The Trial by Ordeal:

In order for the Anglo-Saxons to determine if a person was guilty or not guilty, they had what was called a Trial by Ordeal. This meant that the accused had to prove that he was innocent, usually by a physical hardship.

One of the ways this happened was to place a stone in the bottom of a boiling bucket of water. The accused had to reach down into the water, grab the stone, and then bring his/her hand back out of the water. The hand was wrapped in bandages for three days. After the third day, the hand is unwrapped and if it is healed, or healing nicely, then that person is innocent. If, however, the person's hand is infected or worse than it was when it was bandaged, the accused is guilty and must pay for whatever crime they supposedly committed.

image1.gifInterestingly enough, if the "ordeal's" rules are broken, the accused must pay the king 120 shillings as a fine. It is unclear if the ordeal is to be repeated or not.

This is just one example of a Trial by Ordeal. There are many others that have been documented. Here is are some links of other websites that describe other ordeals that are known:



Trial by Ordeal vs. Trial of Today:

With the Trial by Ordeal, in order to show innocence, the accused has to go through some painful physical trial. If the accused has been healed, it is assumed that God healed them and so they are innocent.

In the modern-day trial, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Each side has a lawyer who uses evidence to prove their case. The process is almost wholly emotional instead of physical. Also, God doesn't decide if a person is innocent, as they assumed in Anglo-Saxon. A judge and jury are to decide, through evidence, if the accused is guilty or not guilty.

These two can be compared, then, to show how the Anglo-Saxons valued the judgment of some kind of God figure over the opinion of a man, letís say a Judge, in deciding whether or not somebody was guilty.

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