Cultural Significance of Body Modifications: Tales of Piercings in Mythology and Folklore

Cultural Significance of Body Modifications: Tales of Piercings in Mythology and Folklore

Jewellery is a fundamental part of many cultures around the world. The are a number of reasons why people wore jewelry and over the years, these reasons have trickled down and are prevalent in many societies. 


We now also see a resurgence of people recognising their ancient practices and rediscovering their dormant love for adorning themselves with jewellery and piercings of yesteryear. 

Jewellery in ancient cultures

Jewellery, as we know it today, is a far cry from the prototypes of accessories worn by the people in our history books. Before precious metals became the norm, many cultures made their accessories from bones and iron.


These jewellery were not only worn for aesthetic purposes but also played a role in identifying those with higher social status, to represent strength or as a means of protection. Each culture has a unique history and a set of practices that hold great significance among its people.


The same is true for the Vikings. 

Slavic and Nordic-specific jewellery

Historians have noted that Vikings wore extensive jewellery in their time, most of which consisted of bronze and silver pieces. Their jewellery was created through a process called ‘lost wax’ which saw a wax mould made and then filled with melted metal. Once cooled and solidified, the wax is broken to take out the jewellery, which is then polished and ready to be worn.  


Gems and precious stones were considered a rarity among Vikings, who often used materials like glass, amber and animal bones. 


The jewellery was made with religious significance in mind and often given as gifts. A common theme among Viking jewellery was the presence of the Norse God Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir - as it was a symbol of strength. Other common symbols that appeared on Viking jewellery were the Valknut and Yggdrasil - the Tree of Life. 


Common jewellery worn by Vikings

There were several popular pieces of jewellery worn by both men and women. The most common being arm rings for men, which were made out of gold and silver.

There are also the brooches worn by women to secure their dresses and cloaks. They were made out of bronze and were oval-shaped. Over the years, the shape progressed to resemble discs.  


Other common pieces were finger rings, neck rings, intricately designed belt buckles, and beaded necklaces. Vikings wore earrings at some later point in their history, but like modern earrings, these were said to cover the entire ear. Historians believed that earrings worn by Vikings were after they met with Slavic people and had taken inspiration from their adornments. 


Viking jewellery, like many cultures, was made for aesthetic appeal, designs were along the lines of personal or religious motifs and had often included geometric or plaited designs and even the form of animal heads etc. 


Their jewellery was not only worn for adornment, it was also considered as a form of currency. They would cut pieces of their arm or neck bands to pay with, a trade style that is similar to how money is used these days. Jewellery was also used to help secure allegiances and it was also a symbol of status.

How has jewellery transformed over the years

If you come across modern-day Viking jewellery, you will notice that the jewellers still keep to the original designs of the adornments.


People have found solace in reconnecting with their history and heritage through items of jewellery and clothing. Modern Viking jewellery respects the history from which it is inspired. Many people who identify with Nordic culture can purchase jewellery replicas of their ancestors with the knowledge that they are authentic and inspired by the strength and the beliefs of Vikings. 

Body modifications and the Vikings

While piercings may have been a late addition to Viking culture, it does not mean that other body modifications were off the table.


History notes there is inconclusive evidence of whether Vikings had tattoos or not, either way, it is a common form of appreciation performed by modern Viking-influenced people. 


Many people show their appreciation of Viking culture through jewellery, while others do so through modifications of the body and tattoos.

Preserving jewelry

If you have jewellery that may have been passed on from Viking ancestors, or if you have purchased replicas, then you need to treat them with care so that they don’t tarnish or get damaged.


It’s always good to learn how to clean brass jewellery so that your pieces stay in mint condition for a longer period of time. If kept well, history can continue to be preserved and passed on to future generations.


Vikings, like many cultures of the world, have a deep and rich history connected with jewellery. Vikings have used jewellery in many ways and unique ways of creating them through wax moulds.


Through authentic replicas of their jewellery, the Viking history has been preserved for many years and will be able to tell the stories of adventurers and their strength for many years to come.

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