Viking Drinking Vessels

Gunnora Hallakarva gunnora at
Fri Oct 4 07:40:37 PDT 1996

Heilsa, all!

While I've never seen costrels in the Scandinavian Viking Age documentation,
in addition to skins for carrying beverages, the Vikings sometimes made
actual canteens out of horn... you take a big horn, remove the solid end,
cut it up one side, and boil until soft, then unroll it and press it flat
with a heavy weight until dry: this becomes one side of the canteen later
when cut into a disk.  Do this again for the other side.  A third horn is
cut on a spiral pattern top give a long, 3" wide strip, boiled and then
uncoiled... this strip is usually clamped around a round form of some sort.
I haven't been able to disassemble one to find out how the horn edges are
attached, but I'm guessing that they were sewn with sinew and glued, and
then "caulked" with brewer's pitch.  The joins are usually covered with
glued-on rawhide, and often the sides of the canteen are lavishly scrimshawed.

Another interesting note about Viking drinking vessels... most people just
assume that the Vikings always drank out of horns.  Actually, the
archaeological record indicates that most drinking vessels were kasor (sing.
kasa), a type of bowl used primarily for ale.  These bowls have a handle on
either side (a modern survival is the "loving cup" type of trophy), often
carved as a stylized bird with a head as one handle, the tail as the other.
Sometimes both handles were animal heads, or just knotwork patterns.  As
anyone watching a drunken SCA Viking can tell you, a horn that cannot be set
down is a liability when your sobriety is gone... some scholars think that
horns were used by the poor, and also in wealthier contexts for ceremonial
purposes  (although they might have been more prevalent during the Migration
Age than they became by the actual Viking Age).  A normal Viking feast would
feature servers who draw ale from the brewing vat into pails or buckets.
The ale was served from the bucket to the kasa by use of an "ale goose" a
little dipper carved so that the curved handle represented the head of a
goose or swan or duck.  Finally, like any good two-fisted drinker, the
Viking would grab one or both handles of the kasa and drink.  Two handles
increases your chances of hitting your mouth when your coordination is
unsure... that's why training cups for small children are built that way!

I have been noticing recently ads in the Sons of Norway's "Viking" magazine
for ale bowls patterned on Viking originals. A couple of merchants carrying
these include:

Odden's Norsk Husflid, Inc. (Also carry many Scandinavian imports)
Box 87
Barronett, WI 54813
(800) 626-4360 or (715) 822-8747
This merchant's ad suggests calling for ale bowl information.

Norsk Wood Works, Ltd.
20337 County Road H
Barronett WI 54813
(715) 468-2780
Also have a reference book on Norwegian-style wood-carving (text in
Norwegian with English summaries) called Treskjaerer Kunsten for $49 + Tax,
Ship & Handling.

If you can't guess by this limited sample, the ads in "Viking" are evil... I
have to retrain myself from ordering, or even from asking for full catalogs!  

Anyway, I hope ya'll find some of this info useful as well!



Gunnora Hallakarva
Ek eigi visa (th)ik hversu o(dh)lask Lofstirrlauf-Kruna
heldr hversu na Hersis-A(dh)al

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