This is a Viking helmet from the 10th century. Please notice that there aren’t any horns. As a heathen of some intelligence and education, I’m required to point that out. The Horns-on-the-Viking-Helmet stories are as un-true as the White Christ dying on a cross to save the world from sins. That is to say: they are a myth. I want to write a little about contemporary backlash because of this myth. For the record, I’m okay with modern, fun- and sport-based representations of horned-Viking helmets. I’ll get to the reasons in a bit.
The northern culture was creative, artistic, scientific. They were adventurous, brave. They had solid family units, lawful proceedings based on community ethics, and they didn’t try to destroy other cultures for no reason. The problem is that all of these positive qualities have been almost entirely wiped out by christian propaganda. The image of the horned helmet has become a symbol of that propaganda because it has persisted for so long.
See, christians don’t tend to like non-christians. This hasn’t changed since the first cultists started carrying around crosses. In order to ensure that their cult took over the world, early christian writers would portray other cultures as barbaric and animalistic as possible: wearing naught but firs and horned helmets, for instance. Such is the case with the norsemen. While there’s no denying that these bearded cats from the north could carry on a hell of a battle, and it’s certainly true that they had no love of the southern christians. And as far as we can tell, the feeling was mutual.
Contemporary heathens — like me — work very hard to change the stereotypical image of norsemen. The horned helmet is one of the easiest targets with which to start, and some heathens get really enthusiastic about eradicating the horns. So enthusiastic, in fact, that they spew angry and violent epithets at NFL fans, Disney World Tourists, and opera singers. This is unfortunate for two reasons. The first is that it makes the rest of us heathens look bad. The second is that this anger-based approach ignores a very important quality pre-christian norsemen had: a grand sense of humor.
Jokes and pranks, baudy stories, games of juvenile skill, riddles, verbal tricks, mental and physical contests all make their way into the sagas. If actual Vikings were to attend a Minnesota Vikings game and witness the fine home fans brandishing their horned hats, swilling their ale, and eating sausages on a cold day, it’s almost a certain fact that they would have laughed heartily and enjoyed themselves. Horned helmets or not.
Secondly, the plastic horned helmet is really popular. Heathens should be taking advantage of that. Use the fascination our society has with the Vikings to ensure that historical truths are discovered. Think of the horns as gateway accouterments. Perhaps later will follow the seax, shield, and Danish axe!
Heathens should offer help to these fun-seeking helmet-wearers. They should ensure that historical truth becomes more readily available and accepted while the christian myths get eradicated. But they should do this with our spiritual ancestors’ sense of humor. There’s no point in getting angry at people having a good time. It’s a waste of energy, and frankly disrespects the culture we’re working so hard to share. And remember: if there’s a celebration where ale is involved, people are having fun, and nobody’s angry, it’s the kind of place the norsemen would have enjoyed ending up. Let’s do their memory a solid and not spoil it.