, and Mjölnir pendants. This is a small shop offering one-of-a-kind pieces, they do custom work with iron Mjölnirs .
MagicRebel (Ukraine): a great place to buy high-quality bronze Mjölnirs, mostly new designs inspired by ancient Norse art and artifacts. Their double-sided "Thor's Head" Mjölnir includes a braided leather necklace with bronze wolf head clasps, found nowhere else. Also has plenty of Norse bracelets and rings.
WearTheRare (Ukraine): a real hidden gem of a shop; highly detailed brushed/oxidized silver Mjölnirs (both replicas and modern redesigns), Norse and Slavic rings, wolf pendants, and leather belts with custom Norse-style buckles. Their Mjölnir pendants are second to none, as is their "Mjölnir and oak leaves" signet ring.
Berloga Workshop (Ukraine): easily in the top 5 BEST Heathen silversmith shops on the planet. Polished sterling silver (and 18kt gold, if you can afford it) replicas of historic and historically-inspired Mjölnirs and other Norse pendants, as well as Perun's Axes, Kolovrats, Lunulas and other Slavic pendants, and some amazing rings. Free CD of Norse and Slavic pagan music with every purchase!
Pakabone (Ukraine): all silver, bronze, and high-quality pewter Mjölnirs, many of unique designs based on ancient Viking patterns. A lot of Mammen-style knotwork on most of the Mjölnirs here, so if crazy ornamentation is what you're into, this is the place to look. Plenty of other Viking-based pendants, rings, arm-rings, etc. available too. Everything is detailed and very well-cast here.
Viking Goods Store (Ukraine): any sort of traditional Mjölnir you want, it's probably here! This store is like the trading markets of Kievan Rus come back to life. A HUGE selection of bronze and silver replicas of ancient finds, as well as hand-forged iron and Damascus steel Mjölnirs based on traditional designs, often at half the price of comparable ones from US and UK shops. Also carries lunulas, axe pendants, rings, wooden Rune sets, and plenty of other Heathen gear, all handmade and of excellent quality.
BarbariAnn (Ukraine): smooth, shiny and jeweler-quality silver and bronze pendants. Specializes in very small and fine Mjölnir pendants and women's Norse jewelry.
ArtefaktumUA (Ukraine): smooth, shiny and jeweler-quality silver and bronze pendants. Several types of Mjölnirs available, from replicas of historic finds (including triple-Mjölnir ring pendants) to modern redesigns of ancient themes.
Svarog's Hammer Shop (Ukraine): the BEST in modern iron-forging techniques meets ancient Mjölnir designs. Hefty, tough and consistent, with a sharp Runic maker's mark stamped on every hammer, and very professional customer service. It's definitely worth the wait on shipping.
HandMadeLily (Russia): cozy and lovingly crafted wooden pendants, oiled until they shine. Mostly made of birch, other hardwoods available, including some of the finest small Mjölnirs ever carved, at jaw-droppingly low prices. If you like something there, buy it quickly. It won't be around for long.