Viking Arm Rings

It’s hard to tell exactly whether or not the Viking arm ring was a sign of their solemn vow of loyalty. But based on legendary tales that stood the test of time, the Viking arm ring played a significant role in Viking society back in the day. For instance, it was a sign of boys becoming real men once they received it in one way or another.   

Historical use

If we have a wallet or purse or to keep our cash safe, the Vikings had arm rings (a bracelet worn around the bicep or the upper arm). It was a symbol of wealth for them and they used it to trade for things in trading centers. They did this by breaking their arm rings into pieces. The bigger the piece they took, the higher the amount of the stuff they wanted to buy. 

Symbolic Denotation

Some people believed the Viking arm rings weren’t a sign or symbol of loyalty but rather a symbol of wealth. 

There was actually a King named Hrothgar in Beowulf. This particular king was known as the "ring-giver" because of his generosity. He was known to offer people arm rings, hence the nickname.       

The arm ring appeared in a few Viking tales as well. In Frithiof's Saga, a bride was given an arm ring by her groom because he would be gone for a long time. The jewelry that was offered to her was like a remembrance or symbol of his love, loyalty and hopes that the bride wouldn’t cheat or betray him while he was away.  

“Till then, farewell! Forget me never! And,          

In sweet remembrance of our youthful love

This arm-ring take, a fair Vaulunder-work

With all heaven's wonders carved in the shining gold                      

Ah! The best wonder is the faithful heart

How prettily becomes it Thy white arm

Farewell! My bride! My best beloved! Farewell

A short few months. And then how different then.”


Aside from that, Viking arm rings were also mentioned in the Eyrbyggja Saga. In the information provided in this saga,  the men had to make their solemn vows on arm rings.     

“But off the inmost house was there another house, of that fashion whereof now is the choir of a church, and there stood a stall in the midst of the floor in the fashion of an altar, and thereon lay a ring without a join that weighed twenty ounces, and on that must men swear all oaths; and that ring must the chief have on his arm at all man-motes.”


Modern times

Jarls (King or Earls) were considered the noble class in Viking age society. They no longer exist at the present time. However, you can still make a vow to a Viking arm ring if you want to and for whatever reason. It could be wearing it as a promise to yourself to live a healthier lifestyle or something that you and your teammates could do to show loyalty and respect to one another. You could even make a vow with your significant other and give each other a promise ring as a commitment to be faithful partners. 

Making vows is still possible in this day and age. It doesn't matter if there is no jarl anymore. What matters is the willingness, faith and dedication in those vows and how you act upon it. 


Reference:

https://bavipower.com/blogs/bavipower-viking-blog/viking-arm-ring-viking-oath-of-loyalty-and-dignity

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