Graphic, slow and cruel, the Blood Eagle is one of the most nightmarish torture methods of history to ever be described. It is closely associated with the Vikings. Authors from the 12th- and 13th-centuries, it was a long standing Scandinavian tradition used on the worst of enemies and criminals. The exact date when this torture technique originated is unknown and there exists no proof that it was ever legally banned or prohibited.
The Victim Was Arched And Carved; The Ribs And Lungs Pulled Through The Living Body
The Viking’s Blood Eagle is conventionally thought of being carried out by carving and eagle onto the back of the victim. Through the carving, his back was then pried open and his ribs were detached from the spine, one at a time. Following that, his lungs would be pulled out and spread over the ribs. The final show supposedly represented an eagle.
Some translations vary and state that the carving was not necessarily done on the back – at times it was carried out on the front torso as well.
It Was An Act Of Sacrificial Offering To The God Of War, Odin
Prior to battles and after, the Norse war god Odin was meant to be the recipient of Blood Eagle sacrifices. The death of Hdlfddn’s death mentioned in “The Orkneyinga Saga” was meant to be an act of sacrifice as well as revenge. However, later authors omitted the sacrificial offering reference.
Some scholars share the idea that the Blood Eagle existed way before and was connected to more human sacrifices made to Odin. However, this remains debatable.
Rubbing Salt Into The Open Cuts Followed The Carvings and Mutilation
The book “Gesta Danorum” by Saxo Grammaticus states that after the mutilations to the body of the victim were carried out, salt was rubbed in the flesh.
“For the slayer by a cruel death of their captive father, Ragnar’s sons act the blood-eagle on Ella, and salt his flesh.”
Saxo famously recorded the history and oral traditions in his writings from the late 12th and early 13th century.
The Blood Eagle Was Enacted On Honor-less People
Apparently, one had to commit an act that made him fall from grace in order to be subject to the Blood Eagle. In “Frithiof’s Saga,” Bjorn vows to perform the Blood Eagle on the man who murdered his comrade, stating:
“Fall’st Thou, War Brother! I’ll ‘venge Thee well;
Blood-Eagle lines on Thy foe shall be flowing.”
Similarly, “The Orkneyinga Saga” observes the use of the Blood Eagle on Hdlfddn (Halfdan) after he faced defeat in battle.
“Next morning they found Hdlfddn Hdlegg on Kinar’s Hill. The Earl made a blood eagle be cut on his back with the sword, and had his ribs severed from the back-bone, and his lungs pulled out.”
It Was Termed Blood Eagle Or Blood Owl
The conventional Viking technique of brutal torture was mainly associated with the eagle. However, it can also be attributed with an owl. Saxo explains that the eagle term was used by those who found delight “to crush their most ruthless foe by marking him with the cruelest of birds.”
Alternatively, Frithiof’s Saga’s author highlighted that the act could also be termed, “Blood Owl.”
Many historians debate over whether the Blood Eagle was ever actually a thing. Questions such as, “Was it a real punishment?” arise often. A lot of people share the idea that the lore of the torture method exceeded the reality of it all. Others are of the view that it was only included in Viking sagas by the Christians in a propaganda to portray the pagans as heathens.