Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: O is for Ordeal

There were several types of ordeal to determine whether a person was guilty or not.  Prepare to be amazed!

1. Ordeal by fire - walking over hot ploughshares for a distance of 9 feet. Innocence determined by either total lack of injury, or if the injury was only festering after three days.

2. Ordeal by boiling water - suspect had to dip his hand into a pot of boiling water to retrieve a stone.  Innocence determined by whether or not the burns had healed in three days.

3.  Ordeal by cold water - suspect was submerged in a stream either in a barrel or with a millstone around his neck.  Innocence determined by whether or not he survived!

4.  Ordeal by cold water (witches only) - suspect is submerged as above, but sinks if guilty, floats if innocent.

5.  Ordeal by cross - accuser AND accused stand either side of a cross with their arms out horizontally.  The first one to lower his arms is the loser.

6.  Ordeal by ingestion - bread and cheese blessed by a priest were administered.  Guilty if the suspect choked.

7.  Ordeal by poison (Nigeria) - fed a poisonous bean.  If defendant vomited it up, they were innocent.

8.  Ordeal by boiling oil (India) - as #2, but both accuser AND accused had to dip their hands in boiling oil.  Whoever had uninjured hands afterwards was innocent.

9.  Ordeal by turf (Iceland) - suspect had to walk underneath a piece of turf.  If the turf fell on his head, he was guilty.


  1. I think the only ordeal I would want to have to endure is the ordeal by ingestion. Of course, with my luck, I'd probably choke. :)

    Tales of a Pee Dee Mama

  2. I think your ordeal by water for witches is the wrong way round. If you drowned you were innocent and if you floated you were guilty - and then burnt at the stake! A lose, lose situation.

  3. Well spotted, Chris! :o)

  4. I wonder if anybody was declared innocent.



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