Updated: Jun 27
I have always been surprised by how often Norwegians seem to use axes. Axes are not a particularly common tool in England and until I came to Norway I had never really seen one used, and certainly not on a daily basis. But here in Norway the use of an axe is commonplace. Everyone seems to have one and they are used with skill and panache for a variety of jobs from cutting branches for a campfire, to repairing a house roof. It’s a common tool even now and shows how important that Viking heritage is and how relevant it can still be.
The oldest axe that was found in Scandinavia dates from 8000BC. It was flint headed axe, but copper axes have been found from 2000BC. The wonderful thing about these finds is that they have shown how little the style of the axe has changed through time. I guess if a design works, it's always going to work!
According to Viking customs, all free Norsemen had to carry a weapon. The most common weapon being an axe. This was probably because they were so multi purpose; a small axe serves as both a weapon for defence (or otherwise!), but also as a tool of labour. In fact, at Heddal stave church they even had a special area outside the church for the congregation to leave their axes before they went into Sunday service.
What I have learnt is that an axe is a really useful tool to have, from the small "tur" axe to something more substantial. We find ourselves using axes for all manner of jobs. I will carry my little trip axe on hiking trips and my husband uses his for cutting up wood, and sorts of other of everyday tasks.
Of course, axes can also be recreational. Axe throwing is something that is quite normal to see at fun events and for activities and it sounds horribly dangerous, but everyone loves it. It's much harder than it looks and goes to show how much practice the Vikings must have had to be able to use an axe like that. It's just another element that cements the axe's place in Nordic life then and now and connects anyone with Nordic heritage to their past in another way.
If you want to read a bit more about the history and manufacture of axes in Scandinavia, there is a wonderful website called Gransfors Bruk. You can find it by clicking here.
Do you have an axe and do you use it?