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  • noun [ feminine ]
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or-dál, -dél; generally neuter, but an apparently fem. acc. pl. ordéla occurs,
    L. Edg. C. 24; Th. ii. 248, 28.
(Cf. O. H. Ger. which has fem. and neut. forms.)
Wright's OE grammar
In the sense of judicial decision, judgment the word is used by O. Frs. O. Sax. O. H. Ger. (v. Richthofen, the Heliand and Graff), but in A. Sax. it is found only in the special sense, which belongs also to the O. Frs., of a decision which follows an appeal to the Deity. The ordeal was thus connected with religion, and attended by religious ceremonies. In L. Ath. i. 23; Th. i. 210, 26, it is said with respect to the person who is to undergo the ordeal
'féde hine sylfne mid hláfe and mid wætere and sealte and wyrtum ǽr hé tó gán scyle, and gestande him mæssan ðæra þreora daga (the three days preceding the ordeal) ǽlcne, and geoffrige tó, and gá tó húsle ðý dæge ðe hé tó ðam ordále gán scyle, and swerige ðonne ðane áþ, ðæt hé sý unscyldig ðære tihtlan ǽr hé tó ðam ordále gá.' Before taking the Eucharist and going to the ordeal a solemn form of adjuration was addressed to the person concerned, that unless he was conscious of innocence he should desist, v. Rtl. 114, 13-23. The further proceedings in connection with the ordeal by hot water or by hot iron are detailed in L. Ath. iv. 7; Th. i. 226, 8. After the fire to be used in heating was carried into the church, none were to enter but the priest and the accused. When the iron was hot or the water boiled, two men for the accused, two for the accuser, were admitted, to see that the proceedings were fairly conducted. When hot water was employed, if it were a case of ánfeald tihtle, the hand was plunged in up to the wrist, if of threefold, up to the elbow. When the hot iron was used, a weight of one pound or of three pounds, according to the case, had to be carried nine feet. The hand was then sealed up, and its condition, when unwrapped at the end of three days, determined the guilt or innocence of the accused. See also L. Ath. i. 23; Th. i. 212, 2-10. Further reference to the difference in degree is made in Ath. iv. 6; Th. i. 224, 13: L. Edg. H. 9; Th. i. 260, 18. Among those who were to be subjected to this form of trial are mentioned convicted perjurors, who after conviction are not 'áþwyrðe ac ordáles wyrðe,' L. Ed. 3; Th. i. 160, 18-21: the man who was charged with plotting against his lord, or with being guilty of 'cyricbryce,' or with practising witchcraft and similar illicit arts underwent the threefold ordeal, L. Ath. i. 4-6; Th. i. 202, 1-17; and the same trial was appointed in the case of incendiaries, L. Ath. iv. 6; Th. i. 224, 11-19, and of coiners, L. Ath. i. 14; Th. i. 206, 17-25: L. Eth. iii. 8; Th. i. 296, 12-16. The ordeal is also mentioned as being the only method of meeting an accusation in a case between English and Welsh, 'ne stent nán óðer lád æt tihtlan búte ordál betweox Wealan and Englan,' L. O. D. 2; Th. i. 354, 1-2. The ordeal must take place in a king's burgh, 'Ǽlc ordál beó on ðæs kyninges byrig,' L. Eth. iii. 6; Th. i. 296, 4, and upon fastdays and festivals could not be used, 'ordél and áþas syndan tócwedene freólsdagum and rihtfæstendagum,' L. E. G. 9; Th. i. 172, 10: L. Eth. v. 18; Th. i. 308, 24-27: vi. 25; Th. i. 320, 24-27: L. Edg. C. 24; Th. ii. 248, 27. Wé forbeódaþ ordál and áþas freólsdagum and ymbrendagum and lenctendagum and rihtfæstendagum and fram aduentum domini óþ octabas epiphanie and fram septuagesima óþ fífténe niht ofer eástran, Wulfst. 117, 14. See Schmid. A. S. Gesetz., Grmm. R. A. pp. 863 sqq., 908 sqq., and cf. cor-snǽd. As an instance of the occurrence of the word elsewhere than in the Laws, see Chart. Th. 432, where the phrase áþ and ordél occurs several times.
[O. Frs. or-, ur-dél: O. Sax. ur-deili: O. H. Ger. ur-teil, -teila, -teili judicium, sentential.]
Similar entries
v. ísen-, wæter-ordál.
Linked entries
v.  ísen-ordál.
Full form


  • or-dál, n.