Hedeby Bags

There’s not a lot of evidence that I’m aware of, at least for Scandinavian Vikings, to have belt pouches. Eastern Vikings, sure – the Birka pouch from Sweden, many, many tarsolys from Russia – but nothing from Denmark, Norway, Iceland, the Danelaw, etc. Seems like it just wasn’t a thing. But people have stuff, and they need to keep it somewhere, so they had to have had something.

Enter the Hedeby bag.

The evidence for this bag comes from fourteen finds in the harbor of the German city of Haithabu (Hedeby in English). For a long time, archaeologists didn’t know what they were for. Eventually, someone compared them to similar items from the Sami peoples, who lived in the arctic areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Kola Peninsula going back some 5,000 years (Wikipedia article on Sami people).

This excerpt from Florian Westphal’s Die Holzfunde von Haithabu, edited by Tomáš Vlasatý, shows several examples of the Hedeby handle finds, as well as examples of Sami culture bag handles:

Die Holzfunde von Haithabu (PDF)

Anyways, I needed one. So I made one. Actually, I have made five so far, all of leather and from handles I made. Here is mine:
bag_4

Lightweight vegetable tanned (not really, as you’ll read) leather, cherry handles finished with tung oil, and an inkle-woven strap of wool, with a gold-plated buckle and tip of Scandinavian origin (I simply CANNOT resist an opportunity to add bling to something).

bag_1
(Prior to adding the buckle and tip)

This leather was colored using vinegaroon, a method of turning leather black using iron dissolved in vinegar to cause a chemical reaction with the tannins in the leather. Sadly, this piece of leather was a bargain blowout sale piece from Tandy Leather Factory, and very, very little actual vegetable matter was used in the tanning of this hide. You can tell because there is so little tannin in the leather that the chemical reaction with the vinegaroon solution only turned it this blue-gray color. Quality vegetable tanned leather will turn a deep black after only a few seconds in a vinegaroon solution.

bag_2This leather also took stamping extremely poorly, which is why I gave up after only a few rows of geometric stamping. It had been my intention to cover the face of the bag with decoration. As the front and back panels of this bag are 12″x12″, I’d have been stamping for a while, so maybe this was one of those happy accidents…

bag_3As you lift the bag by it’s strap, the weight of the bag causes the top to close up, keeping the handles flat against each other and securing it quite nicely. To get something from the bag, you must lift it up to take the pressure off the handles, at which point they pull open effortlessly. Quite an elegant design.

This bag is a smaller one I made for my seven year old son. He requested a red bag, with Odin’s ravens on it, and he asked for them by name: Huginn and Muninn. I’d call that a parenting win.

ivanbag_3

The bag handles are ash from his grandfather’s forest.

ivanbag_1

The bag is quite large enough for him to carry a bottle of water, his tablet, and whatever other geegaws he’s attached to on any given day.

ivanbag_2

It’s about 7″ across on the top.

I’ve done no documentation for this, as I’m making them for personal use. Here is some excellent documentation and directions done by my student-brother Lord Hrόlfr á Fjárfelli of the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn in Æthelmearc:

Make your own Viking hand bag

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