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Wikidata:Property proposal/ordeal by

ordeal byEdit

Originally proposed at Wikidata:Property proposal/Generic

   Done: ordeal by (P7209) (Talk and documentation)
Descriptionmanner of judicial practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused was determined.
Representstrial by ordeal (Q40745)
Data typeItem
Domainitems about trials by ordeal e.g. Q43398278
Allowed valuessubclasses of trial by ordeal (Q40745), linked to items e.g. dunking (Q4204228)
Allowed unitsnot applicable
Example 1trial of John Scot (Q43398278) → searching for Devil’s marks [Item to be created]
Example 2trial of Jonet Coutts (Q43398389) → Bierricht (corpse bleeds) [Item to be created]
Example 3trial of Elspeth Tod (Q43398629)pricking (Q7242689)
Example 4trial of Alexander Lyle (Q43403342)dunking (Q4204228) -->
SourceRecorded in Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database in judicial actions e.g. trial of John Scot [1]
Planned useTo add the ordeal by statement on the witch trial items in Scotland already created.


I am working on importing elements of the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database (1563 to 1736) with a student intern and there is good information on the types of ordeal employed during the trial process for the accused witches in the database (corpse bleeding, witch pricking, dunking in water, searching for the devil's mark etc.). The motivation therefore is that there is a gap in that Wikidata could model the different ordeal types which took place as part of historic judicial actions in a number of different cultures as covered in the Trial by ordeal Wikipedia page and could also include trial by combat as an ordeal also, which would serve historic datasets like this one but equally could also serve modern instances where someone has undergone such treatment. Stinglehammer (talk) 12:10, 13 August 2019 (UTC)


  Comment Just as an addendum, we have information on the 5 types of 'ordeal' the accused witches underwent. where ordeal is defined as "test conducted in order to let nature or God reveal the truth. It was technically distinct from torture, although many ordeals involved painful procedures".
  1. Bierricht (corpse bleeds): corpse bleeds when touched by person who was guilty of the murder
  2. Ducking: otherwise known as the water test. The accused person was put in water to see if they floated. If they sank they were seen to be innocent and efforts were made to rescue the suspect. If they floated they were seen to be guilty. This test was rarely used in Scotland.
  3. Pricking: the body of the suspect witch was pricked with pins in order to find a Devil’s mark. Learned belief said that the Devil’s mark was left on the body of the witch after she or he had sealed a pact with the Devil. It was believed to be insensitive to pain. Often moles, warts or other visible skin blemishes were tested and shown to be Devil’s marks.
  4. Searching: searching for Devil’s marks
  5. Victim Fit: used in possession cases to identify the person causing the possession, victim had fit in presence of suspected persecutor.
The description seems to be very specific. How about the more general "manner of judicial practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused was determined"? ChristianKl❫ 21:22, 13 August 2019 (UTC)
@ChristianKl: - Have amended the description accordingly. Stinglehammer (talk) 13:33, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
@Stinglehammer: Good, as far as the description goes. With the wider scope it seems like a different name for the label would be appropriate as well. Do you have any ideas about what might be a fitting label? ChristianKl❫ 11:08, 15 August 2019 (UTC)
@ChristianKl: Hmmm, I think trial type or similar would be useful to have if we go to a broader definition. ordeal by obviously is more specific instances that had unpleasant, often painful methods of determining guilt or innocence. Can see arguments for both. Stinglehammer (talk) 10:37, 17 August 2019 (UTC)

@Jura1: I find the creation in a state where the label doesn't really match the description problematic. ChristianKl❫ 07:13, 21 August 2019 (UTC)

  • label and description seem to cover the usecases that were provided (see samples above) and the property seems to work out so far (already > 100 uses). --- Jura 21:22, 21 August 2019 (UTC)
  • @Jura1:It does cover the usages for the which trials, the current description is however open enough for matters of determining guilt that aren't unpleasant/painful and was purposefully chosen that way. the unmatching label can produce problems in the future when someone actually wants to log data about methods that aren't unpleasant/painful. ChristianKl❫ 12:47, 27 August 2019 (UTC)