Viking Prayers from Old Norse to Modern Times

In the ancient Viking lands of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and Britain, Norse Pagan people prayed to the old Norse Gods for success in their hunting, fishing, farming, and sailing. These prayers have been preserved and are the most complete record of the Viking religion.

The prayers are found in the Eddas, Sagas, and Anglo-Saxon chronicles. Almost allViking prayers begin with an invocation to a specific god or gods. They often end with an expression of gratitude to the god for a favor and for their protection of the individual. 

Most of the prayers include an appeal to god to intervene in some respect or activity. Each Viking prayer is written in the Anglo-Saxon and Danish Runes, the Icelandic and Norwegian Futhark, and the Icelandic, Norwegian and Faroese runic alphabets. The most common prayers were addressed to Odin ("The All-Father"), Freyja ("Lady of Love")

Origins, Theories And Interpretations

These prayers were most often written in runes by Norsemen because the runes were so much easier to carve than to write; they could be used in any weather. Runes are an alphabet developed by the early Germanic peoples (and ultimately used by all Germanic peoples, including the Germanic tribes of Britain). The Vikings mastered this alphabet and were able to create elaborate inscriptions (i.e., graffiti) on wood, stone, and metal with it. These inscriptions have been preserved on items such as runestones, weapons, jewelry, and manuscripts. The earliest known runes date from about 500 AD.

The Vikings believed in many gods: Odin, Thor, Freyr, and Heimdallr. The specific god that the Norse pagans prayed to to may be identified in each prayer; for example, in the use of names. For example, one prayer to Odin reads, "Hail Odin, king! Hail to thee, Aesir-Lord! Hail to all the gods who are in Ásgarþr!" So we know that this prayer is directed toward Odin. Another example comes from another Odin prayer that reads, "The greatest of gods I call on thee; O holy one among gods and men," so again, we know with certainty that this is addressed to Odin.

Common Characteristics Of The Viking Prayer Are:

  •  Invocation to a specific god, or gods, in the beginning of the prayer.
  •  An expression of gratitude in the end of the prayer.
  • A summary of a favor being asked for in the middle part of the prayer. The most common favor that is requested is for "good health," followed by "good harvests." The Vikings appear to have believed that their gods would grant these requests. It is interesting to note that the majority of these requests for good health and good harvests were made in the context of a prayer for success in battle. The Vikings believed that a good harvest contributed to military success and they also believed that their gods granted people good health before battles.
  • Most of these prayers contain a reference toValhalla and the idea of being welcomed there upon your death. This probably represented the idea of a better and glorious afterlife.
  • These prayers are usually expressed in the form of long sentences and complex phrases. They are not simple requests but tend to be long and wordy. As a result, the prayers may seem strange to those who are not accustomed to the ancient ways of speaking.

Viking Funeral Prayers

TheViking funeral prayer is a memorial (or ode) to the deceased person and his/her place of burial. They aim to elevate the dead person to the status of a god, give him/her a place with the Aesir, and explain their place in life after death. Most old Norse funeral prayers begin by addressing the deceased person by name. This is followed by praise, which might include the deceased's occupation, his/her strengths and talents, physical appearance, demeanor, and deeds of bravery. The final part of these prayers frequently asks for protection for the family members who remain behind.  Here is a typical example of a Viking funeral prayer:

"Hail to the gods! We praise and honor you as we praise and honor the dead. Hail to the brave warrior, the bright shield-warrior (he) was called! To his kinsmen and friends: may he live long in the memory of men and sit among his kinsmen in Valhalla! I praise him for (his) standing forth, and for his bravery, and for his blithe manner and wise spirit."

Viking Wedding Prayer

A typicalViking wedding prayer was to a god and a goddess. The couple would request the gods' blessing to cross over together in life and then in death. The usual request refers to the couple's future children and their prosperity. They are often led by a priest or a shaman who leads the couple through an invocation to the gods and instructs them in the performance of their marriage vows. The prayer is mostly dedicated to Frigga and Odin. Sometimes the couple is asked to recite their oaths and exchange rings. A typical Viking wedding prayer may read as follows:

"Hail Frigga, wife of Odin, queen of the Aesir, mistress of the gods, we greet you, Frigga. We ask you to accept (our) oaths and to bless (our) union. To you, we wish for children who will grow into good people and make our kinship prosper. May their lands be prosperous! May they have joy in our family home! Protect us in this life and welcome us in the hereafter. Hail to you, Frigga!"

Viking Battle Prayer

A warrior would make a prayer before going into battle for the protection of himself and his men. The prayers are said to seek protection for a warrior's soul and to win the favor of the gods. This Prayer is often offered while looking up to the sky before the battle. They are also common in the days and weeks following a battle. They are usually directed to Odin, Thor, and Freyja. Here is a typical Viking battle prayer example:

"Odin! Wise and powerful ruler of Ásgarþr, god among the gods! Grant that I may be shielded from misfortune and death. We call on you here (to) to go against our enemies. We call on you here to fight with us." Protect us so that we can be victorious in this battle and earn the favor of the gods.

Viking Death Prayer

TheViking death prayeris mostly said by a warrior in a battle. A warrior would request a passage to Valhalla and also request for their relatives to not weep for them but to celebrate their deaths. The Viking Death prayer aims to provide courage and comfort to the dying and hope for their family members mourning at home. It can be said when a warrior lays down his arms or while they are on the battlefield and things are looking grim. The13th warrior prayeris a famous example of the Viking death prayer.

Viking Healing Prayer 

In the Viking Era, fate is not always the choice of individuals. Instead, it is a matter of circumstance. The gods play a role in determining the path of a person's life. The medical knowledge of ancient Vikings did not include many surgical techniques or drugs, so Vikings had to rely on spiritual powers for relief from illness. The most common form of healing for early medieval Scandinavians was to strike their sickles against their arrows to deflect pain and power away from the body, as well as to preserve life and health by curative deities.

Post-Viking age Prayers

After the age of Norse pagans ended, there was a decline in the use of prayers to Norse Gods and then a complete disappearance of them in the post-Viking age literature. However, there are still ornaments, weapons, and decorative objects that have been found that still have runic inscriptions on them. Some of these items have been identified as being prayer amulets. They were probably worn as amulets and carried by people who believed in the power of the runes. The prayers that are found in these inscriptions mostly focus on protection from evil and grant blessings on the wearer.

Today, the Viking prayer is still recited in modern times by some neo-pagans and Asatru followers. However, the Viking Age prayers, which have been passed down the generations by word of mouth, are now recorded in modern English. In addition, we can now see bracelets, necklaces, and other jewelry with Viking prayers intertwined on them. This is a good way to keep the Viking tradition alive and a great way to remember them.

Prayers in Present-day Culture

There are still many people who believe that prayers carry the same power as in ancient times. Therefore, many people have recommenced their prayers. However, some of them are modernized and do not follow the traditional rules of praying found in historical sources. In these new prayers, people may call upon God as "the divine force" or "the creator." The new prayer process is based on how we think, how we believe, and what we hope for. There is no need to pray aloud if it is done privately at home or quietly at school, or at work. This is the “new way”.


Viking prayers have a variety of forms, from written prayers on memorials to oral prayers offered in times of both joy and grief. The prayers are not only intended for personal reflection but also for giving voice to hopes and fears shared by the entire community. While Viking culture has changed greatly, the practice and forms of prayer have remained an important part of their religious traditions.