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Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age

By Charles Riseley

Summary: Drinking ceremonies played a very important social role in Viking Age Scandinavia
and Anglo-Saxon England. This thesis will seek to illuminate these ceremonies by following the terms minni and bragarfull through the sources, and special note will also be taken of source age in order to ascertain how the depiction of these ceremonies changes over time. First the seasonal feasts and their associated libations will be studied and their association with kingship, law, and árs ok friðar will be examined. Next we will look into funeral feasts and their memorial toasts which governed inheritance and the transfer of power. The Anglo-Saxon mead-cup ritual which served to stabilize society and foster group-cohesion will be examined, as will the Old Norse mead-cup analogues. Finally, the institution of vowing over toasts will be studied. In all of these traditions, the theme of alcohol as a strong social-stabilizer and a vehicle of social development is stressed.

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