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 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.
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.