Have you heard of harsh punishments meted throughout history? You may have heard the mention of The Blood Eagle.
This term originates from a rather bloody and brutal period in European history, the age of the Vikings. However, these people and their way of life were more complex than just the bloodthirsty pillagers that most people know them.
In global history, they hold a truly fascinating place. But who are they exactly, and what is this brutish Blood Eagle rite all about? Read on if you are intrigued!
Who Were The Vikings?
The Vikings were mariners, mostly from Scandinavia. A region split into the countries of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.
They attacked, plundered, traded, and established themselves in the northern parts of Europe. These events took place between the 8th to the 11th century.
In the West, Vikings have been epitomized by many as mostly murderers or rapists. In most known works like The Last Kingdom, these views of the Scandinavians are largely English.
The Saxons, precursors of the English, experienced much antagonism from the Vikings throughout their long history. These invaders were known for carrying out long raids, establishing trade routes worldwide, and settling wherever possible by force.
A curious fact – Many period illustrations depict the Vikings committing to maintaining a balanced population of males and females. Saxon storytellers speak of the Viking practice of murdering female infants to preserve this gender balance.
Today, many historians, however, see them as mere settlers than solely murderers and plunderers. Their legacy nevertheless remains a subject of discussion to date.
The Vikings are legendary soldiers, and some do still exist. They are called out for a lot of negativity and violence because of their past. However, with the few that exist today, they are more on the positive side of things.
These Vikings reside in a place called the Viking land. It is an area just on the west coast of Norway, where they adhere to most of the ideals of their forefathers. They continue to practice their beliefs in the Norse Gods, Odin, Thor, and their retinue.
The Process Of Blood Eagle
The Blood Eagle was a horrific Viking punishment. It is a question of considerable debate, not just because it was an execution but because of the way it was carried out.
The first-ever eyewitness story of an instance of this execution style was reported in 867. Aella, the King of Northumbria, was killed in a revolt by Ivarr the Boneless.
Like a vulture, people were called to a spot where their ribs would be ripped apart. It started directly on the spine till the lungs were visible. Through those lungs, they would pierce the bones.
It became worse. As if this was not sufficient torment, the ribs and intestines were ripped apart and removed from the body. That would make the inner portions look like wings at first. And that’s how the practice got its name, the Blood Eagle.
Usually, it starts when the victim is placed down and made to rest on his belly. Even after going through the ordeal, the victim would somehow stay breathing and alive. Saltwater was rubbed in the wounds to continue the torture.
The victim would die when the lungs were eventually pushed outward into the wings.
Is Blood Eagle Real Or A Myth?
We don’t know if the practice of blood eagle was real or just a matter of fictional account.
The Blood Eagle originally was Odin’s sacred ritual. Therefore, it was a human sacrifice to the Norse God, apart from being a severe punishment or execution.
Although the Aella incident implicates it as a genuine and only account of the event, claims have been made that many more kings and leaders died by Norse hands over the years in this brutal way.
In two occurrences in Norse Literature, the ritual Blood-Eagle ceremonial has been mentioned. Some indirect references to the same behavior have also been noted.
Why Was Blood Eagle So Important To The Vikings?
The Vikings devised and put individuals through the dangerous Blood Eagle for two major reasons:
They thought it was a sacrifice to Odin, the father of the pantheon.
Secondly, it was considered an effective lesson to any opposing forces. They saw it to be a fitting punishment for a leader.
The question remains, did the Vikings really make this kind of insane slaughter so brutal on purpose?
The Vikings themselves are supposed to have devised and started the Blood Eagle. As noted above, the Blood Eagle was first used in 867 in Aella.
However, there is a disagreement over the practice beforehand. It is doubtful whether it was an invention by storytellers who fabricated a story to sensationalize and perhaps, demonize the Vikings. However, the Vikings, as a people, have been clear pioneers of severe punishment in the past.
Why Were The Vikings So Harsh?
The Vikings attacked coastal monasteries, plundered cities, and destroyed the rest. That provoked the monks’ profound dread since they felt that it was the wrath of God.
They labored with unjustified aggression and thought that it worked well for their trade expeditions. This group was considered highly hostile as entities and leaders who could see violence simply as retribution.
Even if they were all hard and harsh, they were vulnerable and frightened. In particular, the Vikings were concerned about the western Lochs, nicknamed the Scotch Fjords.
Among the people they did not wish to meet were the Gaels of Western Scotland and Ireland too.
Certainly, the Vikings were one of a kind, shaping history in their own way. The Blood Eagle has exalted the heroic vengeance structure presented by the writer.
Although numerous written documents refer to it as an actual practice, many still disavow it as a rumor. One thing is for sure, Blood Eagle by the Vikings is a topic of intriguing discussion.