What are Viking Arm Rings? Why did Vikings wear them? - Tell me all about them!
Updated: Mar 24
Important Information! Don’t make the same mistake I made. Viking Arm Rings are not inflatable. They do not help you to float. They were not used by Vikings to prevent their pals from sinking to Aegir’s Hall if they fell off their Longship during a storm.
In short, they are not inflatable armbands. I know, I was shocked too!
So, if they don’t look like this:
Then what did they look like? And why did Vikings wear arm rings anyway?
Well, to answer the first question, they looked like this:
Now, for the second question, why did the Vikings wear arm rings?
First off, the Vikings liked to look good. They wore all sorts of different jewellery to enhance their appearance and impress all their friends. Just like we do today. Arm Rings were worn to show a person’s wealth or status, to tell everyone else how important they were. Of course, the more arm rings you wore, then the more awesomely impressive you looked.
Arm rings were also worn because cash hadn’t been invented yet. In modern life, it’s easy to pay for stuff. Whether it’s with paper cash, tiny coins, plastic cards, or fancy smartphone apps, a person’s money can easily be stored in even the most unassumingly small pocket. Things weren’t as simple for a Viking though, as for much of their history they didn’t have money, let alone all that other stuff. Instead, arm rings were the next best thing to money. You could wear one around your mighty bicep, and, if you wanted to buy something, you could use your arm ring to pay for it. The arm ring, usually made from silver, could then be broken up into little chunks called ‘hacksilver’. The more hacksilver you had, the more it weighed and so the wealthier you were.
Next reason: Vikings were big believers in oaths. If you said you were going to do something, like join your lord on a raid, then you had better do it. That was an oath. To break an oath was a terrible crime, and you would be punished by being thrown out of your community. To be made into an outcast. You would be shunned by your friends and family. Now, to show you had taken an oath, an arm ring could be used. The arm ring would be the physical representation of your oath, an object that held your promise. That way everyone you met would know you had an oath to keep.
Finally, arm rings could be worn to symbolise becoming an adult. Just like today, when teenagers will proudly wave their brand-new driving licence to show everyone they are a grown-up, Vikings would be given arm rings to prove that they were old enough to go chop up some Anglo-Saxons. Kids, ay? They grow up so quickly!
If you are a teacher whose pupils are studying the Vikings, then you should think about booking one of our Viking workshops!
Both workshops, 'How to Launch a Viking Raid' and 'Viking Mythology: (Un)Traditional Storytelling', have fantastic historical replicas for students to handle. Just like our awesome Viking Arm ring shown in the photos above!