By James Andersen

University of Oregon

Firelight dances among raucous figures, casting long twisting shadows into the smoky heights of the hall. The din of laughter echoes out into the night, resounding beneath the high-gabled roof. Warriors line the benches, finely bestowed with golden rings glinting. They hail their chieftain, sitting proud in his high-seat, giver of rings and glory. The noble war leader is poured mead by his gracious and wise queen, and standing from his seat raises a golden horn glimmering with jewels. He praises his mighty host, calling upon the gods to grant them glory, and downing the horn to great cheers signals for the food to be served. This image is inseparable from conceptions of the Viking Age, yet it represents an ideal. Then, as now, ideals do not always reflect reality.

Viking Age Scandinavian society was a feasting society. The feast in this period served a number of purposes, including reinforcing hierarchies and ratifying laws, as well as providing a religious function that lasted well into the era of Christianity.[1] This is well known enough, but the details of feasting and the place the event held in Viking Age society have been largely neglected by research on the period.

Feasting was the most important event in Viking Age society, occasioned by the full range of life’s events from marriage to death and everything between. Scholarship on the period is yet to recognize this, and it shows in the treatment given to sources (mainly, the Sagas) that mention feasting. Taken largely for granted, few have stopped to consider what the holding of feasts in this period meant to those who attended them, and why this event, before any number of others, was pursued with such vigor by Viking Age people. Likewise, the presentation of feasts offered by the Sagas is not scrutinized as heavily as other areas of the texts, necessitating a reexamination that considers all the available evidence, historical, archaeological, and otherwise. To fully appreciate the Saga’s depiction of feasting requires a picture of the feast provided by sources from as close to the period as possible, primarily archaeological evidence. This picture from archaeological and historical sources of the period, together with the re-examined Sagas, provides a compelling understanding of the Viking Age feast both in practice and representation.

Feasting is not unique to Viking Age culture. There is written evidence of feasting in Mesopotamia,[2] and it is not unreasonable to assume that some form of feasting existed throughout all of human existence.[3] The act of feasting can be defined as, “any sharing of special food (in quality, preparation, or quantity) by two or more people for a special (not every day) event,”[4] but this is a broad definition. Feasting, as it was known to Viking Age people, involved much more than sharing food for a special occasion, and in this paper “the feast” or “feasting” refer to a number of expressions of one event that could have been known by several names and was, itself, a powerful cultural institution. Thus, it is important to recognize the drawbacks of using this modern English word to describe a Viking Age event, but for the sake of clarity it will remain.

The unique structure of the Viking Age feast seems to owe in large part to the warband or comitatus structure of earlier Germanic peoples from whom this feasting tradition was inherited. The comitatus were select warriors chosen by the ruler or chief of a tribe to be his personal retinue and bodyguard, whom he would equip, shelter, and feed in his own hall in exchange for their service as fighters.[5] We know this was the case at least as early as the 2nd century AD thanks to Roma historian Tacitus, who recorded in his Germania, “And not only in his own tribe but also in the neighbouring states it is the renown and glory of a chief to be distinguished for the number and valour of his followers.”[6] It is from Tacitus that we get the Latin word comitatus used to describe this institution.

Comitatus, like the word feast itself, offers a number of problems for those trying to understand the Viking Age feast on its own terms. Yet it bears consideration, as the words used to describe this institution in the past can tell us a great deal about it and the culture surrounding it. In his book on the language surrounding the institution of the comitatus, John Lindow answers definitively whether Tacitus chose the word comitatus based on its relation to a Germanic word of similar meaning, and the answer is he most certainly did not.[7] Tacitus’s word choice could not have been arbitrary, however, and an examination of the Latin definition of comitatus is enlightening: “In partic., in the time of the empire [the era of Tacitus’ writing], an imperial escort, retinue, court, suite.[8] This implies certain aristocratic associations, which may not have been appropriate for the Germanic context in which it was applied. What about the warriors (Latin comes) themselves? They have been referred to as, “The attendants of distinguished private individuals.”[9] This brings us closer to our understanding of the Germanic institution known variously in North Germanic as druhtiz or drótt and in Old Norse as the hirð or hired, giving credence to comitatus as a term describing “A distinguished individual and his attendants,” and one which will be used in this paper out of convenience and convention.

The origins of this warband structure are foggy.[10] It is clear, however, that the Celts had comitati as part of their society and mutual cultural influence with the Germans, which could have included these warbands and feasts.[11] It is also plausible that they both adopted this very ancient hierarchy from a similar origin in early Indo-European tribes. The obvious cross-cultural influence on feasting between Celts and Germans is evidenced largely by similarities in the drinking practices from the Bronze/Iron-Age, as seen in burials from the period.[12]

It is well established that the comitati were hierarchical from the beginning. As Tacitus recounts in Germania,

Even in [a chief’s] escort there are gradations of rank, dependent on the choice of the man to whom they are attached. These followers vie keenly with each other as to who shall rank first with his chief, the chiefs as to who shall have the most numerous and the bravest followers.[13]

Hierarchy provided the foundation on which the feasting culture was built, with feasts serving the warband in a number of ways. First, the feast was a means for the chieftain to distribute wealth among the warband, to secure the loyalty of his followers. Generosity was a trait of a good chieftain. Several written sources, from Tacitus to Beowulf, testify that this generosity was more than just an ideal quality, it was an obligation to the warband that kept him in power.[14] When this relationship became ritualized in the feast is hazy (like the origins of the warband itself), although evidence of burial rites involving containers of alcohol in Scandinavia trace back to Period II of the Nordic Bronze Age (ca. 1500–1300 B.C.).[15] Alcohol in this period, being expensive to produce, was an indicator of power and wealth that would have been possessed by only a few individuals who likely held the kind of feasts we know from later sources. Regardless, the importance of this ritual of generosity is clearly attested in the material record, particularly the consistent appearance of fine drinkware assemblages among Iron-Age Celtic and Germanic burials,[16] which were considered vital to maintaining one’s status in the afterlife.[17] These burials usually contained a set of serving dishes and plates, large cauldrons for serving alcohol, and drinking vessels of assorted varieties, often including drinking horns.[18] It is interesting to note the consistency in form of feasting equipment through to Viking Age Scandinavia. Large barrels and cauldrons, presumably for alcohol, and dining/drinking sets, including horns, have been recovered from a number of burials, perhaps most notably the Oseberg Ship in Oslo. These assemblages were tools of the chieftain, used to secure the bonds between himself and his men and to rank the members of the band via relative status.[19]

This practice has recently been disputed concerning the Celts. However, Loughton makes the case that many of the accounts of ritualistic gift-giving in Celtic society are based on classical sources focused on a particular place and time, and cannot speak for the entirety of the Celtic world. (This argument could easily be extrapolated onto classical sources of Germanic history as well.) Loughton likewise posits that consumption of alcohol was more widespread among varying social classes and not just the exclusive purview of the elite.[20] A similar point will be made later about the Viking Age. This still does not preclude the fact that there are multiple sources accounting for hierarchical societal organizations among Celtic and Germanic cultures and the possibility that it was not alcohol consumption itself, but rather, the quality and quantity combined that distinguished the alcohol supplied by the chief. That this was a hierarchical relationship is further attested by the arrangement of burials from the Iron Age Celts up through the Viking Age,[21] being tombs for a single individual with great amounts of wealth, who through their position of power within the hierarchy could arrange for such lavish burials.

This was a society in which the individual was first and foremost a product of their obligations, where it was not who you were but rather who you associated with that people first used to determine your character. It is clear that this was the case at least in Anglo Saxon society (bearing in mind the issues of comparison to later Viking Age customs), evident from the way Beowulf first introduces himself in the poem when accosted by the guard on the shore, “We belong by birth to the Geat people And owe allegiance to Lord Hygelac. In my day, my father was a famous man, A noble warrior named Ecgtheow.”[22] Beowulf does not mention his own name for over another fifty lines when he meets Hrothgar. It is also notable that Beowulf and Hrothgar officiate their agreement over the slaying of Grendel with a feast, the understood location for sealing pacts. Reliance on renown as a social currency made feasting exceptionally important as a place to ritually assign followers position within a chieftain’s band, and engage in bragging and gift giving to reciprocate the relationship.[23] The warriors bragging bringing the chief renown for his brave followers, the gifts of the chieftain (both physical and honorary), is a key aspect of spreading his own renown and increasing that of his followers.

According to Arnold, even to attain the status of chieftain required a successful inauguration feast, illustrating a clear connection between the right to host a feast and the right to rule.[24] The warband-chieftain relationship predicated the social necessity of feasts as an occasion to bond and seal oaths and relationships, in which the consumption of alcohol played a major ritual role as the means by which mortal rulers received divine, as well as community, sanction.[25] This is the feasting tradition inherited by the Germans in the first century B.C., which Enright notes as “that period that establishes the true foundation for the subsequent political development of Germanic culture.”[26] This is the Germanic culture, which would evolve into the culture of Viking age Scandinavia.

While not itself a martial act, the social and cultural effects of the feast were vital in regulating the relationships between members of the comitatus. Feasting is then first and foremost a military activity for the early Celts and Germans, something which can be seen in its later association with Odin, the lord of hosts.[27] Early Comitatus, Individual and Honor: Studies in North Germanic Institutional Vocabulary, Lindow emphasizes the comitatus’ status as an institution while downplaying its military nature, saying that it is a mistake to overemphasize the physical military aspects of the relationship (such as the taking of booty in battle to reward followers), and that instead it is the reciprocal giving of glory via deeds of valor that counted most for members of these groups.[28] That being the case, the feast becomes even more important than a way to dole out spoils, but as a place to distribute the most valuable capital in Germanic society: renown. From Hávamál 77,[29]

Cattle die, and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one‘s self;
But a noble name will never die,
If good renown one gets.[30]

The several centuries separating the formation of warband relationships and the Viking Age witnessed a huge amount of cultural evolution and change, yet there remained a strong continuity in the relationships of the warband and feasting practices. This indicates the vital role played by feasting in these societies, withstanding the alterations of time due to its association with important institutions and rituals.

For a chieftain or goði, the hosting of feasts was a vital function of his station.[31] This is seen in feasts held to inaugurate a new leader, which by the Viking Age seems to have taken on a slightly different form in that it encompassed the funeral feast of the previous leader.[32] The relevant aspect of this practice is that the lord set to inherit the chiefdom could not claim his full inheritance nor sit in the high seat until he had sworn an oath on the largest toast, thus consecrating his ascendance to the position of feast-lord.[33] This ritually recognized the chieftain’s position as the giver of feasts, the lord of the warband, who through his generosity earned their service.

But men were not the only participants in the feast, as projects of the whole community women and children certainly had their own roles to play in the preparation and rituals of the feast. Likewise, the feast had more purposes for the community than cementing the central institution of the comitatus. The roles of women in this context are the easiest to conceive of, the first and most obvious of these being the “Cup Bearing Queen” motif discussed especially by Enright in Lady with a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tène to the Viking Age,[34] as exemplified by Wealhtheow in Beowulf, mediating the relationships of the comitatus. Furthermore, women played a major role in the serving and preparation of food, especially of dairy (although to what degree they participated in brewing is unclear), as well as the making (and assisting in the putting on) of fine garments worn to these events and the hangings, which decorated the walls of the longhouse.[35] Along with this, women managed the general daily maintenance and cleaning of the longhouse, which considering the likely size of wealthier households was no minor task.[36] The roles of children (and the very elderly) are more difficult to pin down, as they are almost never mentioned in any of the original sources. This omission may be itself noteworthy, however, representing that either children were not particularly important in preparations for a feast, or shared in the menial labor involved in preparation (this, as with most things, likely varied with the family’s social standing). Children are however always important symbolically, their presence representing the security of wealth and family for future generations, and thus certainly attended the feasts in some capacity.

The feast had more functions in society than solidifying the warband relationship, the clearest of these being as a sort of demonstration for the organizational and leadership ability required by chieftains in this society. Koch identifies three major functions for early Germanic chieftains that carry over well to the Viking Age: the collection and redistribution of economic surplus; handling diplomatic connections with neighboring chiefdoms; and reducing and managing strife among the people under his domain.[37] These fit with the scheme laid out by Smith in her article “Feasts and their Failures” in which she identifies feasts as scenarios in which there is a high possibility of something going wrong, and through this provide opportunities for both hosts and guests to demonstrate their abilities of leadership and general management.[38] In addition, feasts served the functions typically associated with any large social gathering, namely facilitating meeting others in the community, and (with no small help from fermented beverages) lubricating social interactions. Socializing between men and women in particular was an important aspect of feasts, with feasts being the place where many couples likely first met.[39] These interactions themselves had certain rules, as in many societies, wherein women were assigned to share a horn with men by lot, so that no woman was without a drinking partner, but some men having to drink alone.[40] These pairings offered opportunities for flirting, perhaps displayed most vividly in Egil’s Saga Skallagrímsonar, in which a girl is displeased with being paired with the inexperienced Egil, but after he picks her up and places her next to himself, begins to warm up to him.[41]

What actually occurred at these feasts may be reconstructed via several sources, illuminating the practical realities and social customs. Beginning with the practical, the archaeological record contains a wealth of information on the tools and equipment associated with feasting, the physical reality of the rituals. The foundation of the feast may be found in the chieftain’s longhouse, itself the sun around which all the activities of the feast orbit. The food for the feast is hunted, fished, or grown within its domain, much of the alcohol is brewed nearby if not stored inside, many of the utensils and serving dishes were no doubt manufactured by craftsmen from the surrounding villages, in short, the longhouse was the center of the local world to which everything and everyone contributed. Along with the regional came the international, a unique feature of the Viking Age, brought about via their extensive trading networks.[42] [43] The extent of Viking trade can be demonstrated by the fact that Sweden is a better source for obtaining silver (but not gold) Samanid coins than Afghanistan, where the coins originated.[44] Thus it is not unreasonable to expect that silks and colorful fabrics or spices rarer in mainland Europe would have been more common sights at Scandinavian feasts, although obviously less so in Iceland and Greenland.

In terms of what was actually consumed, there is greater and greater evidence stemming from recent developments in archaeological technique and methodology, particularly in the fields of Archeobotany and Zooarchaeology. Excitingly, knowledge of what was consumed at these feasts in terms of alcohol has also become clearer in recent years, thanks to analysis of pollen samples and residue left in buried vessels.[45] There are various sources that have come forth recently discussing the everyday foods and typical meals of the Viking Age, but feasting represents often a special occasion, and thus special and rare foods. This likely entailed beef and red meat more generally, as well as bread of higher quality than that usually consumed.[46] In fact, it has been conjectured that, at least as far as Iceland is concerned, the production of barley itself (whether for bread or brewing) was a sign of status.[47] The drinks were likely stronger and more flavorful than what was normally consumed, mead itself being reserved for special occasions well into the Middle Ages.[48] These drinks likely took the form of some kind of braggot (unhopped beer sometimes mixed with mead or other herbs for flavor) or ale, along with mead, often mixed together in a sort of beer-fruit wine and honey cocktail.[49] This was sometimes augmented with grape wine imported from further south in Europe, something reserved for the elite in this region since antiquity.[50]

A typical feast would have been a well-equipped project of the whole community, with no shortage of fine alcohol. Less easy to discern (due, in part, to the lack of physical artifacts) are the events—besides eating and drinking—which took place at feasts; however, some references do exist. Drinking contests are an obvious guess, and several sources indicate that this was the case. For instance, in chapter 27 of Örvar-Odds saga, Sigurd and Sjolf make a bet that they together could outdrink Arrow-Odd.[51] Interestingly, the contest involves more than just guzzling liquor, as, between horns, the opposing parties compose insulting poetry, which grows in intensity as the contest continues.[52] This suggests that poetry contests could also have been a part of the feast (although it is unclear if this ever occurred sober) and the practice of flyting, i.e., ritualized exchanges of insults in verse, is well documented.[53] A wide variety of games are known to have occurred, including board games.[54] Wrestling and tests of strength among men were equally popular, and meeting solely for the purpose of engaging in games was not unheard of.[55] Of course, one must be careful with saga evidence, so the exact nature of these games cannot be assured, but the fact that the Vikings did play games and engage in sports of some kind is indisputable.

The final aspect of the feast needed to complete this reconstruction is its function both in bonding men and stratifying them. The organization of seating in the Viking Age hall was based on one´s position in the dominance hierarchy, where a seat closer to the chieftain was more respectable.[56] It is not difficult to see how this situation could become dangerous, especially in the context of hyper-competitive warriors constantly competing for status within the warband.

The mediation of this tension is the purpose of the lady of the hall, who partly through her reassurances to less successful warriors prevents violence within her husband’s retinue.[57] She also plays a part in the establishment of the hierarchies, in that she serves the mead in order of importance out from the high seat.[58] Through the playing of games and the mediation of the lady, the feast serves always to enforce the hierarchies of the community and to discourage violence and internal upheaval. The feast reconstructed here was the center of the community in regards to resources, social activities, and entertainment. It entailed drinking, ritualized fighting, eating, and the spreading of wealth.

Feasting was not only a mortal activity for the people of Viking Age Scandinavia. Its relevance and rituals are seen in many of the surviving religious tales, as collected in the Eddas. A survey of every instance of feasting in Norse Myth is too great a task for the current scope of this project, however there are a few important tales worth noting. The first of these is found in the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál. The poem itself describes Valhalla, the resting place for warriors chosen by Odin, whose afterlife is an ever-recurring feast punctuated with battles to help them prepare for the doomsday Ragnarok.[59] Stanzas 25–26 describe the goat Heiðrún, from whose udders pour out the mead consumed in Odin‘s hall, which surpasses all others.[60] Likewise, in the Prose Edda story of Gylfaginning, Valhalla is described, and Sæhrímnir the boar is mentioned, being cooked and consumed and reborn every day to feed the warriors.[61] These spiritual associations with feasting offer insight into the way people of the pre-Christian era of the Viking Age viewed feasts as sacred rites, not mere earthly political undertakings. That feasts are associated with Odin in particular is noteworthy, Odin himself being considered a god important for men of higher status and military occupation. This helps solidify feastings position of importance in Norse society, as well as its importance to individuals of prestige in terms of how people of the age framed it in within their beliefs. While it was not only men of immense wealth who hosted feasts, this likely represented an aspiration for landowners of lesser status, the ideal host to which one may look to for guidelines of hospitality. Feasting was the prime entertainment event in the Viking Age, and, as discussed earlier, was the bonding agent that held together chieftain-warband relationships. The feast was more than an enjoyable way to earn loyalty, however, as it was the defining cultural event of the age both religiously and secularly.

It is clear that the people of the Viking Age made little distinction between religious and secular functions in many aspects of their society. The goðar in particular would seem to have drawn no lines between their role as sacrificial and legal leaders, each naturally supporting the other.[62] To get a better picture of how feasts functioned in this society, it is necessary to first analyze the varieties laid out in later sources.

In later sources there emerges a picture of several distinct types of feast for different purposes and occasions: the blót, sumbl, and erfi. Blót means “sacrifice” and is used to describe the three yearly ritual feasts of the pagan era, occasionally called sumbl.[63] These feasts were the major yearly religious events in the Viking Age, to which all men were expected to contribute or else pay a fine to cover his share.[64] Snorri mentions in Hiemskringla that the three feasts were supposed to be held “towards winter for a good season, one in the middle of winter for the crops, and a third in summer; that was the sacrifice for victory.”[65] At these feasts, the chieftain would satisfy his duty as cult-leader, making sacrifices and toasting til árs ok froðar or “to good harvests and peace.”[66] Sumbl, however, is a broad term, and is used to describe more than just religious gatherings.[67] The term is often used as a general word for feasting, and may be a combination of the word sum (coming together) and ǫl (ale) to become “a coming together of ale.”[68] Along with the blót and sumbl, there is the erfi, or funeral feast, described earlier when discussing the inheritance of chieftains. It is clear from the sources that the hosting of an erfi was required for an heir to claim his inheritance, and that he had to swear an oath on the great-toast or bragafull after all the lesser memorial toasts or minni and drink it before the incoming chieftain could ascend into the high seat.[69] By doing this, he symbolically and ritualistically assumes the position of toast-leader and feast-giver held by the previous chieftain.

This delineation of feasts into separate and distinct categories is a later convention, evidenced by the sources from which this misconception originates. Several sources that discuss the erfi disagree on its exact practice. These include Fagrskinna and Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar, which contradict each other on the order of speeches, with Ólaf placing the bragafull before the minni.[70] This contradiction serves to remind that many of the sources from which we draw information about feasts are usually written much later (two to three centuries) than the time they depict and are often geographically removed as well, as in the case of Hiemskringla, a history of Norwegian kings written by an Icelander[71] (bearing in mind the frequent service done for Norwegian kings by Icelanders). Hiemskringla presents further issues in its discussion of pagan rituals from a thoroughly Christian perspective, yet we have little reason outside this to doubt what is said in the description of the yule-feast along with its account of the requirements for each man to either contribute grain to the communal fund for alcohol or pay an equivalent tax to exempt himself.[72]

While these sources should not be completely disregarded, particularly in light of how few sources are present, the lack of alternative sources does not justify an uncritical approach, which I believe many scholars have allowed consciously or unconsciously. Many seem to accept the schema laid out by Snorri without considering the potential changes that may have occurred after several centuries of transmission, the possibility that the delineations were used by later authors for ease of reference, and likewise the mutation of word meanings and usages which naturally occur over centuries. As discussed earlier, the feast was an event with many uses, and generally symbolized the sacrifice of individual members of the group for the sake of cohesion. The uncritical approach adopted by many scholars may stem partially from the conflation of feasting with events of ritual alcohol consumption. While such events were an important part of the feast, they made up only a fraction of all the events and purposes of feasting. Yet, drinking rituals are the focus of the literature. This may be because they were the most significant and unique events and those that were associated with bonds and contracts, the writer thinking it unnecessary to include the other more mundane aspects of the feast, about which people were already familiar.

Feasts seem to have been understood as platforms to which multiple purposes could be added, from a funeral feast that included an inheritance toast, to feasts for the rewarding of warriors or as a sacrifice to the gods. What is unique about the feast is not the feast itself, but the variations of it. From the feast, a variety of other events were associated. The feast was the cultural highlight of the Viking Age, serving not in specific itinerated rituals, but as a loose form to which could be adapted as needed to the specific event.

The Viking Age feast was more than a religious or ceremonial event. It not only connected men to the gods and the warband to the chieftain, but the men of the warband to each other, lords to subjects, and friends to strangers. The feast was, to borrow the term of Michael Enright, “the lady with the mead cup,” the wise queen mediating among the disparate and sometimes opposed parties. It was the event that enforced hierarchies, ratified laws, and added weight to oaths and vows. It was the axle, from which all the spokes of Viking Age culture radiated, and the event everyone in the community looked to for the whole range of life’s events. It remains the best perspective from which to view the entire culture of the Viking Age as whole, involving in some way every facet of that unique culture and society.

The benches filled with famous men
Who fell to with relish; round upon round
Of mead was passed; those powerful kinsmen,
Hrothgar and Hrothulf, were in high spirits
In the raftered hall. Inside Heorot
There was nothing but friendship. The Shielding nation
Was not yet familiar with feud and betrayal.
Then Halfdane’s son presented Beowulf
With gold standards as a victory gift,
An embroidered banner; also breast-mail
And a helmet; and a sword carried high,
That was both precious object and a token of honor.
So Beowulf drank his drink, at ease;[73]



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[1] Jón Hnefill Aðalsteinsson, A Piece of Horse Liver: Myth, Ritual and Folklore in Old Icelandic Sources (Reykjávik: Háskólaútgáfan, 1998), 68–69.

[2] Kaori O’Connor, Never-Ending Feast: The Anthropology and Archeology of Feasting (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015), 23.

[3] O’Connor, Never-Ending Feast, 7.

[4] Bryan Hayden and Suzanne Villeneuve, “A Century of Feasting Studies,” Annual Review of Anthropology 40, no. 29 (2011), 434.

[5] Michael J. Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Téne to the Viking Age (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), xiii.

[6] Tacitus, Cornelius. Germany and its Tribes, eds. Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, and Lisa Cerrato (New York: Random House), Ch. 13,

While a discussion of the reliability of Tacitus is not possible here, those interested are encouraged to read Marianina Demetri Olcott’s 1985 article Tacitus on the Ancient Amber Gatherers: A Re-Evaluation of Germania.

[7] John Lindow, “Comitatus, Individual and Honor: Studies in North Germanic Institutional Vocabulary,” University of California Publications in Linguistics 83 (1976), 12–17.

[8] Charleton T. Lewis and Charles Short, “Comitatus” in Harper’s Latin Dictionary: A New Latin Dictionary, ed. Ethan Allen Andrews (New York: American Book Company, 1907), 2.

[9] Lewis and Short, “Comes” in Harper’s Latin Dictionary, 374.

[10] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 195.

[11] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 208–209.

[12] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 99.

[13] Church and Brodribb, Complete Works of Tacitus, ch. 13.

[14] Bettina Arnold, “‘Drinking the Feast’: Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 9, no. 1 (1999), 78.

[15] McGovern et al. 2013

[16] Arnold, “‘Drinking the Feast,’” 81–92.

[17] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 97–98.

[18] Arnold, “‘Drinking the Feast,’” 76.

[19] Arnold, “‘Drinking the Feast,’” 79.

[20] Matthew E. Loughton, “Getting Smashed: The Deposition of Amphorae and the Drinking of Wine in Gaul during the Late Iron Age,” Oxford Journal of Archeology 28, no. 1 (2009), 85–87.

[21] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 99.

[22] Seamus Heaney and Cynthia Krupat, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999), 260–263.

[23] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 10–11.

[24] Arnold, “‘Drinking the Feast,’” 80.

[25] Arnold, “‘Drinking the Feast,’” 81.

[26] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 197.

[27] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 217.

[28] Lindow, “Comitatus, Individual and Honor,” 11.

[29] Hávamál is a selection of sayings associated with Odin, which appears in the Poetic Edda. The only surviving source this section is the 13th century Codex Regius, although it is presumed to date from much earlier (See Bellows 1936).

[30] Henry Adams Bellows, The Poetic Edda (American Scandinavian Foundation: Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1936), 44.

[31] Charles Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” Master’s thesis, (University of Oslo, 2014), 8.

[32] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 15–16.

[33] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 16.

[34] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 4–15.

[35] Jenny Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015), 115–125.

[36] Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society, 115–125.

[37] Eva Koch, “Mead, chiefs and feasts in later prehistoric Europe,” in Food, Culture and Identity in the Neotlithic and Early Bronze Age, ed. Mike Parker Pearson (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports Ltd, 2003), 125.

[38] Monica L. Smith, “Feasts and their Failures,” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22, no. 4 (2014), 1215–1237.

[39] Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society, 69.

[40] Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society, 69.

[41] Egil’s Saga, trans. Bernard Scudder (London: Penguin, 2004), 48.

[42] Arnold, “‘Drinking the Feast,’” 72.

[43] Vivian Etting, The Story of the Drinking Horn: Drinking Culture in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages (Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2013), 20–21. It is interesting to note that the Celts had for a long time imported Mediterranean wine and drinkware, and Roman glass drinking horns have been found in Danish Iron-Age burials.

[44] Michael Mitchiner, “Evidence for Viking-Islamic Trade Provided by Samanid Silver Coinage,” East and West 37, no. 1/4 (1987), 139.

[45] Patrick E. McGovern et al., “A biomolecular archaeological approach to ‘Nordic grog,’” Danish Journal of Archaeology 2, no. 2 (2013): 1.

[46] Davide Zori et al., “Feasting in Viking Age Iceland: sustaining a chiefly political economy in a marginal environment,” Antiquity 87, no. 335 (203), 150–165.

[47] Scott Riddell et al., “Cereal cultivation as a correlate of high social status in medieval Iceland,” Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 27, no. 5 (2017), 679–696.

[48] Koch, “Mead, chiefs and feasts in later prehistoric Europe,” 135.

[49] McGovern et al., “A biomolecular archaeological approach to ‘Nordic grog,’” 12–15.

[50] McGovern et al., “A biomolecular archaeological approach to ‘Nordic grog,’” 1.

[51] Guðni Jónsson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson, Örvar-Odds saga (Reykjavík: Bókaútgáfan Forni, 1943), Ch. 27,

[52] Guðni Jónsson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson, Örvar-Odds saga, Ch. 27.

[53] Carol J. Clover, “The Germanic Context of the Unferþ Episode,” Speculum 55, no. 3 (1980), 445.

[54] Board games are referenced both in Morkinskinna and Völuspá.

[55] Top of Form

Bottom of FormThe Saga of Gisli the Outlaw, trans. G. W. DaSent (Icelandic Saga Database, 1866), Ch. 8,

Meetings for the playing of games are referenced in chapter 8 of Gisla saga Súrssonnar, and chapter 40 of Egil´s saga Skallagrímsonnar, 98-99.

[56] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 25.

[57] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 25.

[58] Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup, 6–7. Interestingly one of the queen peices from the Lewis Chessmen holds a drinking horn, in juxtaposition to the armed male figures.

[59] Bellows, The Poetic Edda, 88–93.

[60] Bellows, The Poetic Edda, 94.

[61] Sturluson and Faulkes, Edda, 32.

[62] Aðalsteinsson, A Piece of Horse Liver, 50.

[63] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 5.

[64] Sturluson Snorri, Heimskringla, trans. Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes, (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, University College London, 2011), 97–98.

[65] Sturluson, Heimskringla, 11.

[66] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 8.

[67] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 4.

[68] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 4.

[69] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 17.

[70] Riseley, “Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age,” 17.

[71] Aðalsteinsson, A Piece of Horse Liver, 39.

[72] Sturluson and Faulkes, Edda, 106.

[73] Heaney and Krupat, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, lines 1012-1024.