The judicial system was much different in ancient times from what we know it to be today. In the absence of facts, and methods to obtain evidence to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused, the method of trial by ordeal was used, where the accused had to do something dangerous. You just might find these five trials by ordeal in history that you’re about to read are weird but remember, they were acceptable and justified at that time.
1. Ordeal by Combat
In the case of two people who were in a dispute, there was a trial by combat to determine who was guilty and who was not. The two individuals participated in a duel. In that time, it was believed that God supported righteous people. Therefore, the winner of the duel was said to have won not by his own might but by the help of God and was declared innocent. If the loser survived, he would be punished. In cases of minor crime, the guilty person’s property was confiscated.
2. Ordeal By The Host
Priests were held in high regard in ancient times and still are. A priest who was accused of a crime or perjury had to prove his innocence. At the altar, he prayed out loud to God that an obstruction be put in his throat if he was not being truthful. He then proceeded to eat a piece of host or altar bread. He was found innocent if there was no sign of difficulty as he swallowed; however, any signs of discomfort or an obstruction when swallowing meant that the priest was guilty.
3. Ordeal by Diving
Cockfights were very common in Southeast Asia and India. Trial by this ordeal was used in these countries to resolve cockfighting-related disagreements. Two poles were fastened to the bottom of a crystal clear pond. The two parties each selected a representative who jumped into the water and grabbed the pole. It was believed that the party who was truthful was the one who stayed submerged the longest. Whatever was at stake, typically money, was won by him.
4. Ordeal By Cross
The ordeal by combat was replaced by the ordeal by cross. The guilt and innocence of the accused and the accuser was determined by subjecting them to an unpleasant experience. They stood before the cross in a church, held their arms out horizontally and formed a cross with their arms. The person who kept his arms out in that formation longer was declared the winner. This ordeal was later abolished to avoid the mockery of Christ.
5. Ordeal by Bitter Water
This ordeal was used if a woman was accused of committing adultery. She tried to prove her innocence by going through this process which was spoken of in the Bible in the book of Numbers. The ritual was conducted by the priest at the altar in the presence of the husband. Ground barley was offered at the altar and the wife swore an oath which was written on a scroll that she had been with no other man other than her husband. The scroll was washed in a cup of water and mixed with dirt, by the priest. The wife would proceed to drink the mixture which was thought to negatively affect the reproductive system. If she remained fertile she was proven innocent.
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