Viking Age Hats Þóra's Basic Viking Hat

html "There were various types of hats: hats with floppy brims, tight-fitting caps of wool or other material, a fur hat that was called a 'Russian' hat; some men mig ht prefer to wear a helmet..." (Peter Foote and David M. Wilson. The Viking Achi evement. London: Sidgewick and Jackson. 1970. p. 173.) Laxdaela Saga Chapter 29 says: "Geirmundur ... hafði skarlatskyrtil rauðan og gráfeld ystan og bjarnskinnshúfu á höfði, sverð í hendi." ("Geirmund always went around in a scarlet tunic with a grey fur cloak over it, a bearskin cap on his head, and a sword in hand.") The Cleasby-Vigfusson Old Icelandic Dictionary gives húfa as "hood, cap, bonnet". It occurs in an opppositional phrase "höttr ne húfa" (neither hat nor hood). It also occurs in the following compounds: skott-húfa "a tasselled cap" koll-húfa "a cowl or skull-cap" nátt-húfa "a night cap or sleeping hat" Also found in the Cleasby-Vigfusson disctionary in þófa-hattr or þófa-höttr, m. "felt hood " Laxdaela saga was composed in the middle of the 13th century, with the oldest su rviving manuscripts being from the last quarter of the 13th century.

Gisla saga Surssonar Chapter 28 says: "Þórkell hafði gerskan hatt á höfði og feld gráan og gu ldálk um öxl en sverð í hendi." (Thorkell had a Russian hat on his head, and a grey cloa k fastened with a gold pin at the shoulder, and a sword in his hand.) The word "gerskan" is from Gerzkr, which is literally "from Garðar" or from Russia , although there is also the closely-related Girkskr, "Greek." The Old Norse tex t doesn't say a word about a Russia *fur* hat, just a "Russian hat" or "hat from Garðar" or maybe "Greek hat." Gisla saga is known from a vellum manuscript ca. 15th century, and two 18th cent ury paper copies of a 14th century vellum manuscript. I am struck by how similar the two descriptions are -- almost as though it's a s tock way of saying "he was dressed magnificently". Mistress Thóra Sharptooth's article, "An Archaeological Guide to Viking Men's Clot hing" ( says: "At Birka three classes of headwear have been identified. At least two types def initely correlate to a specific other garment: the Types A and B hats are found in graves where the coat, whether with or without metal buttons, is also found. Type A, found in both ninth and tenth centuries, is a peaked hat, at least partl y made of silk, with either metal knotwork running up the center front of the pe ak or a silver, funnel-shaped ornament at the top of the peak and silver mesh ba lls dangling from the pointed end. Type B Birka is a more sedate tenth-century i nnovation also worn with the coat; it seems to be a closer-fitting, round low wo ol cap decorated around the circumference of the head with one or more strips of metal knotwork or braided spiral wire. A relationship between the hat and coat is frequently emphasized by the use of similar knotted trim to decorate both the hat and the coat. Type C headwear at Birka consists of a metal-brocaded, tablet -woven fillet or headband--perhaps the hlað mentioned in the sagas (Hägg 1986, 70).

Of all three styles, Type C is the only one that appears in graves without the c oat layer. A really unusual piece of headwear was found with the Mammen burial. It has been reconstructed as a padded circlet of tabby silk decorated with brocaded tabletweaving. Rising from the circlet are two triangular silk "pennons," with gold-wi re mesh in the center of each. The headwear also has slivers of whalebone in it, probably to help it stand up straight (Hald 1980, 106-108). It might have looke d somewhat like a bishop's mitre in silhouette. This burial also yielded bracele ts of brocaded tablet-weaving on a ground of padded silk (Hald 1980, 106), possi bly also in imitation of ecclesiastical garb. In the Orkney Islands off Scotland a complete wool hood was found which has been tentatively dated to the Viking Age. Its one-piece cut it is more simple than t he hoods of the Middle Ages; the hood section is squarish with no tail, and the cowl is small and conical. It was made of herringbone twill trimmed with deep ba nds of textured tablet-weaving in two colors, and it had twisted fringing a foot long (Henshall 1954, 10)." Of the "Type A" hat, Thóra explained elsewhere that "the pointed crown of the hat doesn't stick up: it dangles down like a peaked (or Santa Claus) hat. The metal knotwork gives it some "presence," but it doesn't make the cone of the hat stand proud. Its effect is to lay atop the head rather like a coxcomb, starting above the forehead and going toward the back of the head. Some examples even taper in size from the forehead end backward." Three Birka graves had brocaded tablet-woven trimmings with spun-gold brocading weft; they may have been from caps or from hlað (a headband-type headgear). There' s not enough information on *any* of the headwear from Birka to be sure that it included felted wool, though. From tenth century Hedeby there are the remains of a "pile" cap, which is a wool cap that has extra locks darned into it to make it look like fake fur. More information on men's hats in the Viking Age actually comes from early in th e Viking Age, down at Moscevaja Balka. That's an 8th to 9th century site near th e southeast coast of the Sea of Azov, which is the gulf in the northeast corner of the Black Sea. The culture is believed to be of mixed Slavic and Scandinavian influence. A lot of riding coats and hats like the ones from Birka come from th at site. The three types of men's hats from Moscevaja Balka are all of four-piece construction with a narrow added brim. Two types ha ve low crowns; the third has a slightly peaked one and may have been used as a h elmet liner. The brim on these hats is not the kind of brim that sticks out; in stead, this is like a narrowish band of fabric sewn to the bottom of the four pa ttern pieces. The four pattern pieces are five-sided: a square bottom that comes to a triangular point at the top. (Imagine a 5-year-old's drawing of a house, w ithout the chimney.) The four triangles get sewn together to make the flattish p art at the top. Several people mentioned Óðinn's hat, so here are the Old Norse text excerpts about that with translations:

Grímnismál 48 gives one of the names of Óðinn as Síðhöttr, "slouch-hatted". The first part o this word is from Old Norse síðr (cognate to English "side") meaning "long, hanging ," and the Cleasby-Vigfusson Old Icelandic Dictionary gives "síðan hatt" as "a hood dropping low over the face" (p. 531 s.v. síðr) Völsungasaga ch. 3 says:

"Sá maður er mönnum ókunnur að sýn. Sjá maður hefir þessháttar búning að hann hefir heklu fle . Sá maður var berfættur og hafði knýtt línbrókum að beini. Sá maður hafði sverð í hendi, og tokkinum, og hött síðan á höfði. Hann var hár mjög og eldilegur og einsýnn." [...a certain man came into the hall unknown of aspect to all men. Such array he had, that over him was a spotted cloak. He was barefoot, and had linen-breeches wrapped tight to the leg. He had a sword in his hand as he went up to the Brans tock, and a slouched hat (hött síðan) upon his head: huge he was, and seeming-ancient, and one-eyed.] Völsungasaga ch. 11 has:

"Og er orrusta hafði staðið um hríð þá kom maður í bardagann með síðan hatt og heklu blá. Han ga og geir í hendi. Þessi maður kom á mót Sigmundi konungi..." [But now whenas the battle had one on awhile, there came a man into the fight wi th a slouched hat (síðan hatt) and a blue cloak. He was one-eyed, had a spear in his hand; and he came against Sigmundr the King...] In Hálfs saga og Hálfsrekka, Óðinn appears under the name Höttr, "hatted." When king Alre kr in Hordaland had got married to two women who did not get along, and decided to choose the one who made the best beer, Óðinn, or Höttr as he called himself, helped one of them, Geirhildr, with the brewing so that she won. She became the mother of Víkarr, but before Víkarr was born Alrekr could see her son hanging in a gallows sacrificed to Óðinn. Nowhere do I find a description of a hat including the word breiðr, "broad", but " broad-brimmed" is perhaps the most common translation into English used for "síðan h att".

The hero Egill Shallagrímsson is also described as wearing a hat: the headgear Egi ll is wearing is the same hött síðan/hatt síðan that we saw with Óðinn. Christine Fell and H rmann Pálsson both translate these terms as "long hood":

Egils saga Skallagrímssonar ch. 58: "Egill hafði vopn sín, þau er hann var vanur að hafa, hjálm og skjöld, gyrður sverði, höggspj i; síðan gekk hann upp í eyna og fram með skógi nokkurum; hann hafði dregið hött síðan yfir h [Egill had his usual weapons with him, helm and shield, his sword girded on, hew ing-spear in his hand; he made his way up into the island, keeping to the edge o f a certain wood; he had a long hood/slouched hat (hött síðan) pulled down over his he lmet.]

Egils saga Skallagrímssonar ch. 60: "Kom hann þar að kveldi dags, og reið hann þegar í borgina; hann hafði síðan hatt yfir hjálmi alvæpni hafði hann." [(Egill) came there in the evening of the day, and rode straight in, wearing a l ong hood/slouched hat (síðan hatt) over his helm and carrying a full set of weapons. ]

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