Top 10 drinking myths, legends and ancient rituals

Viking drinking customs

While the vikings are known to be fully committed to drinking, they were not unaware of its risks.

The great god Ódinn famously cautioned against drunkenness and unrestrained drinking in a poem, Hávamál (Sayings of the High One), that read: “Less good than they say / for the sons of men is the drinking oft of ale: for the more they drink, / the less they can think and keep a watch over their wits.”

Despite this cautionary tale, Vikings were known for their drinking, and would often do so from drinking vessels made from the polished horn of cattle or other livestock.

In Norse mythology the God Thor drank from a giant horn that unknown to him contained all the waters of the sea, while the epic tale Beowulf describes the ritual drinking of mead from carved drinking horns.

Another viking tradition is that of ‘Skål’ – a toast to friendship, good fortune and health – which requires steady and sustained eye contact with your drinking partner. After saying “skål!” and drinking from your glass, it is customary to again meet your drinking partner’s eye as you lower your vessel back to the table.

The Vikings were famously dubious of their drinking company, and this tradition ensure that they could fix their them with their gaze to prepare in the event of an impromptu duel. ‘Skål’, translated as ‘shell’ or ‘bowl’, can also mean ‘skull’, reflecting the belief that Vikings also would drink spirits and wine out of the skulls of their fallen enemies.

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