Viking Ancestors & The Origins of Mead Honored on a Silver Drinking Horn
Much like it has in recent years, in the 1800’s it became cool to honor and emulate the legends of the ancient Vikings. Scandinavians created paintings, clothing, poetry, operas, and literature that paid homage to their Viking ancestors through depictions of their powerful gods and battles of legend. They even brought this trend with them to American when they immigrated during the 19th and 20th centuries, keeping Viking traditions alive in the New World.
Occasionally the legends became jumbled and gave birth to misconceptions of Vikings, such as their status as dirty barbarians (false – they were actually super clean!) and their hats having horns. But sometimes beautiful pieces of art were created in their name, like the silver drinking horn that was given to Swedish poet Gustaf Geijer by his students in 1816.
The Mead of Poetry
The beautiful silver embellishment of the Gustaf Geijir drinking horn depicts the story of “The Mead of Poetry,” which tells of mead’s divine origins and its ability to imbue the gift of poetry on those who drink it.
In Norse mythology, the gods sealed a newly formed truce by spitting into a vat. The comingling spittle became Kvasir, a god that was so wise he could answer any question in the world. He travelled around sharing his wisdom, but was eventually murdered by a couple of jealous dwarves. They poured his blood into three containers, mixed them with honey, and that was the first mead.
Legend says that anyone who drinks it becomes a poet or scholar. Thankfully, Odin became an eagle in order to get away quickly after stealing the mead to share with all of his Aesir buddies, as well as all of us.
This drinking horn cleverly depicts Odin’s gift through the taloned eagle feet that steady the cup and silver head on the tip keeping an eye on the golden bounty inside the horn.
This gorgeous horn now resides at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.
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