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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

a) Women warriors and masculine men

3) Amon amarth make mead! Alcohol consumption, masculinity, and the modern Viking

Simon Trafford

Texte intégral

1In 2008, members of the world’s most popular Viking Metal band, Amon Amarth, produced and distributed online a short video that explained how to make mead, describing it as “obviously a very special Viking drink, which we like to consume lots of.” Fans of the band could be more like Vikings by drinking mead, for that, as everyone knows, is what Vikings did. Whenever Vikings appear in film, books, television, cartoons or any other mass culture medium there is a very good chance that, if they are not fighting, they will be drinking, probably beer or mead consumed from horns and often in enormous quantities.

2There should, of course, be no doubt of the importance of alcohol consumption to early medieval societies in Scandinavia and in Europe as a whole: evidence of its social, cultural and ritual significance is abundant. In this paper, though, the focus is on the way in which this consumption has been taken up and reproduced across the range of modern Viking-themed cultural products, becoming a key component of the package of extreme and extravagant behaviours that define Vikings in popular culture as hypermasculine archetypes. The alleged heavy drinking of the Vikings is one of the ways in which their maleness is constructed, but it is also the easiest way in which it can be re-enacted, for it is the least socially frowned-upon aspect of their famous behaviours (most of the others involve violence) and thus the most easily emulated for contemporary Vikings enthusiasts. Viking boozing represents, therefore, a marketing opportunity: Viking-themed bars and pubs have opened in cities across the world, although above all in places in northern Europe with strong Viking associations. Hundreds of beer brands in Europe, the United States and Australia adopt Norse-associated names (“Viking,” “Longship,” “Odin,” “Thor’s Hammer,” “Battle-Axe”) and lurid imagery—dragon-prowed ships, beards, axes and Scandinavian style interlace art—to associate themselves with the manly cachet of the Vikings. An even more extreme focus for the commodification of neo-Viking drinking, however, are the drinking horns that are beloved of Viking re-enactors and widely available for sale both online and at Viking festivals throughout Europe. These are highly performative items: the point is not that they are in any way a convenient vessel from which to drink—quite the reverse—but that the drinker should be seen to be participating in the ritualised hedonism of Viking-style hearty consumption.

3This paper explores and comments upon the way in which neo-Viking identities, masculinity and alcoholic consumption have become aligned and mutually reinforcing in popular culture, aided and abetted by consumer capitalism and the power of advertising.


4Make Mead


University of London

© Publications de l’École française de Rome, 2021

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