Jul 5, 2013

Weapons & Warriors: The Morning Star of the Europeans

Art by Steven DeVon Jones
Many people have always confused the Morning Star with a mace or flail. Even I used to do it when I was first learning about bludgeoning weapons while playing Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. I knew a mace had a metal shaft with a balled end for crushing things, and I knew the flail had chains. When I ran across the morning star, I was lost. Over the years I’ve stumbled across various people calling a mace a morning star, and sometimes a flail.

In truth, the Morning Star is not the same thing. It isn’t anything like a flail because the Morning Star does not have any chains. It is more closely related to the mace in shape, but that’s where the similarities end. Instead of nubs or angles around the balled end, the Morning Star has a large spike protruding from the top and the ball is covered in smaller spikes or sharpened edges.

There is no uniform version of a Morning Star because it is simply a club-like bludgeoning tool with spikes. They vary in size, from small easily held in one hand types to long heavy two handed shafts with a massive spiked head. While the mace evolved into a steel shaft with a rounded head, the Morning Star retained its wooden shaft. The spikes could be made from virtually anything, but in Europe it was generally steel or iron. 

Unlike the mace, the Morning Star was not used by the knights very often. Knights were generally wealthy and therefore could afford the costly steel mace. The soldiers that followed the Knights were the majority of owners for the Morning Star. However, it is not against the Knight’s honor to use a Morning Star. The sight of one of these porcupine clubs would be pretty scary on the battlefield. If it was of the two-handed variety held by a man covered head to toe in steel, even more terrifying.

The most common soldier version of the Morning Star was around six feet (2 meters) or longer from shaft to spike. The head piece was a separate piece from the shaft and was made from either metal or wood. Depending on the region, the head was either squared with sharp edges, fitted with triangle shapes blades to form corners, or with long thick spikes in circular patterns around the head. All of the Morning Stars were completed with its trademark top spike.

The Morning Star was a versatile weapon, and although it lacked the overall crushing power of the mace, it made up for it with spikes that could penetrate thin metal armors. Even chain mail, which was designed to stop a blade, was unable to resist the penetration of the top spike. If your ribs weren’t crushed from a blow, your lungs may have been pierced anyway. That is what I call taking your breath away. 

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.

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