For the ultimate protection, the Norse (particularly women) would draw this symbol between their eyes on their forehead. And of course, to make things even more metal, the Helm of Awe worked best when it was inscribed with either blood or spit. They were also popularly drawn on the inside of helmets so that they would rest between the eyes. The anime Fullmetal Alchemist draws inspiration from this.
The purpose of this symbolic placing is not just because it looks cool. The protection that the Helm of Awe invokes isn’t just physical in nature, you see. It’s also a sign of dominance in conflict, and more than that, it represents the ability to cause fear in others and suppress the fear of one’s own mind.
Think of it as a mirror: when you see the terrifying enemy rushing towards you and you feel fearful, you simply reflect that fear back on them. You become impervious and only focus on your mission at hand: destroying them.
The magic behind the Helm of Awe lies in the runes that make it up. The Norse runic language is one fraught with symbolism and magic. Now, if you recognize any rune from the symbols that make up the Helm of Awe, it’s probably Algiz (or Elhaz), also known as the z-rune. You may recognize it as the symbol for Deathrune Records, the purveyors of many European death/black metal bands. While Elhaz is commonly called the life rune, when placed upside down, it represents death.
Not only do the outside arms around the Helm of Awe make up Elhaz runes, but the larger spokes of this wheel also show the rune. Because of this, it’s thought that not only does this symbol invoke physical protection, but mental and spiritual as well. After all, conquering your own fear is the first step to making your enemies fear you.
If you’re looking for the Helm of Awe in the Poetic Eddas, look no further than Fáfnismál,which tells the tale of Siguard slaying the great dragon, Fáfnir. Tolkien fans might find similarity between Fáfnir and Smaug from The Hobbit, or Glaurung from The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin, for Fáfnir too loves riddles and great hordes of gold. But the dragon himself wears the Helm of Awe symbol between his eyes, saying:
The Helm of Awe
I wore before the sons of men
In defense of my treasure;
Amongst all, I alone was strong,
I thought to myself,
For I found no power a match for my own.
A Helm of Awe engraving on a tankard or ale horn would make a great gift for someone who is going away on a journey and needs the protection. Whether they’re traveling the world as a merchant marine or just starting college in the next town over, the Helm of Awe is a great way to let them know that you care about them and wish them protection in their new endeavors. This is also a great symbol to inspire courage in those who might suffer from mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression.
Of note: this is one of those symbols that white supremacists sometimes use. Unlike the swastika, which also has Norse roots (and roots even more ancient), however, the Helm of Awe is not widely considered to be a racist or harmful symbol. These days, it is also a symbol which marks those of the Asatru religion.