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I'm currently inventing a culture based on strength and power. They believe there's a fire in everybody that gives them life and power. They glorify warriors and strength. The culture lives in an medieval setting, and there is something like fire magic.

Now I need an execution method as punishment for crime. I thought it should be something that shows in public that the person has lost its strength and honor. I don't think a simple beheading would work, for example.

Burning dead bodies on a pyre (they believe in rebirth like a phoenix) is the usual funeral, so that wouldn't be fitting either.

Do any of you have an idea for a fitting execution method?

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    $\begingroup$ Is your goal to give them absolutely no strength or honor, or is your goal to give them an opportunity to redeem themselves in the afterlife (consider Sepukku, which was a very painful way to die, but brought honor) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 27 '14 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ I just want them to die for their crimes with no chance to redeem themselves and also given no chance for a rebirth $\endgroup$ – lordofbonzo Dec 27 '14 at 18:00
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How about drowning? Water is often seen as the opposite of fire, so this could even culturally be seen as killing someone by extinguishing their inner fire, rather than though asphyxiation.

Similarly, if sea monsters of some sort are seen as the physical embodiment of water, feeding a person to them could be another possibility.

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    $\begingroup$ That's a pretty good idea. And since their country is kind of based on Ancient Egypt, I could feed them to the crocodiles in the river. And it fits the cultural image "Egyptian animal mythology where the crocodile is the enemy of the solar deity Horus"-Wikipedia $\endgroup$ – lordofbonzo Dec 27 '14 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ @lordofbonzo "I could feed them to the crocodiles in the river" — Warning: do not take out of context. :P $\endgroup$ – Doorknob Dec 29 '14 at 3:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Doorknob冰 psh, this site is the best place to take things out of context :) $\endgroup$ – Navin Dec 29 '14 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Navin - Arqade provides some stiff competition. $\endgroup$ – Compro01 Dec 29 '14 at 9:10
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    $\begingroup$ If you wanted to tie in a lack of strength, you could make the drowning tank just be a half filled 20 foot tall container with smooth walls, and the victims drown when they don't have enough strength to swim. (perhaps add a little weight to make it take less than a few hours, or if you wanted a possible redemption path and they really do value strength highly, maybe if they survive a few hours/day/week they earn a chance to redeem themselves) $\endgroup$ – Rick Apr 1 '15 at 13:26
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Because this is all tied to religious/magical significance the way I would probably approach this is to define more fully what is an honourable burial and reverse its symbolism.

The first thing that springs to my mind is Ursula Le Guin's 2nd Earthsea book "The Tombs of Atuan". If you haven't already read it (& depending on how much time you want to spend) this is a truly excellent depiction of the worship of a dark power of the earth that's stifling and oppressive.

I can imagine the culture you sketched decreeing a dishonourable execution to involve being buried alive in an imprisoning sarcophagus, wrapped with winding sheets of lead (i.e. totally immobilised) to emphasise total powerlessness. The eyes are left uncovered to add to the terror. Inscribed on the lead are hieroglyphs reciting: - spells of impotence to nullify the victims magical power - wards to prevent their rescue or location by magical means (i.e. from allies) - passages from religious texts depicting the tortures that await them in the afterlife - a list of their transgressions - the curse falling on any who recite their name or deeds in the world of the living.

Maybe they could then be put on a funeral barge and floated down a subterranean river (i.e. a real-world River Styx) with carved stone banks. Hideous carrion-eating monsters and ghouls could inhabit the depths of this river.

In opposition to this, honourable burial uses motifs of raptors (phoenixes, or giant vultures or "sun birds" who carry souls of the dead to the sun), and the metals gold, bronze and copper (the metal of the sun and light and fire). This lets you use cool metal death masks and pectorals and armbands and stuff.

After cremation, the honourable dead have a life-sized clay or ceramic double of their body (i.e. baked in a kiln - more fire symbolism about passage form life to death) that is then buried on a seat / thrones in a tomb-niches in the side of of a pyramid. The niche faces outward with a slit for their eyes so they can watch out over / guard the lands of the living. The most honourable spots are that get the most sun. Each face (N,S,E,W) has its own mystical significance. Rulers are buried at the apex of the pyramid, then nobles or great heroes, and so on down to the deserving poor on the lowest level. Criminals are below the earth. So death is a handy tool for reinforcing the social order. This would work best for a culture that was: - very hierarchical & ritualistic - very focussed on the past & on your place in the afterlife - a place where the living are constantly reminded of, and in the presence of, their dead ancestors.

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Dunk 'em in a frozen lake! That'd 'sap' their inner fire.

Being suffocated and having your heat sapped is strong symbolistic way to demonstrate the weakness of their internal 'flame', especially in a world where death is celebrated by burning bodies

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Being buried alive would also work, since soil can be used to put out a fire by restricting the flow of oxygen.

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While drowning is a great (and perhaps obvious) answer. There are some other subtle options:

  • Exile - Cheap, easy, and no need to keep a bunch of water around. Send the person out into the wilds and see if their strength matches up with nature. This also gives them the (fairly unrealistic) opportunity to overcome the exile, which may be politically or socially more palatable than outright execution.
  • Starvation - Nothing quite saps strength (and power) like it. Such a death could also seen as dishonorable since the person could not even have the basic power to subsist (or commit suicide). And seeing someone die like that would be a powerful reminder to others. Bonus points for using those middle ages iron cages for all to see.
  • Colosseum - Similar to exile, the prisoner gets a chance to win their freedom against a bunch of lions (or similar). Good fun for bloodthirsty populace, and if they don't win, they must not have been that strong/powerful/favored by the Gods. Dying to a bunch of lions though might be too honorable than just failing to survive on one's own.
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This is a little brutal: use wet cloth to block the nostrils and mouth of the guilty. The cloth need to be wet so as to more completely block air flow. Lack of air certainly extinguishes fire. Using objects(cloths here) also feels more abusive and terrifying, while it will also be easier to publicly demonstrate execution on stages so as to threaten the people not to commit any crime. The executioner will use any convenient method to keep the wet cloth blocked inside the guilty's nostrils and mouths, be it by forcing the cloth in with bare hands or by using some otherworldly instruments of torture. Needless to say, the guilty will certainly be bound onto columns/pillars with their appendages fully constrained while being executed.

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I suggest waterboarding. Even worse than just plain drowning.

From the Wikipedia page:

which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning. Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage, and death.

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In the most common method of waterboarding, the captive's face is covered with cloth or some other thin material, and the subject is immobilized on his/her back at an incline of 10 to 20 degrees. Torturers pour water onto the face over the breathing passages, causing an almost immediate gag reflex and creating the sensation for the captive that he is drowning. Vomitus travels up the esophagus, which can then be inhaled (mostly into the right lung due to its more direct pathway). Victims of waterboarding are at extreme risk of sudden death due to the aspiration of vomitus."

This is a horrific method of execution, but I believe that's what you were looking for. Waterboarding, if not stopped, is such an extremely humiliating execution, where the victim will drown in his own (inhaled) vomit.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not sure what is your point? Do you not consider waterboarding worse than plain drowning? Or you think that if applied very strongly, victim will not die? It will, drowned with own vomit. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. - stands for Monica Dec 29 '14 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't waterboarding a torture method? I was looking for execution methods. $\endgroup$ – lordofbonzo Dec 29 '14 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ If torturer will not stop, victim will die by drowning in own vomit. Is it execution enough for you? $\endgroup$ – Peter M. - stands for Monica Dec 29 '14 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ [Insert general I'm-not-the-downvoter disclaimer], but would you really drown in your own vomit? Has that ever happened? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 29 '14 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ I cannot tell if it ever happened (I am not in that line of business) but I added link and edit to my answer. I can see also that there is motion to delete my answer - not sure why (unless it is political) $\endgroup$ – Peter M. - stands for Monica Dec 29 '14 at 20:51
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The execution chamber is a small glass-walled cage.

The condemned is placed within the chamber. Smaller sections (also airtight from the outside, but sharing the air of the main chamber.

Lit candles are placed in the smaller sections and the doors are closed. The candles rapidly use up the oxygen, dim, and go out.

As the flames die, the condemned is seen to desperately thrash around and then collapse.

The guttering of the flame symbolizes the guttering of his soul.

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