Quite recently I've been asked this question and I thought it would be a very nice post to discuss with my dear patrons (it's a post open to the public as well because it might be of interest to the fans and to bring more people into our little community here on the Patreon platform).
As you can see above, from the Viking Tv Series, Björn Ironside has a new facial tattoo, it seems. I've been asked what's the meaning behind it because generaly the word on the internet is that the tattoo is "to protect against witchcraft" which in my honest opinion makes no sense whatsoever since most runestaves have a certain degree of black magic, witchcraft and sorcery, so the making of one, and wearing it, is "witchcraft" already. However, it's true there are magical staves to protect against witchcraft and sorcery of all sorts, but the "designs" are nothing like this, not even like the examples I'm about to present you.
I'll present you with known historical Icelandic Magical Staves that have similarities with Björn 's tattoo:
1. The first runestave is a Kaupaloki, related to prosperity: Cut this sign on a piece of beech wood or draw it on parchment and tou will have success in business deals.
2. The second runestave is another version of a Kaupaloki, used in the same way has the previous one, but it's not related to prosperity or business deals, it's simply for success.
Take notice at some of the similarities with Björn's tattoo and let's move on to other examples.
This next one is The Luck Knot (Heillahnútur). It should be drawn on parchment or carved on metal and carried on your person at all times to ensure good luck.
We should take into consideration the basic technique of galdor-stave magic, perhaps its strongest channel of effectiveness lies in the idea of becoming receptive to the inflow of power and/or meaning that leads to the reception of good influences. So these type of staves are extremely powerful and were most likely accompanied with galdr work to "infuse" them with power. In this particular case notice the similarities between the previous two magical staves and with Björn's tattoo.
The final magical stave that I've found and has any similarities with Björn's tattoo, is this one; not as a whole but certain elements/staves within this composition. This particular magical stave is used against foreboding when you go into the darkness. Carve these signs on an oak stave and wear it under your left arm. This is good for both literal darkness and for dark periods in life.
I'm not certain what the character Björn Ironside in the series is going through, but it might be that he is going through a dark period? So he does well to use these sort of staves.
Could it be that the runestave on Björn's face is the mixture of these rune staves I've presented to you? It seems to me that Björn's tattoo is a made up magical stave just for the show. However, it contains real historical truth behind them, real connotations with real historical magical staves. Based on what I've shown you, I would say Björn's tattoo is a mixture between protection and success towards coming dark-events in the life of this character.
But wait! There's a bonus:
The Magical Stave you see above is the famous Vegvisir, and if this sign is carried, one will never lose one's way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known.
Throughout the internet you will find many versions of the Vegvisir, but none like the one I'm giving you. I've personaly reworked this sign to fit into the real Vegvisir presented to us on the Icelandic grimoires. However, it's important to take notice that the Vegvisir belongs to the category of Ægishjálmar staves, which are magical signs deriving from the basic design of an Ægishjálmur, or "helm of awe".
There are many variations of the Ægishjálmur, and it's a magical sign quoted in the poem Fáfnismál. In this poem, the symbol would bring victory to its possessor, and in the same poem, this symbol belongs to the treasure of Sigurðr, from which it is deduced that it would be engraved in a helmet. At the same time, this description of a magical object in Fáfnir's head is related to a European tradition that dates back to the Greeks and survived until the end of the middle Ages: from a stone the dragons possessed on their heads (snakestone or dracontite) used for healing purposes.
In some Icelandic sagas, the symbol is also described as giving protection in battles. Ægishjálmur is translated as the "helm of awe" or of Æegir, due to its shape in the grimoires, a circle formed of eight arms in the form of tridents, resembling the ship rudder of boats. The problem is that this type of nautical instrument was only known in Scandinavia by the 13th century, the Vikings used a transverse oar as a rudder. Because Æegir was a sea-related deity, perhaps Nordic modern scholars have fused to this folklore the trident of Neptune, explaining its morphology (or even the trident of the devil, from the Christian mythology). Anyway, there are no images of this symbol before the 15th century, and we do not know its original form among the Vikings, even if it was already known by that time. This symbol is an ancient symbol but the representation we have today is quite recent.
Runic Symbols/Magical Staves, unlike the runes, are medieval and modern symbols, so they are quite new in Scandinavian history and have loads of influences from other cultures. Which means if Björn's symbol is based on these type of magical staves, it's out of context historically speaking since the events in the series occur duing the Viking Period and not Medieval and Mordern Iceland.
Even so, notice certain similarities in the Vegvisir and Björn's tattoo. Certain staves in this magical sign resemble Björn's facial tattoo.
And of course I could have just went straight to the Vegvisir, but I wanted to give you other runestaves and magical signs so you can understand the evolution of magical symbols before getting to the Vegvisir. The Vegvisir is not only based on the Ægishjálmur type of magical sign, but it has important similarities with the previous symbols I've shown you. Vegvisir is the combination of different magical staves that form a unique type of symbol. What is implicit in the Vegvisir are the other magical staves for protection, luck, to see the way in dark places and dark times, and also to achieve victory. Vegvisir is the magical sign that represents a compass so we do not lose our way, but in order to have a clear path and find our way, we need other factors, such as luck, protection, determination, and that seems to be the true function of the Vegvisir - a combination of magical staves with different purposes that together create one single goal: To find our way.
So in conclusion I think Björn's facial tattoo is one made up stave similar to one of the 8 staves in the Vegvisir. And very clever to put it near the left eye. Vegvisir is a magical sign to find one's way, so near the eye makes sense, and given the nature of the Vegvisir and all the other magical staves introduced in the symbol itself, Björn is looking for luck, protection, victory, to put fear in his enemies' hearts, and to find his way in dark times.
Or maybe my explanation on Björn's tattoo is too far-fetched, and the producers just wanted a symbol to look cool in Björn's face and perhaps there is no real meaning behind their choice.
PS: It's not uncommon the creation of new magical staves in our modern times, based on the old magical staves. With the proper knowledge and skill, new runestaves/magical staves can be created, more or less the same way we can create bindrunes. Although runestaves not only require Galdr-work, but also knowledge on sacred geometry. After all, Icelandic Magical Staves are the product of the consolidation and combined knowledge, during the Renaissance period, derived from western and eastern magical practices and rituals; Sacred Geometry; The Kabbalah; Pre-Christian Scandinavian religious symbology; Astrology; Alchemy. It's the fused traditions from the Vikings with the continental European magic that solidified after the 15th century.
With all of this being said, I would very much like to know your thoughts on this matter, from both my patrons and whoever reads this, since it's open to the public.
Hope you have enjoyed the reading.