Horned Helmets – Viking Myths and Facts
Yes, some helmeted Vikings traveled around Europe, West Asia, and even North America raiding and pillaging. It is a myth, Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets. Forget almost every Viking warrior costume you’ve ever seen. Sure, the pugnacious Norsemen probably sported headgear, but that whole horn-festooned helmet look? Depictions dating from the Viking age don’t show it, and the only authentic Viking helmet ever discovered is decidedly horn-free.
Perhaps inspired by descriptions of northern Europeans by ancient Greek and Roman chroniclers, the popular image of the strapping Viking in a horned helmet dates back to the 1800s, when Scandinavian artists like Sweden’s Gustav Malmström included the headgear in their portrayals of the raiders. When Wagner staged his “Der Ring des Nibelungen” opera cycle in the 1870s, costume designer Carl Emil Doepler created horned helmets for the Viking characters, and an enduring stereotype was born. Long before the Vikings’ time, Norse and Germanic priests did indeed wear horned helmets for ceremonial purposes.