The contribution analyses the literary motif of acquiring trophy heads in the context of warfare practices depicted in kakavin, court poems composed in a literary register of Old Javanese. In the first part, two terms of unclear meaning, cәṅәl and varagaṅ, are discussed in detail. It is argued that Old Javanese cәṅәl denotes ‘trophy head’, a severed head rendered as a token of martial prowess. Evidence of the Navanatya, an Old Javanese account of court etiquette composed in the 14th century, is used to support my claim that fictive kakavin do reflect the practice of head-taking as part of Javanese pre-Islamic warfare culture. It is demonstrated that the status of head-taking in kakavin is ambiguous. Though typically ascribed to the characters of adharma, the king, a protector of dharma, is represented in a couple of texts as a receiver of trophy heads. In the second and third parts of this article the category of combatants called varagaṅ, associated in Old Javanese texts with predatory warfare and with adharma, is analysed. Fighting as individuals in a loosely dispersed swarm, the main objective of the strategy of varagaṅ was to harass enemy settlements, take captives, and spread terror. It is argued that the category of varagaṅ represented young men who had to prove themselves in battle and whose major objective was to display martial prowess in front of other warriors in one-to-one skirmishing.