Vikings typically lived active lives- from farming, hunting, and fighting, they needed a tool to help them transition through all these phases. While the Vikings are known for their ax from depictions of them in literature and the media, they did have other tools and weapons, one of them being the seax, also referred to as the Viking knife.
The seax is unique to the early Norse people, the Vikings being one of them. Both men and women did carry it with them, whether they were going off to the farm or war. Here, we will explore the seax, giving you a better understanding of how it looked and what it was typically used for.
What is a SEAX knife?
The word seax is an old English word for a knife. The seax itself was a small knife, sword, or dagger, and from archeological discoveries, stems back from the Early Middle Ages among the Germanic people. The name itself strongly hints that the Saxon named themselves as a people after the knife. The seax was multipurpose, with both women and men carrying it around as they went about various duties. In essence, the knife was both a tool and a weapon.
Some of the sagas available refer the seax, though it carried different names based on the length. In some cases, it would either get called the scramasax or the langsax, based on the size. From the translations, it is thought the former referred to the shorter seax while the latter the longer seax. However, for the most part, the name used to refer to the Viking knife in the sagas was sax or saxes.
What does a SEAX look like?
The look of the seax did vary based on the length and width of the blade. Even so, the shape remained the same. The knife consisted of a curved sword with a notched blade. The seax was large and had a single-edged blade. Typically, a tang ran down the center of the blade and inserted into an organic hilt, either made of wood or horn. When not in use, the seax got placed in a scabbard attached to one’s belt. The Vikings, in good practice, would ensure the edge of the blade faced upwards always.
Between 450 AD and 800 AD, there was an evolution of the seax. The only constant was that with each, the back and edge curved towards the tip. Let’s look at the various phases of the seax. The first had a long and narrow blade. The length of the seax blade was typically about 22 inches, with the entire length coming to 28 inches. It meant that the shorter end of the blade would be about seven inches, while the longer side would come to about 30 inches.
The next seax that came along was more elaborate. The smiths would hammer geometric patterns made from twisted silver, copper, or brass wire into grooves they’d have cut into the lade itself. Other shapes incorporated into the blades where triangles and diamond shapes, which in themselves held spiritual meanings. There are also some curved blades excavated from Viking sites that either had snakes engraved onto the blade or featured braided bands. The pommels or bolsters were made from metal.
As we go further down the timeline, we find that the blades became broader and lighter and also didn’t have metal at the hilt. By this time, the decorations were simpler, with most blades only featuring parallel lines. After, the seax’s blade remained broad, but because of the metal used, it was heavier. The blades were between 50cm and 20cm, with the decorations on the blades rarely present. One can say that as the seax evolved, they started simple, carried a lot of flare until they finally went back to being less elaborate.
What was the Viking SEAX used for?
There was ever war present for the Vikings, so the seax was primarily a fighting knife. Based on the findings, this knife was mainly used in the early parts of the Viking age before their weaponry evolved into axes and other short knives. While the knife was considered a short sword, it would be incorrect to assume it wasn’t a deadly weapon. The Viking weapons were known for exquisite craftsmanship, and this was no exception. Even the blades that lacked intricate designs they could still take down the enemy with ease.
When the warriors walked around, you’d find their seaxes carried in sheath tied to the belt suspended horizontally. As always, the edge of the blade faced up in the sheath; that way, it would not cut through it since the blades were quite sharp. It was also typical for the blades to vary in length to accommodate people’s general physique and their ability to wield a weapon in war.
The length of the seax was useful, particularly in close range battle. It was small enough to hide behind the shield, according to the warriors, an element of surprise. They could jab and stab at the enemy without having to expose too much of their body as they would if they were using an ax or long sword. The warriors did, however, have to be mindful of how they wielded the sword since it was a single-edged sword. While it wasn’t their go-to weapon in war, the seax got used if someone was cornered or had lost their ax in the field.
Plenty of online stores offer knives inspired by the seax; you too can get your hands on one. There’s quite a variety to suit your taste, with each one sticking to the fundamentals of the seax itself. If you want more done, you can get custom designs on the blade too. Only remember to ensure that you display or store it safely, especially with little ones around.
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