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Ælla of Northumbria subjected to the blood eagle

The blood eagle was a ritual execution purportedly performed by the Norse as offerings to Odin.


According to translations of skaldic verses, victims would be laid prone[1] before having their ribs severed from their spine, followed by the executioner(s) pulling their lungs through the wounds to display a macabre set of "wings".[2]


In 867, the Vikings Ivarr the Boneless, Ubba Ragnarsson,[3][4] and their brothers[2] used this torture method to kill King Ælla of Northumbria in retaliation for his execution of their father, Ragnar Lothbrok. Around 873, Ivarr condemned the Brittonic king Rhodri ap Merfyn to the same fate and forced the shieldmaiden Eivor Varinsdottir of the Raven Clan to watch, much to her displeasure at his sadism.[5]

Rhodri's death by blood eagle

Despite her own misgivings on the practice, Eivor was not above relying on its brutal reputation through implied threats, as she once did in 875 by describing how to perform a blood eagle in order to dissuade two unruly Lincolnscire locals from instigating a fight.[6]

Following the death of Eivor's cousin Bárid mac Ímair, king of Dublin, in a surprise attack by Abbot Eogan mac Cartaigh's army,[7] Bárid's son Sichfrith threatened to blood-eagle the traitorous clergyman. However, Eivor discouraged this rash action. Instead, she advised that he back Flann Sinna's bid as High King of Ireland, and in doing so, support and earn favor from a stronger ally who had greater odds at avenging Bárid by bringing Eogan to justice.[8]

Behind the scenes

The historical authenticity of the practice is currently debated among scholars, with some believing that the idea was created by later Christian historians who misinterpreted certain metaphorical verses in older Norse sagas.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Wikipedia-W-visual-balanced.svg Blood eagle on Wikipedia
  2. 2.0 2.1 Echoes of History: Vikings – Episode 3: Thor's Hammer
  3. Assassin's Creed: ValhallaDatabase: Ivarr and Ubba
  4. Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Blood BrothersThe Dust Settles
  5. Assassin's Creed: ValhallaKing Killer
  6. Assassin's Creed: ValhallaA Noble Escort
  7. Assassin's Creed: Valhalla – Wrath of the DruidsThe Mask of Diplomacy
  8. Assassin's Creed: Valhalla – Wrath of the DruidsThe Wages of War