Vikings are inextricably attached to the horned helmet they wear in popular media. This helmet looks cool and provides an edge of power to the Viking, but it is historically inaccurate. The Viking warrior in a horned helmet first appeared in the 1800s. Paintings from the 1850s by August Malmström depict Vikings in horned helmets. However, it was likely Wagner’s operatic saga called “the Nibelungen Ring,” where costumer Carl Emil Doepler put the Viking characters in horned helmets, that cemented the idea.
Depictions of Horned Helmets
Horned helmets did exist in Scandinavia about 2,000 years before the Viking era. The Viksø helmets were discovered in 1942 in a peat bog in Denmark and are a product of the bronze age. Scholars theorize that these helmets were more ceremonial than protective and were likely used in religious rites. While these helmets were discovered too late to inspire the works of Malmström and Doepler, rock art depicting horned helmet wearers from the same time exists in Spain and Sardinia, and Sweden has bronze statues with the same motif.
The Oseberg Tapestry
In 1903, a farmer found a burial mound full of tapestries, textiles and textile tools. The Oseberg Tapestry shows a figure in horns leading what appears to be a religious procession. Some believe this figure represents Odin. However, it is important to note other figures in the tapestry wearing animal skins of a boar. Another figure is dressed as a bird of prey.
Horns on the Helmet?
While the Oseberg Tapestry does have a figure with horns on its head, this depiction doesn’t mean that Vikings went around in the same kind of headgear. The only two helmets found thus far dating from the Viking era have been relatively simply helmets designed for the utilitarian purpose of protecting the head of the wearer.
Furthermore, we need you to make Asgard a success! Make a donation to help this dream become a reality. Volunteer your skills. Sign up for our newsletter below so you can be in the know as we come closer to making our Asgard a physical reality.