Comparative Religion

How the Triple Horn of the Nordics has Impacted other Religions

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"How the Triple Horn of the Nordics has Impacted other Religions"
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The triple horn of the Nordics is the emblem of the Norse and Viking god Odin; it consists of three interlocked drinking horns. All Northern European nations formerly drank out of horns, often those of the now extinct urus (auroch) or European buffalo. These vessels are also featured in the epic Beowulf.

Odin is often referred to as the Allfather, Mighty God, and sometimes just as Chief. His stylized emblem is also known as a horned triskele or Odhroerir. Similar triskeles play a symbolic role beyond the Nordic culture, and can bear a resemblance to the swastika or "sunwheel" symbol which was already prevalently used in the East.

The Snoldelev Stone, inscribed with the horned triskele AND a swastika, dating back to the Viking Age, is on display at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.
See: Snoldelev Stone - Viking Age
The triple horn motif on the stone was adopted as the official logo of the Asatru Folk Assembly in October 2006. Asatru meaning "those loyal to the Gods" is a religious group practicing Germanic Neopaganism.

In sagas, Odin is sometimes referred to as "One of Three", which could be considered as an analogy of the Christian Trinity. It is debatable where the Nordic concept of divine trinity may have had it's roots. Vikings had already openly traded with the Near East, which facilitated a cultural exchange between the Nordic and Middle Eastern cultures.

The triple horns are referred to in mythical stories of Odin and are recalled in traditional Norse toasting rituals. Most of these stories involve the Odin's quest for the Odhroerir, Holy Mead brewed from the blood of the wise god Kvasir. These tales vary, but typically, Odin uses wits and magic to procure the brew over three days - three drinking horns reflecting the three draughts of magical mead. The concept of the drinking of a slain god's blood, bears a striking resemblance to Christian tradition, where wine (instead of mead) is representational of the Blood of Christ.

The triple horn emblem of Odin also resembles the Viking Volknot (the Asatru or Valknut symbol) which consists of three interlinked triangles worn as a talisman or amulet to invoke the protection of Odin.

Odin, the Great Father, is symbolized by 3 interwoven triangles which represent the 3 Norns - Norse version of the Fates and the 9 worlds of Norse mythology and their harmony. They also represent the oath given to Odin as a warrior. Interestingly, he hung from the tree of life and sacrificed himself and in turn he cast down the runes (the language of the trees), so important to Nordic culture and religion. This bears a striking resemblance to the sacrificial crucifixion of Jesus on the Christian Cross, also a tree.

The "triskele" (or triskelion) derived from the Greek word for "three-legged" is a symbol consisting of three interlocked spirals, or bent human legs - or any similar symbol with three protrusions and a rotational threefold symmetry.

Many such symbols have been found in use outside the native Nordic Viking culture, for example:
* the triskelion symbol of Brittany, as well as the Isle of Man - and Sicily (where it is called Trisceli)
* a triskele, usually consisting of spirals, and also the "horned triskelion" is used by some Neopagan and Polytheistic Reconstructionist groups. It is frequently used in groups with a Celtic cultural orientation.
* In the northern Spain, the triskelion is a symbol of Galizan and Asturian nationalists. The labaro (a similar symbol) is used by Cantabrian regionalists can be compared to the nearby Basque culture's four-branched lauburu.
* the Nazi Third Reich adopted a variation of the triskelion for the insignia of the Waffen SS division composed of Belgian volunteers.
* the triskelion pattern forms the basis of the Roundel of the Irish Air Corps. It's based loosely on the Flag of Ireland and traditional Celtic triskele designs.
* A triskelion forms part of the seal of the United States Department of Transportation, the three spirals representing transportation by air, land, and sea.
* In the 2005 TV series Threshold, a fractal version of the triskelion is a major motif and symbol of the aliens who invade Earth.

The horned triskelion of Odin is considered a "partial Borromean rings emblem."

Borromean rings are three interlaced circles, often used to indicate strength in unity, and have been used to symbolize the Holy Trinity of Christendom. It is easy to imagine the pattern of the three-leafed clover evolving into a Borromean design.

Partial Borromean rings are interlaced, but the individual elements are not depicted as closed loops. An example of such a symbol is the Snoldelev stone horns and also in the crescents on the emblem of famous French courtesan, Diana of Poitiers. In medieval and renaissance Europe, a number of similar signs are found.

The Borromean rings were also the logo for Ballantine beer.

Vikings were widely feared in Europe but not in Arab-Islamic lands...
The Vikings started as slave traders serving Islam or Sarkland (their word for Bagdad) as Muslims preferred white slave girls. These Nordic-influenced girls were later force-recruited as mothers and educators of Islam's children. There is no doubt of an intermingling of cultures, and Nordic symbols and ideas may thus have seeped into foreign territory.

A possible reverse example would be valkyries, minor female deities of Norse mythology, who served Odin and pleasured slain heroic warriors in the Valhalla afterlife. The concept of valkyries as "after death compensation" may have been strengthened by contacts to the Islamic lore about young girls waiting to sexually please slain jihadists. The lack of Islamization of the Vikings may be related to the fact that the Vikings also had pragmatic dealings with Christians and Jews en-route to Sarkland, which would also afford them opportunity to disseminate Nordic symbology.

It's difficult to determine the scope of which Norse symbols (such as the triple horn of Odin) and Nordic religious motifs have impacted other religions; or to ascertain how much the Norse gleaned from other regions - it's a bit like asking "which came first, the chicken or the egg". It is however obvious that there was a great deal of cultural exchange. The widespread use of the triskele symbol certainly hints that the Nordic culture made it's mark throughout much of the Western world, if not the East as well.


More about this author: L. Merlino