Name this Viking punishment.
December 8, 2006 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Which Viking torture / punishment involved progressively severing segments of the limbs?

I remember reading somewhere about a punishment or form of extended execution practiced amongst the Old Norse or Germanic peoples that involved cutting off the victim's fingertips, then the fingers, then the hands, then the forearms and then the upper arms. Ditto for the legs. I think they salved or tied off the stumps to prevent bleeding to death before the punishment could be meted out completely. I seem to remember that some, if not all of those tortured in this manner were allowed, or even required to live as a further humiliation.

What was the name of the punishment, and what was the victim pejoratively labelled after it was complete?
posted by Black Spring to Human Relations (13 answers total)
Death by a thousand cuts. It's in Wikipedia.
posted by calhound at 3:02 PM on December 8, 2006

But it's not Viking, it's Chinese: ε‡Œι²/ε‡ŒθΏŸ.
posted by languagehat at 3:13 PM on December 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Are you thinking of the Blood Eagle? It's how Edmund, King of East Anglia, was killed in 870. The process didn't involve systematic cutting off of limbs but did involve bleeding to death. Here's the Wikipedia link.
posted by randomination at 3:14 PM on December 8, 2006

That's the Chinese one, calhound.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:16 PM on December 8, 2006

Tangentially related, but you should read the account of the viking funeral in this (excellent) book.
posted by SBMike at 4:18 PM on December 8, 2006

"Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why!..."

Not helpful. Sorry.
posted by SlyBevel at 5:02 PM on December 8, 2006

I've heard of the Blood Eagle punishment and this one's definitely distinct.

Unfortunately I can't remember where I read about this ritual. It could have been in an academic historical text or in something like The Eaters of the Dead, so the practice could simply have been invented by a single author.

If it helps, I believe that the humiliated victims were stigmatised with a label which sounded something like the deity 'Heimdallr.'
posted by Black Spring at 5:16 PM on December 8, 2006

SlyBevel: I just realised where you quoted that from. Made me smile.

Black Spring: Sorry, I'm all out. I studied Old Norse for a bit (albeit badly) and I never heard of anything like this in the sagas.
posted by randomination at 5:39 PM on December 8, 2006

I think SlyBevel has it.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:59 PM on December 8, 2006

Drop. Your. Sword.

Sorry, sorry. *grin*
posted by ZakDaddy at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2006

"You were bluffing! I knew it! I knew he was... bluffing."
posted by The Confessor at 7:23 PM on December 8, 2006

Orson Scott Card has this in a story in "Maps in a Mirror" or whatever his short story collection is called. I think it was called "King's Meat."
posted by craniac at 10:48 PM on December 8, 2006

Never heard of this, and I've got a lot of study in on the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings.

As the wikipedia article points out, there is some controversy about the blood eagle, and if it actually ever happened.
posted by QIbHom at 11:27 PM on December 8, 2006

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