Have you ever looked at a person with an armband and wondered where that fashion statement could have its roots from? Well, the Vikings had a large appreciation for these armbands. As we came to find out, they played a much larger role compared to the present-day use as a wardrobe accessory option.
Similar to a bangle, the arm ring is designed to fit the wearer’s upper arm dimensions perfectly. They are made of precious metals like bronze, silver, and gold. They could also be referred to as armbands or armlet. In this case, the Vikings called them arm rings and were popularly worn by men.
Viking Arm Ring Meaning
Rite of Passage
Status and social standing were heavily emphasized factors that influenced the lives of the Viking people. Most especially because of the harsh living conditions, male children had a high standing because they were the future leaders and protectors of the clan. To start with the very core of the Viking culture and tradition, an arm ring was given to a boy who had achieved the status of a man. This obviously set him apart from other males around his size.
As the married men of the Viking age prepared for months-long seafaring, they would often craft an arm ring for their wives as a symbol of their love. This gesture was a non-verbal cue from the man to his wife reminding her of his love and asking that she remain chaste in his absence. Promising to return and to make up for lost time. These sentimental pieces had some special markings and engravings special to the couple.
In the Viking days, cash of any kind, be it metal or paper had not been realized yet. This being so, men would wear pieces of these silver arm rings and on market days, would use chunks of the jewelry to pay for items of desire. This practice was commonly referred to as “Hacksilver” which simply means the chopping up of pieces of jewelry to lengths that convert to a value equal to the item of purchase. This is how much of the trade was carried out in those days.
Evidence of this is in droves as with every new find of Viking hordes, presents tons of tiny shapeless rods of gold, silver, and bronze. The pieces used for currency were mostly bland with little to no carvings or decorations on them. They were made in a spiral and with some soft metal that was easily foldable and could be cut up and twisted back on the arm to fit securely.
There is a common knowledge that goes around about the Viking Lords and warriors who would swear an oath of allegiance and loyalty to one another to the bitter death. This was an unbreakable bond that was always followed through with at all costs. Kings were also known to be the giver of these armbands to their soldiers and their loyal subjects. The King did this to show his benevolence and abundance towards his people.
Viking Arm Ring History
To understand Viking arm ring history, you must first appreciate their jewelry history as well. The Vikings are known worldwide and the looters and plunderers of church coffers and palace treasures. The first raid at a Catholic missionary location fueled their raids due to the amount of jewelry they got away with.
Once they realized that the world was larger than their small island and hat there were tons of this shiny stuff on lands over yonder, they had no doubt about what they had to do to get it and to take over those lands for themselves.
With the belief in their gods and their fearless temperament, the Vikings struck terror in the hearts of all who came across them. For many of the lands they entered, they didn’t find much resistance due to their disheveled and hardy looks.
Loyalty and Dignity
Historically recognized as the oath of loyalty and dignity, the Viking arm ring was the binding factor to this oath and swearing upon it was swearing upon everything that you held dear and true. There was no backing away from such an oath.
It was common practice especially during the initiation of new warriors, for the king to preside over a session of oath-taking among his team and the new recruits to welcome them to the fold and to solidify his army with a sense of belonging.
The king would also be on everyone’s watch because he too would have to part with his jewelry possessions from time to time and giving arm rings to his juniors and subjects was always a welcome gesture. It is by doing these small things that kings had the sort of unshakeable loyalty that they had in the Viking era.
Because the arm rings had a double purpose to their existence, almost all the male population wore them. The difference, again for sake of differentiating social status and affiliations, was that gold pieces were the reserve of the nobleman and the kings of the time. Silver was great for use as a currency through the hacksilver technique but bronze is the metal that most men wore.
In modern times, the armbands are designed with cool animal depictions on their ends. However, this is a deviation from the Viking culture which used flat cuffs on the ends of their arm rings.
Either way, whatever the arm ring looks like, the significance behind it is what matters. Presently people jumping on the Viking culture wagon are taking it very personally and making life binding vows with their significant others in honor of one reason or another.
Though presently worn more by women than men, arm rings have a classy edge of sophistication about them. They carry an air of mystery and curiosity. Having gone through a lifetime of transformation across many cultures around the world, the Viking idea of the arm ring continues to stay with us. With the incorporation of new cultures and artistic expressions, arm rings and their designs keep evolving and changing.
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