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The Sacred Ritual of the Blood Eagle

The ancient ritual from the Viking Age known as the Blood Eagle is quite the popular subject in recent years since it was depicted in the television series Vikings. But was it a common practice? Was it reserved for only the “worthy”? How exactly did it take place and what evidence exists to expand upon this ritual? Well for that I have gathered some of the best sources and research online for you to explore and dive deeper into the legendary ritual known as the Blood Eagle.

The blood eagle ritual was a sacrifice usually done to a captured enemy. It was mostly associated with God Odin as it give homage to God for giving victory. There were several ways to conduct the blood eagle ritual. However, the typical blood eagle involved the back being slice open; the ribs slashed from its attachment and then pulled back by the executioner. The lungs were then drag to exposed ribs, creating an image of wings of an eagle, the bird associated to Odin. Sometimes, salt was sprinkled as the wounded back to insight further pain to the victim.

The lurid ritual was depicted in some poems, stories, and historical records. In the Poetic Edda of the 13th century, Lyngvi who was captured by his enemy, Sigurd, became victim of the blood eagle ritual. In another story from the Thattr Orms Storolfssonar, Orm drew a blood eagle from the back of Brusi in a cave. A historical record known as the Orkneyinga Saga from the 13th century depicted how Earl Einar did a blood eagle ritual from the back of Halfdan in the island of Orkni. But the most well-known record of the blood eagle was from a historically based poem of Sighvatr Poroarson, the Knutsdrapa. According from the poem. King Aella of Northumbria killed the legendary king Ragnar Lodbrok. To avenge his father, Ivar the Boneless attacked Northumbria. The forces of Ivar and Aella met in 867 in the Battle of York. Ivar luckily captured Aella. To satisfy vengeance and give homage to Odin, Ivar slashed the back of the poor Aella and drew a blood eagle from back of the Northumbrian King. However, many disputed if the interpretation of the text was correct or a result mistranslation. Nevertheless, many persist that King Aella was a victim of the blood eagle ritual… SOURCE

Expert medical theory on how a Blood Eagle was performed.
The Orkneyinga Saga as mentioned above tells of the Blood Eagle.

Further Resources:

An Anatomy of the Blood Eagle: The Practicalities of Viking Torture

Did the Vikings Actually Torture Victims With the Brutal ‘Blood Eagle’?

Executed: The Blood Eagle of the Vikings

Was Kildalton the Site of a Bloody Viking Ritual?

Torf-Einar and the Blood Eagle

King Aelle and the Blood Eagle: Ritual Sacrifice in Viking Age Britain

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