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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

trial by ordeal An early system of judgment in which the accused was pitted against a person who had been appointed by the court or by the accuser himself, in combat or some other form of competition. Divine powers were believed to regulate the outcome. In cases where, for example, a maiden was unable to battle with a man, a “champion” might be assigned to her. Other ordeals, such as handling hot metal, plunging a hand into burning embers, or being submerged under water might also be ordered by the court. In tests of witches, if the accused survived the ordeal, he or she was guilty; if not, he or she was innocent. The testing process was not an ideal one.
      See also Bible.

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