The Bloodiest Viking Ritual That Will Scare People Off
Long gone the Vikings and their great aesthetic ship construction. What left now is the reputation and their tales. Of all the subjects, the Viking traditional rituals are mysterious and awesome to study.
Though this ritual wasn't proven historical, it appeared in the Viking written texts and sources for us to learn more about the Vikings. The ritual was known as the Blood Eagle. This Viking ritual was believed to be a human sacrifice to Odin the Allfather the most powerful god in Norse Pantheon.
The victim would be kept alive to feel the pain until he could no longer
Just like what the name indicates, the Blood Eagle ritual was to depict an eagle on the body of the sacrifice. But it wasn't drawing on the body. Rather, it was the process of carving and turning the ribs to imitate the image of the eagle.
Back being carved, ribs and lungs being pulled out
During the ritual, the victim was still alive. The victim was put in a place to face to the ground and the back was open to the sky. They gave him a quick and sharp cut in his back from which the ritual would begin. As you guess, an imitation of the eagle would be on the back of the victim. The ribs inside would be pulled away from the spine and stretched out like the wings of the eagle. The lungs of the victim would be pulled out too. And they would be spread over the ribs. To add more cruelty, the ritual would be carried out from the chest of the victim, creating the wings of the eagle in front.
The ribs being stretched out and lungs pulled out the imitate the wings of an eagle
Once the wings were in the shape, the salt sometimes would be rubbed into the wound
Indeed, that pain wasn't enough to express the great respect toward the pantheon. Sometimes, the wound of the victims would be rubbed with the salt.
Many accounts said that the victims weren't dead at this point. But how could a man with his ribs and lungs pulled out not dead? The victims were kept alive from the beginning of the rituals to feel all the pain. This is a way to express the respect towards gods and also a part of the ritual. But the victim must have died before he could feel how it was like to be taken his lungs away.
A sacrifice offered to Norse gods, especially Odin?
Whether the Blood Eagle was a sacrifice to Norse gods or not remains a mystery. But saying that it is a mystery doesn't mean we don't have any interpretation about it. Many scholars do believe that this ritual is for Odin whether the ritual was historical or not.
A scene of Blood Eagle Ritual from "Vikings" TV Series
Stora Hamma I was a stone picture depicting a man lying and a ritual was carried out around him. What draws our attention was the Valknut symbol and two birds. It's hard to tell what species of bird appeared but the big bird very much resembled an eagle while the other might be raven one of Odin's constant companions. Indeed, with a careful look and a source of knowledge about the Norse saga, we can't help relating the Stora Hamma I with the scene of Bloody Eagle ritual.
Stora Hamma I Image stone
Moreover, in Valhalla, the eagle was among the guardians at the gates of Valhalla. Legend had it that, dogs guarded the gates with the eagle flying above. Probably, the ritual was to offer Odin more guardians to his Valhalla. The victim was believed to be the captives of the enemies or the defeated warriors. If it was true that the Vikings sacrificed their foes to Odin, it somehow showed the Vikings were still merciful. Because they could have cursed their foes to the Helheim land of death to never feel joy again. Instead, they offered them to serve Odin in the land of Asgard where many Viking warriors desired to come and feast with Gods.
Historical or legendary?
As mentioned above, many dispute if the Blood Eagle was historical or not. Maybe the final answer would never be figured out. Because Viking tradition has been gone for centuries and we don't even what source is reliable. Maybe the reliable sources are no longer with us. But whatever the answer might be, the Blood Eagle is still interesting to many.