Thomas Quine, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Viking Drinking Horn

While the Vikings did not put horns on their helmets, horns were still a large part of their culture. Heimdall will use his Gjallarhorn to signal the beginning of Ragnarök. In the earthly realms, cow and goat horns were carved, cleaned, polished, and decorated to become Viking drinking horns.

Drinking Up

Because a drinking horn’s bottom ends in a point, there is no way to set it down without spilling what’s inside. While these horns were shared between guests, it was considered poor form to receive the horn from the host and not finish the drink. By chugging the horn, a man could show off his stamina and physical prowess, which would impress the host and the other guests.

There have been some examples of horn stands designed to hold the horn. However, these were likely used when the horn was empty.

In the Horn

Horns were filled will alcoholic beverages. Mead was available, but the Vikings also drank beer with various levels of alcohol content; it was safer than drinking water at the time. Wine was available for the most influential because it needed to be imported from France.

Status Symbol

The first way the Viking drinking horn indicated the host’s status was by its size. A larger horn was more impressive. The horn could then be outfitted with jewels and precious metals. It might also be carved with geometric symbols or Norse mythology scenes.

Viking Drinking Horns and Oaths

Drinking horns were often the instrument of choice to bind two people in an oath-taking ceremony. It was important that the people involved drink alcohol from the horn to legitimize the oath.

The First Drinking Horns

The Vikings weren’t the first culture to use horns for drinking. The first drinking horn remains were found in Scythia and dated to sometime in 600 B.C.

Drink Your Full Measure

We invite you to partake of our Viking drinking horn by subscribing to our newsletter, making a donation, or becoming a volunteer with Asgard Alaska. Your participation will allow us to bring to life a bygone era and all the lessons that people can learn from living closer to the land, enjoying the great outdoors, and experiencing a lifestyle substantially different from their own.


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