How Norwegians made sure criminals went to hell

From Science Nordic: How Norwegians made sure criminals went to hell.

Skulls buried in a half-circle, facing southeast. A decapitated skeleton, with its head buried between its thighs and the feet cut off. Skeletons where the skulls have been removed and heads buried separately, upside down.

These might sound like the ingredients of a Hollywood horror movie, or perhaps a pagan ritual, but they are not. Instead, they are all examples of ways that Norwegian society from 500 years ago tried to guarantee that criminals and other bad people got the punishment they deserved, not only on Earth but also in the eternal afterlife.

All of these examples have been excavated over the last 20 years in Norway from an area southwest of Oslo, in a town called Skien. Archaeologists recognize an area in the town as one of first Christian burial grounds. Later, the same area was a place where criminals were executed. [continue]

3 thoughts on “How Norwegians made sure criminals went to hell

  1. This is a little bit off the point but I can’t resist an opportunity to tell a nice story. It deals with the concept of consecrated ground. In the area where I grew up (rural Tasmania) the Catholic Church at a nearby farming district (not a town) had its own burial ground carved out of the neighbouring cow paddocks and demarcated with a barbed wire fence. One of the parishioners was married to a Protestant woman. When she died the widower was refused permission to bury her in the “cemetery”. So he bought the paddock next door, buried her as close as possible to the church and extended the barbed wire fence around her grave. I haven’t been back there for thirty years or more but at that time the extended fence was still there for all to see.

  2. Another fascinating article that pairs well with the one you posted above about Mediaeval mutilation of the dead. And thank you for sharing your story, Peter; it shows the enduring nature of religious beliefs!

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