Blood Eagle – The World’s Ritualized Method of Execution

The “Blood Eagle” is one of the most horrific, savage and slowest torture methods ever explained. It is affiliated to the Vikings of the 9th Century. It is said to have been conceived for the first time by one of the most notorious and atrocious Vikings – Ivar the Boneless – who would have used it to frighten his enemies. So, how does it work? According to Smithsonian Magazine:

First the intended victim would be restrained, face down; next, the shape of an eagle with outstretched wings would cut into his back. After that, his ribs would be hacked from his spine with an ax, one by one, and the bones and skin on both sides pulled outward to create a pair of “wings” from the man’s back. The victim, it is said, would still be alive at this point to experience the agony of what Turner terms “saline stimulant”—having salt rubbed, quite literally, into his vast wound. After that, his exposed lungs would be pulled out of his body and spread over his “wings,” offering witnesses the sight of a final birdlike “fluttering” as he died.



Sounds terrible! Here are some details about it to help you answer those questions for yourself!

The victim would either be severed in the front (disemboweling) and the ribs would be separated. Leaving the thoracic cavity exposed and unprotected. Alternatively, the victim could be cut from behind; the torturer drives his hands into the victim’s torso and forward and separates the ribs in such a way that they come out through the back. Giving the illusion of wings and thus a “bloody eagle”.

Although, this is a gruesome fate. It was almost human, in a sense, because it caused almost instantaneous death, other than because the massive loss of blood often triggered a cascade of shock. Other methods of torture aimed at keeping the victim alive and making them suffer.

For example, hot coals could be used at the back of the knees and elbows, burning the tendons and tying the limbs in a way which would make them completely flexed. Thus, they would heal in this way and the victim would be left with functionless limbs.. Ouch.

This cruel method had a long tradition in Scandinavia and was used against the most revolting enemies. There is no specific date related to its origins and there is no specific legal prohibition regarding its use, but popular culture portrayals keep it alive and well.

The historical debate over whether or not the Blood Eagle actually happened continues – Was it a real punishment? Was its involvement in Viking sagas part of Christian propaganda meant to illustrate the Scandinavian pagans as heretics? Has the tradition of the Blood Eagle gone beyond the historical accuracy of its existence?

What do you think?

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