Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Blood Eagle was reportedly a method of torture and execution that is sometimes mentioned in old Icelandic Viking sagas. It was performed by cutting the ribs of the victim by the spine, and breaking the ribs so they resembled blood-stained wings, then the lungs were pulled out. Salt was reportedly sprinkled in the wounds.
Another reference in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is mentioned after a battle for control of York. Ivar the Boneless had captured king Ælla , who had executed Ivar's father Ragnar Lodbrok: "They caused the bloody eagle to be carved on the back of Ælla, and they cut away all of the ribs from the spine, and then they ripped out his lungs." 
There has been debate as to the actuality of the "blood eagle," with some suggesting it was never actually practiced, arguing rather that such accounts are based upon unsupported folklore or upon inaccurate translations. Ronald Hutton's The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy reports that "the hitherto notorious rite of the 'Blood Eagle,' the killing of a defeated warrior by pulling up his ribs and lungs through his back, has been shown to be almost certainly a Christian myth resulting from the misunderstanding of some older verse." (p 282)
Thomas Harris mentions the Blood Eagle in his novel Hannibal . When Hannibal Lecter arrives back into the United States, he murders his 20th victim (a deer hunter) and arranges the corpse like the Blood Eagle.
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