The idea of a helmet with horns is often associated with the image of the harsh northern warriors - the Vikings. This stereotype is diligently reinforced by modern cinema and a part of pseudo-historical novels.
Myths and legends don't appear out of nowhere. They always have a source and followers. The image of warlike northerners in horned helmets was formed even before the beginning of the twentieth century and became very popular due to its flavor. Nevertheless, he is very remotely connected with reality.
The rise of the myth of the horned helmets
In the 19th century, interest in the historical and mythological heritage increased simultaneously in different European states. So, in Britain, the legends about King Arthur and the Druids gained new fame, in Germany the theme of the Teutonic knights of the Middle Ages became popular. The Scandinavians, also not alien to the revival of mythology, turned to the study of the ancient heroic sagas.
It was among them that the Fridtjof Saga was found, created in ancient Iceland and reprinted with an illustration by the Swedish artist Gustav Malström. In the figure, the headdress of the protagonist was decorated with dragon wings and small horns. After 1825, the saga gained popularity not only at home, and the word "Viking" first became firmly established in the English language (before that, the words "Dane", "Norman" were used) in combination with a memorable visual image.
The only genuine Viking Age helmet dating from the 10th century was found in Norway during the excavation of a burial mound. There are no horns on it. It resembles a round cap made of iron plate with iron goggles attached to it to protect the eyes. Similar helmets, dating back to the pre-Viking period, were found in Wendel's burial at Valsjord (in the Uppland region and the Gotland Islands in Sweden). Historians believe that most Vikings fought either bareheaded or wearing simple leather helmets. If iron helmets were used, it was only by senior leaders, leaders.
Those who actually wore horned helmets were the Celtic priests. The horned helmets found in Europe do not date from the Viking Age (700-1100), but the Iron Age (800 BC - 100 AD). The most famous of these was found in the Thames in the 1860s. The elegance of its decoration suggests that it was created not for wars, but for ceremonies. The Celts had a very widespread custom of such head decoration for various religious ceremonies in honor of Cerunnos, the god with antlers. Most likely, such a symbol meant fertility and rebirth, since the antlers are shed annually and grow back.