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08.01.2020

Viking halberd

Höggspjót

The höggspjót, literally "hewing spear", takes its name from Old Norse högg, "stroke, blow, slaughter, beheading"  and spjót, "spear".

  • Egil's saga has: "Egill hafdi... hauggspiót í hendi." (c.934), or in English: "Egill had... a halberd in his hand." Elsewhere, Egil's spear is called a kesja (cf).
  • In Færeyinga saga there is: "...hafði rauðan kyrtil, hjálm á höfði, ok girðr sverði ok höggspjót í hendi...",or in English: "...he had a red tunic, a helmet on his head, a sword girded on and a halberd in his hand..."
  • Víga-Glúms saga has "Glúmr hafði skjöld sinn og höggspjót, gyrðr sverði..."  or in English: "Glúmr had his shield, halberd, and a sword girded on..."

Kesja

The kesja  was another halberd-type weapon. The name is thought to come from Celtic-Latin gæsum. The Cleasby and Vigfússon dictionary notes that "kesja, atgeir and höggspjót appear to be the same thing". It's interesting to note that Egils saga shows the kesja being thrown like a javelin or spear, and describes it in detail, calling it also a "mail-piercer" (brynþvarar):

  • "Kesiu hafdi [Þórólfr] í hendi; fiödrin var tveggja álna laung, og sleginn fram broddur ferstrendr, en upp var fiödrin breid. Falrinn bædi lángr ok digr. Skaptið var eigi hæra enn taka mátti hendi til fals ok furduliga digrt. Iárnteinn var í falnum ok skaptid allt iárnvafit. Þau spiót voru kaullut Brynþvarar." (c.934), or in English: "The thrusting-spear [Thorolf] carried had a blade two ells long (38.75" or 98.4cm) with four edges tapering to a point at one end, broad at the other. The socket was long and wide, the shaft no taller than might be grasped at the socket by the hand, but wonderfully thick. An iron spike was in the socket and the whole of the shaft was bound with iron. It was the kind of spear that is called a halberd."
  • "Ok ádr þeir mættiz þá skaut hvarr kesiu at audrum. Egill lauft skilldinum vit kesiunni ok bar hallan sva at kesian reist or skilldinum of slaug í völlin." (c.934), or in English: "And just before they met, each flung his halberd at the other. Egill let his shield take the halberd, holding it aslant so that a piece was sliced away, then the halberd fell to the ground."
  • Even the late 13th century Karlamagnus Saga has a mention: "Þá lagði Oddgeir til hans ok í gegnum skjöld hans ok brynju, ok svá at á hol gékk kesjan", or in English: "Then Oddgeir struck him and pierced through his shield and armor, so that the halberd pierced him through."

The kesja would thus have a blade around 90 cm in length with a diamond cross-section at the end, and an additional spike attached to the socket, whose placement and purpose is not explained. The length of the weapons' shaft is unclear, but was either shoulder-height, or long enough that a man reaching up could still touch the socket.

Krókspjót

The krókspjót was a barbed spear, literally "hooked spear", from Old Norse krókr, "hook, anything crooked", and spjót, "spear" (cf. höggspjót, above). The krókspjót resembled a regular spear, except that it had two lugs or "wings" attached at the bottom of the spearhead, somewhat like a boar-spear.

  • Grettir's saga tells of how fearsome this weapon could be: "...yfir sæng Þorfinns hangir krókaspjót et stora.... [Grettir] tvíhendi spjótit á Þóri miðjum... svá at þegar gekk í gegnum hann. Fjöðrin var bæði löng ok breið á spjótinu. Ögmundr illi gekk næst Þóri ok hratt honum á lagit, svá at allt gekk upp at krókunum. Stóð þá spjótit út um herðarnar á Þóri ok svá framan í brjóstit á Ögmundi: steyptuz þeir báðir dauðir af spjótinn."  Or in English: "...over Thorfinn's bed hangs the barbed spear.... [Grettir] thrust the spear with two hands in Thorir's middle... so that it went through him at once. The spear-head was both long and broad. Ögmundr the Evil ran into Thorir and pushed him on, so that the spear went through up to the barbs. The spear stood out of Thorir's back between the shoulderblades and entered the breast of Ogmund: they both fell dead, pierced by the spear."
  • The Gulathing Law says: "En þat er hit þriðia misvigi ef maðr er lostenn krocoro. æða krocspiote. oc þarf at skera til."  In English: "The third [form of] dishonorable manslaying is wounding a man with a barbed arrow or barbed spear, so that [the head] has to be cut out." 

Skeggøx

Main article: Skeggøx

The skeggøx, literally "bearded axe", was called so because while the blade was narrow at the haft, it widened downwards towards its edge, so that the "face" of the axe seemed to have a drooping "beard". The name is from Old Norse skegg, "beard"and øx, "axe".

  • Egils saga mentions a skeggøx: "[Þórdr] felldi honum í hendr skeggexi eina. er Þórdr hafdi haft í hendi. þau vapn voro þá tíd." (c.909), or in English: "Thord gave Egil a thick-bladed axe he was carrying, common enough at that time."
  • Konungs skuggsjá ("King's Mirror", 1250) recommended the skeggøx as a good weapon aboard a ship: "Á skipi eru góðir angorfsljár ok langskeptar skeggexar, slagbrandar ok stafslöngur, skeptiflettur ok allskyns annat vápngrjót..."  or in English: "Longhandled scythes and long-shafted bearded axes, 'war-beams' and staff-slings, darts, and missiles of every sort are serviceable on ships..."
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