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Did a Viking helmet have horns?
No! No self respecting viking would place horns on their helmets. Horns on a helmet would interfere during battle and get in the way on a ship. The only helmet found from this period (pictured on the right) did not have horns. And most contemporary sources did not mention or depict horned helmets.
Horned helmets were uncovered in Denmark, 2000 years before the Vikings. There is also evidence that there were decorative helmets presented as gifts. At this time period, animal worship was growing in popularity. It is believed that the horns evoked the strength of the animal.
A tapestry from the Oseberg burial in Norway depicts warriors with horns. During the early Viking period, a band of Vikings, known as the Beserkers, may have worn horns on their helmets. Berserkers were wild warriors who threw themselves into battle in a trance-like fury, often throwing off their clothes and fighting naked. These were the most feared of the viking warriors. This is the origin of the phrase "to go beserk".
So, how did horned helmets become popular? Researchers believe that the concept originated with Scandinavian artists in the 1800s, who popularized portrayals of the nomadic raiders wearing the horned helmet in their works. Then, @ 1870, the costume designer for Wagner's “Der Ring des Nibelungen” opera designed a horned helmet on the Viking character.
From then on, the myth of the Viking warrior with a horned helmet took hold.
So, to what to wear to the Vice Commodore Gala on Saturday? A mythical horned helmet? Helmets were not worn at festivals. Rather, the attire was cloth tunics of various colors. The Sons of Vikings article referenced below provides a good history.