Viking Drinking Horn: The Only Historical Viking Horn?

Image of drinking horns Viking drinking horns

What can be the most striking image that you can think about the Vikings? A bearded warrior wields an axe and wears chain mail and a horned helmet? It is the common interpretation, to be honest. But whether it is true or not is another matter. So it’s true about warrior with armor wielding axe but the horned helmet isn’t. The Vikings didn’t wear horned helmet to join the battles. The only historical Viking horn is the Viking drinking horn.

Viking Drinking Horn

The Vikings didn’t drink the blood of their enemies with something like the skull. It’s all about the human imagination that scares themselves off. The Vikings drank the water or beverage with cups and especially the horn. Artifacts of the Viking drinking horn has been found in the Viking archaeological sites. Many of them were found in the female graves. The archaeologists think that it is because the Viking women were the ones to brew the mead.

Image of drinking horns
Floki and the horned helmet in “Vikings” TV Series

The Vikings must have made use of everything belonging to the cattle. The horns of the animals were very durable and they were all around the Viking farms. Of course, the Vikings didn’t drink from the horns only. They drank from the wooden bowls or cups. The wealthy and the noble drank from the glass that the traders imported from the other regions.

But why the Vikings drank with their horns? To look kind of awesome?

Maybe it’s true. But it isn’t the only reason why the Viking drank with the horns. As far as we know, the Viking always got their life surrounded with the gods. And the drinking horn was a way they paid their respect to the Norse Pantheon, especially Odin the Allfather.

In Norse mythology, Odin drank the powerful Mead of Poetry in the drinking horns. One day, Odin learnt of the existence of the Mead which was so powerful that it could give the drinker with the infinite source of knowledge and the ability to persuade others. Odin embarked on the journey to retrieve the Mead (because the Mead was brewed from the blood of the creature created by the gods). After Odin had endured many challenges, Gunlodd the guardian of the Mead finally granted Odin with the Mead. Gunlodd only allowed Odin to sip it. three times Odin drank the mead from the horn, three times he drank them all. Then the three vessels were empty and Odin flew to Asgard sharing the mead to other gods and he himself acquired the things he wanted. Because of this, one of the Odin’s symbols was the Triple Horn.

The Vikings were believed to have drink the mead from the horns as a sign to honor Odin and his great desire to have more and to get more knowledge.

How come we have the Viking horned helmet?

Horned helmets were actually the work from the the late 19th century. It appeared in the “Der Ring des Nibelungen” opera belonging to Richard Wagner a German composer. But the story of Wagner was nearly 7 centuries after the destruction of the Vikings. In fact, there has been no evidence of the Viking horned helmet.

Viking warriors with helmets that were as simple as a bowl.

It is quite impractical to wear the horned helmet and join the battle, isn’t it. It reduces the possibilities to move quickly and increases the risks of being attacked by the enemies. For example, if the warriors were moving through a small space, they stood the chances that they couldn’t get through with the horned helmet. In case they were facing with their warriors in the battle with the horned helmets, the chances were that the enemies could take hold of their head by grabbing the horned and control them. That is all to say the horned helmet was too impractical to be true in the battle.

In the Oseberg ship burial, the archaeologists found a tapestry that depicting a kind of ritual. In the tapestry, there was a man who might be the leader of the ritual. He was bigger than other people in the tapestry and he wore a helmet that had horns or something like the horns. This raises the question as to whether the Vikings ever wore the horned helmet. It makes many scholars doubt their belief of the nonexistence of Viking helmets. Whatever it might be, the Viking helmets were not really practical in the battlefield. So whether the Viking drinking helmets were practical in Viking ritualr not remains to be seen.

Image of Viking helmet
Viking helmet


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