Apart from christianity, serpents and dragons are affirmative symbolic beings, i.e. serpents symbolize renewal, healing and rebirth (skin-sloughing of serpents, Ouroboros).

In Norse mythology, that is a mythology of Indo-European descent, what do dragons symbolize for i.e. the Vikings.

Dragons and dragon ornamentation appear i.e. on ships, stave churches, ...

  • Hello and welcome to Mythology and Folklore SE! Any specific dragon in mind?
    – Tom Sol
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 10:20
  • No not really, i know the Norse dragons and their mythology (of which i wonder how much it is tainted by later christian worldview). What is the name of the dragons on the stave churches and the dragons on the ships ?
    – ralf htp
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


It is a bit challenging to delimit the quest of this question. For instant, there are lists (thulas) of serpents, which may, and may not be considered dragons. The mythological Jörmundgandr ("the world serpent"), for instant, I find Jörmungandr reflected in the most classic dragon of all Norse, Fafnir, because of the name, quite simply signifying 'Fathom'. He's much known as he also is found in the German Niebelungenlied, that Richard Wagner his Ring-cycle upon. It seems that Dragons are originally human. Well, I'm not interpreting either Æsir, Vanir, Dwarves, Youthunns, or Elves of the dark and of the light, as not human (double negation there). Fafnir's fate is profoundly reflected not merely in Wagner's work, but also in the works of Tolkien, particularly regarding the ring, Andvaranaut. It is this ring's curse, or Fafnir's obsession with the external alchemy related to the Ring of Andvari, that turns him into the dragon. In this context the Dragon is quite clearly a transformation due to perversion and obsession.

If the Norse serpents are part of the deliberation here, even Oðinn is a dragon of sorts, as he turns into Bólwork, in order to get hold of the entheogenic compound brew, relating to the greeting (skål!), aka the peace between the Vanir and Æsir, according to Snorre Sturlasson, the main contenders of the Trojan war, fascilitated by King Lear aka Youthunn Ægir. It seems to me that the ornamental dragon-serpents of ships and churches are more related to this mytheme, than that of Fafnir. This mytheme is reflected in the Kerukeion aka Caduceus, the biblical Nehushtan of Moses, and the old Sumerian Ningishida..

The ultimate viking hero, with a name that could be translated as Arrow's-Edge, is famed for having battled with the sea-monster Kraken, often likened to Chthulu, or Hafgufa, the mother of all sea-monsters.

The Norse heraldic and ornamental dragons are called Lindworms, interpreted as the Norse name for dragons. Fafnir is called a Lindworm in the Saga-litterature.

Six Lindworms are mentioned as the offspring of Gráfvitnir (Grave-witness, Grave-visitor, or grave-wolf): Góinn, Móinn, Grábakr, Gráfvölluðr, Ófnir and Sváfnir. My suggestion to their meaning is: The (subtle) intestinal life-force of (sacrificial) animals - Gó(r)inn. The (subtle) interior of arable land - Mó(r)inn. The foul force in shit or leftovers - Grábakr. The rolling force coming from burial mounds - Gráfvölluðr. The force of descendance - Ófnir. The force of ascendance - Sváfnir.
This is quite tentative, based on my own fragmentary research and dubious competence in Norse language and cult.

I hope this was a bit to work on.

  • What i think is strange is that Jörmungandr, is said to encircle Midgard ouroboros-like and in addition that Jörmungandr is poisonuous. In a more accurate interpretation of Norse (and also Indo-European) mythology, in that dragons or serpents are affirmative beings, Jörmungandr encircles Yggdrasil, the entire cosmos. The meaning of this is that the Indo-Europeans thought the universe to be eternal and always renewing. As i think that dragons and serpents are affirmative symbols it is strange to link them to poison and death like it is done in the christianized version of Norse mythology
    – ralf htp
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 15:47
  • First of all, if for once we would take the words and works of Snorri Sturlasson and his bardic lineage as an expression of integrity, rather than symptoms of vicarious intentions, we will find a pride referencing the intercultural dimensionality of the Norse sagas, wisdom, perception and cult-practices. The Norse calendar, for instant, draws upon a finno-ugric traditon. Snorre is referencing the Aenead, explaining that Aeneas is identical to Oðinn' and Greeth's son Viðareu. The metempsychotic element is superimportant I think. Ethnic identification is primarily by manners, bloodlines less. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 18:50
  • When we speak of christianisation, this is most often terribly misleading. I wonder if anyone can document any totalitarian, violent spread of christianity prior to Carolian feudalism. I believe there is proof of it, but haven't found it. Yet, in the earlier, pre-chalchedonian stratas of christianity, the prevailing mood of spreading the Word, is by blending in, and treating the gospel as the grand syncretic integer, bringing all the lost tribes back home to the hope of the Promised Land. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 19:15
  • At least the pre-Nicean christians regard themselves as true Jews, although distinquishing themselves ideologigially from Jews anchoring their Jewishness in Blood & Soil. Is not Kvasir eponymous to Khazaria? The huge Khaganate that made Judaism it's religion, buffering between the Byzantine Christendom and Golden Age Baghdad Khalifate. Snorre is surely aware of the expansion of Gardarike (King Sveinald /Prince Sviatoslav I) on the expanse of the Khazarians. The Norse is a compound, with the first strata of humans being Youthunns, thereupon Finns and Quéns, if we read the Orkneyar Sagas. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 19:20
  • The premise is to regard the supernatural beings, Vanir, Æsir, Youthunns, Elves as humans, or avatars of different populations, as suggested in particular by the scaldic tradition of the Icelanders in exile from the feudalism of the royal House Ynglings in alliance with the House of Wessex who unified England, as well as the House of Liudolfingers! The Elves and the Goðs, are explained by the story of the grandson's of Nór, the eponymous anchestor of Norway, and Norse, through his son Raumœ. Two of his sons, Finn & Brand become Finn-elf & Goð-brand, following the Joþunn-Goþ-Elf alliance. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 19:47

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