NORWAY, circa 1840
A ceremonial drinking vessel with two horse-head handles, dug from a single block of solid birch wood. With a well-carved head with ears and unusual indented eyes. Retaining the original painted surface with detail of halter-reins. Initialled ‘ASSL’, which will relate to the initials of the wedding and the bride for whom this ceremonial vessel was created.
This pattern of drinking bowl has been traditional in Norway since Medieval times. The original use for such a bowl may have been for a prehistoric ceremony which involved the sacrifice of horses, but the bowls continued to be made for centuries. The Horse is a significant icon in Scandinavian Folk lore, where it was considered to represent various qualities including strength, virility, loyalty and power over evil. The devil was thought to be represented by fire, which was a considerable threat to the wooden architecture of most rural communities and any representation of the horse was thought to act as prevention against fire and to ward off evil spirits.
Pinto, in his book ‘Treen and Other Wooden Bygones’, illustrates a Scandinavian horse head kasa, dated 1787 (fig.47) – see image below (Edward H. Pinto, ‘Treen and Other Wooden Bygones’ (Bell & Hyman Limited, London, 1979).
See various types:
‘Dansk Folkekunst: En Oversigt’ by Kai Uldall (Thaning & Appels Forlag, Kobenhavn, 1945), plate p.82, fig.63.
Edward H. Pinto, ‘Treen and Other Wooden Bygones’ (Bell & Hyman Limited, London, 1979), fig.47.