Viking Silver Snake Pendant and Chain, Late 9th Century AD
The serpent form may relate to the Norse myth of Jörmungandr (Jormungand), the Midgard Serpent, a child of Loki and a giantess who according to legend grew so large that it was able to surround the earth and grasp its own tail, forming an ouroboros. According to legend, when it releases its tail, Ragnarök, the final battle of the gods that will result in Earth becoming completely covered in water, will begin. One of the most popular motifs in Norse art concerns the story of Thor and Jörmungandr. In classic Thor style, he sets off on a reckless fishing expedition, taking the head of an ox as his bait, and sails further out to sea than he should. With a large hook and the ox head, he catches Jörmungandr, who surfaces, poison and blood dripping from his mouth. Thor’s fishing companion, the giant Hymir, quickly cuts Thor’s line before he can slay the serpent with his hammer and Jörmungandr sinks beneath the waves, the threat at bay – for the moment. Multiple Viking picture stones have been found depicting this story, including one from as early as the late 8th century.