The axe was a handy tool for the Vikings and given that they were explorers, they used it to capture wildlife and to protect themselves while traversing the snowy wilds. The axe was also used in raiding, they brought it out whenever they were in conflict and carried it in their expeditions. And because of the above, they had different types of axes, some of which were the bearded axe, the Danish axe, the Viking axe and the hafted axe among others.
The skills of using the axe were passed on to the descendants of the Vikings. The axe symbol in the Vikings meant strength and bravery. The axe would also mean the ability of the heart and mind to overcome challenges that one encounters in their life’s journey.
What is the Viking Axe?
The Viking axe was a tool that was used to carry out domestic chores and was also taken to the battleground. And given that swords were very expensive, the axe could be owned by anyone as it was easily available and also the most commonly used tool.
To own and use a weapon in the Viking era was a matter of social standing, not everyone was able to carry the various types of advanced weapons as it is in modern society. The Viking axe alone was only carried by poor men, who would also be allowed to put on a helmet. The wealthy men, on the other hand, carried an axe, they would also put on a helmet and a coat of mail, and they also carried a sword or a spear.
From the above, you can tell that axes were designated to be used by the common man. Despite the designation of the axe, they were durably built from iron, and given that they were used as tools and also doubled up as weapons they were rarely decorated. Notable is that the Viking’s battle-axe was uniquely made, they were characteristic broad at the blades when compared to the regular axes, and they were also made with the projecting spurs.
And as mentioned earlier the axes came in different sizes and designs, they, therefore, were large, slender, broad, small, heavyweight and lightweight axes. There were also axes with either large or small spurs, and then there were those that did not have any spur among others. The Vikings are also known to have had strong and skilled warriors who would cut through a helmet or chainmail by just wielding an axe.
Viking Axe History
The axe used by the Vikings in their expeditions and in carrying out raids grew in popularity in the periods between the 10th and 11th centuries in areas that bordered Scandinavia. It was also the tool mostly used by the Norse warriors, who were known to use either the hand or the long axe.
The axe was the main tool that the Vikings used, and it morphed with continued use, in the beginning, It was made with a cutting edge that was 3 to 6 inches long. And over time it became even bigger. According to historical literature, some of the broad axes had a crescent shape with edges measuring 9 to 18 inches long.
The Vikings carried the axe to war because they were comfortable with using it as they also used it at home to split wood or to build. It is possible to brush the axe off as ineffective, given the availability of spears but in the hands of a skilled warrior, the axe was a deadly weapon.
Viking Axe Type
As mentioned earlier, the Vikings had different types of axes sporting various shapes and designs some that have been explored below.
The Mammen Axe– the Mammen Axe is among the most elegant axe ever used, and was named after the Danish village where it was first discovered. The axe was made of iron and had a silver inlay, it was additionally decorated in the Mammen style, and therefore featured a mix of both Christian and Pagan patterns and motifs. The Mammen Axe is believed to have been owned by a well off and important Viking.
The Bearded Axe– the bearded axe was referred to as the Sleggox in Old Norse. The lower part of the axe bit was referred to as the beard simply because it extended in a curve below the butt of the axe head. The beard enabled a bigger cutting surface but without adding to the weight of the axe, making it convenient enough to be used in combat.
The beard also had another purpose as the Vikings hooked it on their adversaries’ grasped and pulled out weapons from their hands. The beard was also used to pull down the enemy’s shield, making it easy for the Vikings to directly attack their unprotected enemies.
The Francisca Axe– the Francisca axe was especially small and had a 4 inch long cutting edge, they were not heavy thus weighed 600grams and were perfect for close combat. The Francisca Axe could also be used as a throwing weapon.
The Danish Axe– the Danish axe was also known as the Dane axe, a hafted axe or an English long axe. It had a characteristic wide and thin blade, and also had a pronounced horn incorporated at the toe and the heel of the bit, enabling for a large cutting surface area. The blade of this type of axe measured between 8 and 12 inches, it also had a thin profile meaning when used it could achieve a deep cut, even on tough materials like the tough leather armour.
The generic name for the Axe in the Vikings era was Ox, and an axe that had been constructed with an iron-bound shaft was referred to as a Vafin Skepta. There have been other names developed that were also used to refer to the axe, such as
Breiðøx – featured a crescent-shaped blade that measured between 9-18 inches.
Snaghyrnd Øx– was also referred to as the snag-horned axe and was constructed with sharp points, which made it a perfect weapon for piercing during attacks.
Höggøx– is better described as a hatchet, it was a characteristic small-headed weapon and could be easily compared to a hand axe.
What does the Viking Axe mean?
The axe from the grave of Mammen had two meanings and had been decorated in the Mammen style. The decorative patterns came to life in the 900s and stayed around up to about 1000. And as mentioned earlier the decorations on the axe were interpreted as having both the Pagan and Christian inclination.
On one side of the Mammen styled axe was a tree motif and which is believed to have symbolized the Christian Tree of life and on the other hand, it is believed to have symbolized the Pagan tree Yggdrasil. When the axe is flipped on the other side, it showed an animal figure, which according to historical literature it could be the symbol of the rooster, Gullinkambi which was an Old Norse golden Comb or a rooster.
Individuals who are familiar with Norse mythology know that Gullinkambi positioned itself on top of the tree of Yggdrasil. A position that enabled it to awaken the Viking warriors early in the morning. Gullinkambi would also crow when Ragnarok started. In Norse Mythology, Ragnarok meant the end of the world, whereas the Phoenix had a special meaning in Christianity, it was considered to be a Christian mythological animal that also symbolized rebirth.
How was the Viking axe made?
The Vikings axe was produced by the blacksmiths and it was made of wrought iron, with a cutting edge derived from steel. The grip of the axe handle was wrapped in tanned leather and then embedded on the handle. The leather was also wrapped close to the blade to enable a better grip.
The Viking’s battle-axe was invented during the era of the Sax-Norman and it could be made from bronze, iron or steel, while its handle would be made from wood. There were also the stone axes, which were produced in 6,000 B.C.E.
The Vikings were an interesting lot, they had a large appetite for living life and an equally large appetite for taking life. They were aggressive, the reason why they developed weapons that morphed with time to become even more functional deadly. The Vikings had very simple weapons most of which have transitioned to modern society. Notable is that just because their weapons and tools were simple, did not mean that they were ineffective. Owning of weapons in the Vikings era also went with social status, the axe for example was mostly used by the common man, and quite deadly if used by a skilled warrior.