Summon the Norse! Gjallarhorn is NKU’s new tradition


NKU Athletics

NKU President Geoffrey Mearns summons the Norse before a basketball game this season.

A mythological horn once used to call for both music and drinking has been reimagined by Northern Kentucky Athletics.

The gjallarhorn (yahl-lahr-hawrn), a staple of Norse mythology, has been recreated this season by the NKU Athletic Department. It is used to summon the men’s and women’s basketball teams to the floor prior to the game this season at BB&T Arena.  

NKU first used the gjallarhorn prior to the men’s game Nov. 21 against Morehead State. University President Geoffrey Mearns was the first to sound the horn.

Planning began last spring for the gjallarhorn, according to Bryan McEldowney, assistant athletic director. The athletic department wanted to take advantage of Northern Kentucky’s unique nickname and create a tradition that would go along with it, according to McEldowney.

McEldowney said the unique nature of the gjallarhorn created a challenge for the athletic department.

“It’s unique, which is also bad for us because we have to educate people on what a Norse is,” McEldowney said. “Unless you attend NKU or you have a strong interest in Norse mythology, it is rare that you can ask a person what a Norse is and they will be able to tell you.”

After doing the research on what a gjallarhorn was, McEldowney began to wonder where they would be able to get one.

It turns out that the Minnesota Vikings have one of their own. The athletics department then partnered with Todd Johnson from Grothe Music, who was behind the creation of the gjallarhorn in Minnesota.

McEldowney said the cost was relatively cheap and it was an inexpensive way to boost their brand.

At every home game, the announcer introduces the visiting team first and then after that, the lights go down in the arena. An individual is introduced and he or she sounds the horn which leads to the Norse player introductions.

There is a different person at every game, both men and women, to sound the horn. It was tough to get people to do it at the beginning of the season because it was so new, according to Brandon Hays, assistant athletic director of marketing.

“We reached out to everybody from captains of teams to our spirit squads to our band director,” Hays said.

As the season went along, Hays said it became much easier to get people to sound the horn because people became of aware of what it is.

According to Hays, the horn itself doesn’t actually make a sound.

“Whenever the person leans in and fakes it, our DJ just plays a button and it plays,” Hays said.

The reason for this is to create a unique sound every game, that way people do not grow tired of the gjallarhorn being played. The guest is basically being told to just sell it, meaning just lean into the horn for about two seconds so the it appears they are playing the horn, according to Hays.

There were several people that were involved with the development of the gjallarhorn at NKU such as McEldowney and Hays, but there were others involved as well. Ron Shaw, the associate professor of design and technology, had a role such as finishing off the boat that it rolls in.

“Athletics contacted me to help them finish up the boat that the gjallarhorn would travel on,” Shaw said. “They built the shell of the boat, and asked me to make it more ship-like.”

Shaw added the finishing touches to the boat such as adding boards to them to create dimension and rings so the boat can be pulled around the arena. Shaw also stated that athletics chose which NKU logo would be added.

“They provided which NKU logo to put on the shields, and printing services printed them out and attached them to the boat to finish the look,” Shaw said.

The horn itself is held together by chicken wire. It appears to be heavy due to its 10-foot length, but the material that it is made of makes it light.

The athletic department hopes that news traditions such as the gjallarhorn will summon more students to BB&T Arena for home athletic contests.