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Related to ordeal: trial by ordeal


ordeal, ancient legal custom whereby an accused person was required to perform a test, the outcome of which decided the person's guilt or innocence. By an ordeal, appeal was made to divine authority to decide the guilt or innocence of one accused of a crime or to choose between disputants. This custom was known to ancient peoples as well as to those of fairly advanced material culture. Until recent times the ordeal was practiced in many parts of Asia and Africa. In the early Middle Ages it was widely used to settle legal questions in Western Europe. In England it was a regular form of trial and persisted until trial by jury became common. Forms of the ordeal varied with the locality and with the nature of the crime. The ordeal by fire—walking through fire or putting the hand into a flame—was common, and there were other fiery ordeals, such as walking on hot plowshares or plunging the hand into molten metal. Usually it was believed that if the accused were innocent God would spare him. Commonly there was a lapse of several days before the injuries were inspected; then someone considered a competent judge decided from the severity of the injuries as to innocence or guilt. One form of ordeal, the trial by water, was that used to determine whether or not an accused woman was a witch. The woman was bound and cast into water that had been blessed. If the water rejected her—i.e., if she floated—she was considered guilty. If the water received her, she was considered innocent. A common form of ordeal in contentions between two parties was the submission to some trial of chance, e.g., casting lots. Allied to this in spirit was the duel, which supposedly worked on the principle that God would favor the cause of the righteous in the battle. The trial by battle or by combat (sometimes called a judicial duel or wager of battle) was a recognized procedure in the Middle Ages. It was introduced from France to England after the Norman Conquest. In this trial, one of the contending parties issued a wager of battle, or challenge. Both parties under oath declared their assertions truthful; a duel was fought, and the victor was awarded the decision. In case one of the parties was a woman, a child, or a feeble man, he or she could be represented by a champion, i.e., a knight who was a relative or who had agreed to fight. As time went on a class of professional champions arose. The Roman Catholic Church from early times disapproved of the ordeal despite its apparently religious aspect, and in 1215 it categorically forbade the clergy to take part in such ceremonies.
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The torture inflicted upon an accused witch during the persecutions. It might take the form of red hot irons, thumbscrews, boot jacks, water torture, or any of a number of atrocious punishments administered by the Christian persecutors.

The "Ordeal" is also the name given to the part of the Wiccan initiation ceremony in which the neophyte is bound and blindfolded. There is no torture involved here, but the very fact of not knowing what is about to happen is considered an ordeal of sorts.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


History a method of trial in which the guilt or innocence of an accused person was determined by subjecting him to physical danger, esp by fire or water. The outcome was regarded as an indication of divine judgment
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The victim said the suspects threatened him to use the recorded video for blackmailing his family and pressurized him to make the ordeal secret otherwise video go the viral on social media.
Del Rosario endured a six-hour ordeal at the Hong Kong International Airport as he was scheduled to attend meetings of the First Pacific's board and shareholders.
After the ordeal, the teenager said she was almost unconscious in the bedroom when the homeowner allegedly raped her before asking her to take a shower and leave.
The hikers lit a bonfire in the jungle and kept in contact with the rescue team throughout their ordeal.
I'd urge those who may know the identity of the people responsible to examine their conscience and think how they would feel if a loved one of theirs was pregnant and subjected to such an awful ordeal."
I sympathise with comedian Michael McIntyre over his Rolex raid ordeal - having been mugged in my car myself.
"This hedgehog will have suffered immeasurably by this horrendous ordeal, and was found with a series of injuries - including facial problems, and a bleeding nose, mouth and leg.
Katie - who recently suffered a violent robbery ordeal with kids Princess, 10, and Junior, 12 - felt insecure about her looks.
The lady revealed the alleged ordeal on her Instagram page and named Frank Wanyama, a Harlequins Rugby Club player, and one of his colleagues as the perpetrators.
In a hot water ordeal, a priest boiled a cauldron of water into which he threw a stone or ring.
A MAN is in a stable condition in hospital after being beaten by masked men during an abduction ordeal.
NEWS: Geordie worker tells of his horrific ordeal after the jailing of evil gang.