Thor, the Norse God of Thunder who wields an indestructible hammer called Mjölnir, has been a cultural mainstay through Nordic tales for centuries, and more recently, in comic books and the Avengers film franchise. You even say his name every week; “Thursday” is a translation for “Thor’s Day.”

But Thor is also worshipped among other gods by Heathens, the followers of Ásatrú and Odinism. And now Mjölnir—one of their most important symbols—has been added to the list of nearly 60 emblems authorized for engraving on VA-issued headstones and markers.

Thor confronts Loki (via Wikipedia Commons)

Thor personifies the tenets of honor, bravery and virtue, and he uses his hammer to defend both mortals and other gods from the forces who would threaten those values, according to a Norse mythologist. It’s no mystery why some folks in the military would adopt Ásatrú and Odinism as their religion, and Mjölnir as their symbol, used in the same manner as a crucifix or Star of David.

The Hammer of Thor

Getting the symbol approved wasn’t an overnight process. The Open Halls Project, an organization that connects the community of military Heathens, recounts their work to get the emblem approved by VA. As a result of their work, two headstones, one each for a father and son, were commissioned with Thor’s hammer. Anyone who wishes to add the symbol to their headstone, or any from this list, is free to do so.

VA furnishes, at no cost, a headstone or marker for eligible Veterans in unmarked graves in any cemetery around the world. The program is administered by VA’s National Cemeteries Administration, which routinely bests other federal agencies and private companies in customer satisfaction.

The Hammer of Thor was among another notable addition to the list of approved emblems. The Sandhill Crane was added this summer for the same-sex spouse of a Veteran who passed away.

Alex Horton is the senior staff writer for VAntage Point. He served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army with a fifteen-month deployment to Iraq in 2006-2007.

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Published on Jul. 24, 2013

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  1. Steven Thomas Hatton July 31, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    I recall back in the 1980 when I was told that I could not put Heathen on my dogtags. I was subjected to considerable harassment due to my religious affiliation. I was eventually discharged for my adherence to my rightful heritage. When I suggested to the JAG attorney that I go to EEOC, he told me I was exactly the kind of person they were trying to get rid of.

    I will never be compensated for the irreparable damage that did to my life.

    Hail to the Mighty Aesir!

  2. Josh Heath July 29, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Mr. Horton,

    Thank you very much for this blog post and for letting your readers know that this symbol is now available, if they wish to have it.

    To Dan F, there are currently about 500 heathens serving in the military, and a large swath of our population are veterans. We belive in service to our communities, and military service is common.

    To William Reynolds, yes we call ourselves heathens. Its a term that the followers of the old religious traditional polytheistic faith of Northern Europe used for themselves in ages past, and we proudly use it for ourselves today. It has ties to the word heath, and therefor those who lived on the heaths, or in the country, and those that followed the forn sidr, or old beliefs.

  3. teven Frits July 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Ummm? I Love Mythology I do!! I welcome religious freedom as well, It is what we all served for! I personally would not want to risk my eternity on Thor Or Odin? For those Who do, I would risk my life so you have the right.

  4. William L Reynolds July 25, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Calling a person a “Heathen” really does not show tolerance for their beliefs.

    • Alex Horton July 26, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      William, the followers of those religions call themselves Heathens.

  5. William L Reynolds July 25, 2013 at 11:47 am


  6. Dan F July 25, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Obviously earth shattering news from the VA. I will make sure I pass it along. I am wondering how many requests they have had for this headstone in the last 100 years.

  7. Roger L. Kopf July 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Why would the sandhill crane be used as the symbol of a same sex spouse’s death?

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