Copper alloy, 31.13 grams; 71.23 mm. Circa 10th century AD. An excellent rare example of the usually plain strap junctions of this period, this one having the two sections divided by a gruesome horned head of what is most likely to be the Viking god Loki. Each of the end terminals that would have received the straps is detailed with three raised circular turrets. These terminals are shaped like buckles of the period, possibly doubling as a pendant hanger from between the jaws. Ref: for similar strap junctions see, Benet’s Artefacts of England & the United Kingdom; page 329. Very fine condition.
Published in: British Artefacts, Volume 2 - Middle Saxon and Viking, p. 87, fig. 1.9-g by Brett Hammond (2010).
Regrettably, the find spot is unknown..
In most Norse myths, Loki is portrayed as a prankster and a trickster. His misadventures often involve creating great problems for the Norse gods and for the inhabitants of the other worlds. When things seemed at their very worse, Loki often provided the remedy to save the day. His loyalty was often torn between the giants and the gods of Asgard and in trying to please both, he often found himself in deep trouble. Because of his wit and his cunning and mischievous character, Loki earned the name "God of Mischief". He was also considered the "God of Fire". Loki really couldn't help but be crafty. He had magical powers no other giant or anyone outside of the Asgard had. He could travel freely between the various Norse worlds and often accompanied Odin and Thor on their journeys and adventures throughout the universe. The gods often sought his advice, yet when they followed his plan, he sometimes tricked them into dangerous situations.
The viking and his horse
Norse Vikings came to Iceland in the ninth century not to plunder but to settle. They arrived with families and animals in tow, ready to farm, fish, fight with each other, and form a republic. For those early settlers the horse was indispensible. He plowed the fields, carried cargo and crops, forded glacial rivers and picked his surefooted way over treacherous mountain trails, sharing the often short and brutish life of his master as an equal partner and beloved friend. That partnership, between man and horse, forged over a thousand years ago, endures today with a love and loyalty that is hard to describe. If you have the good fortune to visit Iceland and to see these marvelous horses in their native habitat, you will understand. Foraging in the fields there, against a backdrop of volcanic mountains, glaciers and waterfalls, they seem almost organically connected to the land in some mystical way.
The relationship between Icelanders and their horses is intense. Almost every Icelander learns to ride in childhood, the way kids in other places learn to ride a bicycle, and riding is popular among Icelanders of all ages as a form of sport and recreation. Of course, out in the countryside, horses still work hard on the farm. But everywhere in Iceland, people, horses, and land are almost palpably connected. There are numerous herds of Icelandic horses in other countries, but whenever I encounter them ,even if they are three or four generations removed, they look a bit out of place. Iceland is their home, even if they have never seen it.
Since medieval times it has been illegal to bring foreign horses to Iceland. The ban was put in place in the twelfth century because of the Black Plague and has never been lifted. Even today, any Icelandic horse that leaves the country, can never return but must remain abroad the rest of its life. The reason is concern that foreign equine diseases to which Icelandics have no immunity could be brought back to Iceland and decimate the herd. A practical result has been to keep the bloodlines of this ancient breed pure. This truly is the horse of the Vikings.