Historical Saxon Heathen Clothing
Updated: May 11, 2022
The following is a culmination of field study on location in Old Saxon lands. Like my Historical Saxon longhouse article, and the Saxon Jewelry article, this will include pictures taken at museums and archaeological sites. It also involved some translation of scholarly works in German into modern English. This article will not focus on the jewelry, outside of brooches. I have already written a blog article on Old Saxon Heathen jewelry from Saxony, and that article can be found here:
https://www.aldsidu.com/post/arm-rings-ring-graves-and-jewelry-in-heathen-saxony Most today realize that the Old Saxons in Saxony, like their Norse counterparts, venerated the Aesir. The Norse Othin is Uuoden in Old Saxon. Norse Thor is Thunaer. Norse Frigg is Fri, etc. The Old Saxons also had a God peculiar to the Saxons, called Sahsnoth. The Old Saxons had longhouses (I have a blog on Old Saxon longhouses as well), longboats made just like the Norse boats, mjolnirs, and many other facets of Heathenry that the Norse had. The Saxon Ragnarok was called "Mudspelles", their Bifrost was called the "uueg" (or way), the Norse Nornir were known in Saxony as "giscapou" meaning "Shapers." As there were some differences in the Heathenry of the Saxons and the Norse (minor differences), Old Saxon Heathen clothing also had its "Saxon" twists.
Pictured below is a display at the Archäologische Freilichtmuseum in Oerlinghausen, Germany. https://www.afm-oerlinghausen.de/ At this museum, is a reconstructed Saxon Longhouse dated to the 8th century. Also at the museum, are some clothing finds, like this display. This display shows the dress of a male 8th century Saxon, based on finds in Sahlenburg. In general Saxon clothing was either linen or wool. Brooches were mainly circular in Saxony. Cloaks were made of wool typically. Brown leather belts, not thick but less than an inch were typical. The small bag worn on the belt is much smaller than the Norse reproductions for re-enactors today. There was no black leather in this time period. The Saxons did not wear leg-wraps like the Norse did. They instead wrapped a "shoe belt" around their legs below the knee. The clasps on these shoe belts were not very different from the clasps on the belt for their waist. Most Saxons had spears for weapons (swords were for the rich, and made little impact in Saxon shield walls.) Most Saxons also were skilled in archery. The linen or wool pants typically were similar to the Thorsberg Moor finds, sometimes having a "sock" sowed to the bottom of the pants, made of the same material as the rest of the pants. Trim was common on tunics around the neck, at the end of the sleeves and at the bottom of the tunics. The Saxon shield bosses were not "flat" but protruded out from the shield. I saw many (and I mean many) of these in various museums across Northern Germany. Saxon shields typically had linen glued to the wood, and the linen was dyed, giving the impression from a distance that the shields were painted. The linen held the shield together much better than those without linen, when shields were struck by an ax, another weapon much more common than the sword. In addition, the shields found typically had leather or raw-hide around the outer part of the shield, which also served to hold the shield together.
This next picture, is one of my favorite souvenirs from my trip. It is the same pouch in the picture above. I was able to buy this reproduction of a historical find for only 22,00 Euro. The leather is very thin, but sturdy.
Here is the museum sign in front of the clothing display. The sign states that the clothing was from Sahlenburg, and taken from the time of the Saxon Wars between the Heathen Saxons and the Carolingians (Frankish Christians). It calls this time period the "early Middle-Ages."
The sign immediately below, I translate here: "Matching clothes for hand and foot. The needle binding technique (or nail binding) works in rounds like hooking or knitting. This automatically creates an elastic hull shape. By omitting or adding stitches, socks, gloves and the like can be used; adapted exactly to body shapes, and to shrink when walking and grasping as little as possible. In the early Middle Ages, in addition to bound-shoes, there were shoes and boots made of a single piece of leather with an additional but separate piece for the sole. They were turned inside-out so that the seams in the finished shoe were inside. To reinforce the sole, the (extra piece of leather) was nailed." I will summarize the small pictures on the sign and their descriptions top to bottom: The glove is from a find in Denmark, the first shoe from a find in the Alps (south of Old Saxony), and the bottom three shoes are from York, Russia, and Hedeby. Please note, clothing finds are very rare in Saxony. I bought a 400 page book from the Saxones exhibit in Hannover, and there was ZERO information in it on Saxon clothing. Little survived.
Here is a close up of the reconstruction of the cloak and brooch from the find in Sahlenburg:
Here is an Old Saxon circular brooch, dated to the 8th century:
Here is another Old Saxon circular brooch, dated to the 8th century:
Here is a belt buckle find from Walendorf, circa 8th century:
Here are more 8th century buckle-ends (for shoes or belts) from Sahlenburg (these are gold):
A Saxon comb, circa 8th century:
Me, outside of the reconstructed Saxon Longhouse from Waldorf at the Archäologische Freilichtmuseum in Oerlinghausen, Germany.
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