Impalement in myth and art

The use of impalement in myth, art, and literature includes mythical representations of a method of execution and other uses in paintings, sculptures, and the like, folklore and other tales in which impalement is related to magical or supernatural properties, and the use of simulated impalement for the purposes of entertainment.

Tales and myths of impal


Vampires and other undead

The idea that the vampire “can only be with a stake driven through its heart” has been pervasive in European fiction. Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the more recent Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Twilight series’ all that idea. [1] In classic European folklore, it was believed that one method, among several , to “kill” a vampire , or prevent a corpse from rising as a vampire, was to drive a stakeholder through the heart before interment. [2] In one story, an Istrianpeasant named Jure GrandoIt was believed that it was a vampire, and it was believed that it was a victim to a stake in his heart, but failed in the attempt. Finally, in 1672, the corpse was decapitated , and the vampire terror was put to rest. [3] Although the Eastern European, in particular Slavic (but also Roumanian), design of the vampire as an undead creature in which it was central to or destroying it, or at least immobilizing it, is the most well-known European tradition Such traditions can also be found elsewhere in Europe. In Greece, the disordersome undead were usually called vrykolakas . The archaeologist Susan-Marie Cronkite [4] describes an odd grave found at Mytilene, at Lesbos , found the archeologists connected with the vrykolakas superstition. [5]

The Norse draugr , or haugbui (mound-dweller), was a type of undead typically (but not exclusively) associated with those put (supposedly) to rest in burial mounds / tumuli . The approved methods of killing have been made to be of the same nature as those of the same country, or impale his body with a stake or burn it to ashes “. [6]

Although in modern vampiric lore, the stake is regarded as a very effective tool against the undead, people in pre-modern Europe could have their doubts. Edward Payson Evans tells the following story, from the city Kadaň : [7]

In 1337, a herdsman from the town of Cadan came from all over the world, visiting the villages, terrifying the inhabitants, conversing with others and murdering others. Every person, with whom he is associated, was made to die within a few days and to wander as a vampire after death. In the name of a person who has been in the business of a business, he said: “You have really rendered me a great service by providing me with a staff, with which to ward off dogs when I go out to walk “

Literary treatment of impalement

A graphic description of the vertical impalement of a Serbian rebel by Ottoman authorities can be found in Ivo Andrić’s novel The Bridge on the Drina . [8] Andrić was later awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for the whole of his literary contribution, though this novel was the magnum opus . [9]

Anecdotes of the impaled

Some anecdotes of the behavior and fates of the impaled remain which, if true, would be unique in the history of impalement. The first was a proof of the efficacy of praying to Saint Barbara. In the woods of Bohemia around 1552, there was a robber band roaming, plundering and murdering innocent travelers. A manhunt was organized, and the robber chief was apprehended and sentenced to be impaled. While one of his associates, likewise impaled, swiftly expired, the chief was not so lucky. All day long, he writhed on his stake, begging to be killed, but all in vain. That night, in his despair, he prayed to St. Barbara that he was truly sorry for all his evil doings in life and that all he hoped for was to reconcile with God and to be graced with a good death. Seemingly in response, the man’s stake broke, and with great effort and bread, he managed to de-impalehimself. Crawling along, he came to a house, and his cries of help were heard. He was helped by a bed, and a priest was sent for. The trainer is then giving birth to his death bed confession, grieving over his misspent life, but properly grateful to God and St. Barbara. He then died in peace, his hands folded over his chest. [10]

Another incident, which was, allegedly, partially witnessed by the editor of a “Ladies’ Journal”, is said to have occurred in Wallachia in the 1770s. He had been present in Arad when 27 robbers had been impaled. It was strictly forbidden to give impaled persons any water, but one woman took the place of the robbers, and fetched water for him in a kettle. As she was glancing anxiously about to check out the dead of the world, the robber smashed her head into the kettle, killing her on the spot. The editor obtains his name, he was present when the robber was asked why he had done such a thing, and he just replied, he had done it on a whim. [11]


In British Columbia , a folk tale from the Lillooet PeopleIt is preserved in which impalement occurs as a central element. A man became suspicious of his wife because she went to every day to gather roots and cedar-bark but hardly ever brought anything home. One day, he spied on her, and discovered that she was cavorting with Lynx, rather than doing her wifely duties. The next day, he asked to accompany her, and they went out in the forest, and came at last to a very tall tree. The man climbed to the top of it, the following wife. The jealous man then sharpened the top of the tree with his knife, and impaled his wife on it. On his way down, he removed the bark of the tree, so it became slick. The woman cried out her bread and her brothers heard her. They and animals they called to help them, but the stem was too slow for them to climb up to reach her. Then Snail offered to help and slowly crawled up the tree. But alas, Snail moved too slowly, and by the time it took to reach the top of the tree, the woman was dead.[12]

Among tribes living around the Titicaca , tales circulated in the sixteenth century that preceded to the Incas , a mysterious group of white men lived there, and their banishment was somehow connected with the birth of the Sun. A sixteenth century tale collected by a Spanish missionary tells of such an individual, called Tanupa or Taapac, who was impaled by other Indians around the Titicaca, and a shrine was set up there to commemorate the events. [13]

Martyrdom of al-Hallaj

The renowned Sufi mystic was in AD 922 to be impaled for blasphemy in Baghdad, for having said such things as “I am God”. However, the executioners were unable to do so, because al-Hallaj floated in the air just above their reach. Then, al-Hallaj’s spirit ascended to Heaven, and conversed with Muhammed, the Prophet of Islam, and al-Hallaj asked the Prophet he should be himself impaled. The Prophet acknowledged that al-Hallaj’s spiritual state was so heightened that his utterance “I am God” was both right and wrong, but that for the sake of ordinary people, he should be impaled If they were to believe in such sayings like “I am God”. And thus, for the sake of preserving the religion of ordinary people,[14]


Tales and anecdotes concerning how dreadfully swift and harsh Ottoman justice was for comparatively trivial offenses abound. Dimitrie Cantemir, a Moldavian nobleman living in Constantinople at the end of the 17th century, and in the fields of Ottoman authorities, narratives of the building of a great mosque in 1461. The Greek architect was amply rewarded by the sultan, so that a whole street was privileged to the Greek populace in recognition of his efforts. However, some of the architects could build a larger and more beautiful mosque than the one completed. Incautiously, the architect said sure enough, if I were given the materials. The sultan, who was so much a victim, that he was so fearful that his successors might create a more beautiful mosque than his own, that just in case, he thing to impale the architect to deprive successors of that genius, commemorating the event by erecting a huge iron spike in the middle of the mosque.does , however, believe in the great gift of the street, because he had used the sultan to protect the Greeks of the privilege. Cantemir won his case. [15] In 1632, under Murad IV (r.1623-40), a hapless interpreter in a fierce dispute between the French ambassador and Ottoman authorities was impaled alive for faithfully translating the insolent words of the ambassador. [16] In addition , Murad IV seeks to ban the use of tobacco, and is reportedly impaled alive to a woman for breaking the law, one for selling tobacco, the other for using it. [17] Another such anecdote, is said to have occurred in 1695 under Mustafa II: The Grand Vizier prevented to the sultan to a poor shoemaker who had a petition for his sovereign. The grand Vizier was impaled, although the Grand Vizier was the son of the sultan’s favorite concubine. [18]

Indian sub-continent

In the Hindu Draupadi cult, impaling animals, demons, and humans is a recurring motif within the legends and symbolic re-enactments during holidays / festivals. [19]

According to a Shaivite story from India, under the old Pandyan Dynasty , ruling from 500 BC-1500 CE, the 7th century King Koon Pandiyan had 8000 Jains impaled in Madurai . Some historians look at the story rather than historically accurate, and that it may have been created by the Shaivites to prove their superiority over the Jains. [20] [21] This act, legendary or not, is still commemorated in “lurid mural representations” in several Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu. [22] An example of such depictions in temples can be found in the Meenakshi Amman Temple in MaduraiMeenakshi , around the holy tank . There, they are depicted, with dogs at their feet, licking up the blood, and crows flying around to pick out their eyes. [23] [24]

In Bengal, tales existed about foolish king in the Pala Empire , Bhava Chandra, and his foolish minister. They are a not unlike the Wise Men of Gotham, bereft of common sense as a result of a curse ugly upon them. In their last judgment, they had condemned two robbers to be impaled, but when the robbers began quarreling about who should get impaled on the longest pole, Bhava Chandra and his ministry became deeply intrigued. The robbers told them that whoever died on the longest pole would be reincarnated as the ruler of the Earth, while the other would become his minister. Thinking it unseemly that two mothers robbers should gain such a high position in their next life, Bhava Chandra thing to impale himself on the longest pole, while his minister happily thing to die on the shorter. [25]

The remains of persons impaled have, occasionally, been thought imbued with certain magical properties. For example, the Arthashastra states that if one wishes to make a fire, one can make that fire “by the friction of a black-and-white bamboo stick on the ribbon of the left side of a man who has been slain with a sword, or impaled “. Virginia Saunders also mentions from the same text how to become invisible: [26]

If you want to have sex with you, you need to have a good time. Pushya, a girl with a baby, is a barley been impaled.

The ascetic Mandavya , when he was five years old, had amused himself with sticking to a living locust. Lord Yama, the god of death, bided his time to exact what he thought was a proper punishment. As an old man, Mandavya was sitting outside his cave in deep meditation, oblivious to some thieves placing their stolen goods there. Wrongfully believing Mandavya, Mandavya on trial. He could not answer the question of how to behave in his hermitage, so he said he was to be impaled. Mandavya appeared unperturbed by the whole affair, and when he was still alive, in deep contemplation, on the stake after 4 years, the king declared Mandavya had to be innocent, and ordered him pulled down. However, Mandavya’s body broke inside Mandavya’s body and the excruciating bread destroyed Mandavya’s trance. In deep bitterness, he asked the gods how he had deserved such a fate, and Yama answered it was because of the locust he had tortured as a young boy. Mandavya became infuriated at Yama and pointed out how disproportionate the punishment had been. He then cursed Yama to be born as a human being, namely asVidura , the sound of a serving maid. [27]

A tale from Kashmir of reincarnation after death on the stake of the wise Samdhimati. Samdhimati was minister under King Jayendra, when a mysterious prophecy spread through the populace: “To Samdhimati will belong to the kingdom”. Jayendra, on hearing of this, threw Samdhimati in prison for 10 years. When the king was on his death bed, he was unwilling to let Samdhimati have the prophecy fulfilled, so he ordered Samdhimati impaled. When Samdhimati’s guru Isana heard of this, he went to the cemetery where Samhimati was impaled in order to perform the proper funeral rites. The wolves had been devoured all the flesh of the body, and Isana was amazed that the prophecy was inscribed on Samdhimati’s skull that he was to inherit the kingdom. Keeping watch, one night Isana saw the graveyard was filled withYoginis (female mystics / witches). The Yoginis have been taught to be “a little bit”, and provided the skeleton with flesh (not the least, a penis) from their own bodies. They then captured Samdhimati’s spirit, which was still hovering around, within the fleshed skeleton, and “spent the rest of the night sporting with him”. As dawn approached, Isana, that Samdhimati’s new body should be dissolved by the witches, ridden out of his hiding place, and chased them away. In his new body and life, Samdhimati, known as Aryaraja , and was, indeed, crowned as King of Kashmir, thereby fulfilling the prophecy. [28]

Eastern Asia

In the Buddhist conception of the eight Hells, John Bowring relates to Siam , those who are consigned to the Sixth Hell are impaled on spits and roasted. When well roasted, huge dogs with iron teeth devour them. But, the damned are reborn, and must relive this punishment for 16000 years, over and over again … [29] Another tale popular in Siam was about Devadatta , a wily antagonist to Buddha seeking to undermine Gautama’s position among his followers . For this crime, Devadatta was sent to the deepest Hell, the Avici , being impaled on three great iron spears in a sea of ​​flames. [30]

Illusions of impalement

The 1980 Italian film, Cannibal Holocaust , directed by Ruggero Deodato , graphically depicts impalement. [31] The story follows a search for a missing documentary movie crew in the Amazon Rainforest . [32] The film’s depiction of indigenous tribes, the death of animals on set, and the graphic violence (notably the impalement scene) brought on a great deal of controversy, legal investigations, boycotts and protests by concerned social groups, bans in many countries ( some of which are still in effect), and heavy censorship in countries where it has not been banned. [31] [33]The impalement scene was so realistic, that Deodato was charged with murder at one point. Deodato Had to Produce evidence que la “impaled” actress Was alive in the aftermath of the stage, and Had to further Top explain how the special effect Was done: the actress sat on a bicycle seat mounted to a pole while she Looked up and Held has stake of balsa wood in her mouth. The charges were dropped. [32]

In stage magic, the illusion of impalement is a popular feat of magic that appears to be an act of impalement. [34] Impaling tricks are not, however, a modern European invention, and some dervish orders performed such acts already in the 18th century. Carsten Niebuhr , traveling the Middle East 1761-67 we have a Danish basic expedition, saw such a display at Basra : [35]

the time of the day, sixteen feet long, and having been set up, he was impaled himself upon the pole, and was in this condition through the square. It was a sight, to see a man, with a long beard, and disheveled hair, I said, as I went away, to a mullah of my acquaintance, that the dervise performed by a broadcaster in his long run. The Mullah replied, that he had some such art, but avoided mentioning his suspicions, to see a lean man, with a long beard, and a disheveled hair, I said, as I went away, to a mullah of my acquaintance, that the dervise performed by a broadcaster in his long run. The Mullah replied, that he had some such art, but avoided mentioning his suspicions, to see a lean man, with a long beard, and a disheveled hair, I said, as I went away, to a mullah of my acquaintance, that the dervise performed by a broadcaster in his long run. The Mullah replied, that he had some such art, but avoided mentioning his suspicions,Bed-reddin ; for that one of his brethren had experienced great persecution of those dervishes, in consequence of presuming to hint his doubts of the reality of their miracles. “


  1. Jump up^ For popularity claim and example:Thought vampires were just fantasy movie? Skeletons impaled on iron stakes
  2. Jump up^ Barber(2010)
  3. Jump up^ Caron(2001)
  4. Jump up^ Bio on Cronkite
  5. Jump up^ Cronkite(2008)
  6. Jump up^ Andrews(1913), p.603. Several examples in the essay on grave robbery and encounters with draugr there and elsewhere
  7. Jump up^ Evans(1906),p.196
  8. Jump up^ Excerpt of impalement in book can be accessed here:The Bridge on the Drina
  9. Jump up^ On status as Nobel Laureate, predominantly on basis of Bridge, see:A Reader’s Guide to the Balkans
  10. Jump up^ Vierholz(1737)p. 493-95
  11. Jump up^ Damengesellschaft(1785)p. 95-97
  12. Jump up^ The brothers later on the revenge themselves on the husband, through a clever trick. Teit(1912), p. 339-40
  13. Jump up^ Bandelier(1904), impalement incident at p.224
  14. Jump up^ Lit.Soc. Bombay (1819),p. 111-113
  15. Jump up^ Cantemir(1734),p.109
  16. Jump up^ The French HAD beens accusé of Bringing a Muslim woman on board a ship,Browne(1751)p.248
  17. Jump up^ Sherwood, Jones(1825)p.722
  18. Jump up^ Percy(1825),p.147
  19. Jump up^ Alf Hiltebeitel(1991)The Cult of Draupadi
  20. Jump up^ (Sastri 1976, 424)
  21. Jump up^ (Roy 1984, chapter 9)
  22. Jump up^ Dundas (1992)p.127The author mentions as an example the temple to the war godMuruganinKalugumalai
  23. Jump up^ AES(1904),p.52
  24. Jump up^ Representations of impaled members of a different religion than Hinduism seems to be confined to the Jains, but also to Buddhists. In a temple at Trivatur, not far from Madras (present nameChennai), for example, the walls are covered by the most horrible tortures, the martyrs being impaled alive and left to be devoured by dogs. birds of prey. ” Elliot(1869),p.109This presumably commemorates an alleged persecution of Buddhists in the 2nd century under Hindu KingPushyamitra Shunga, as narrated, for example, in 2nd century AD textAshokavadana
  25. Jump up^ Hunter (1875)p.313
  26. Jump up^ Saunders(1922), p.422
  27. Jump up^ Combined Slightly varying from two accounts,Ward(1824),p. 294-95andGarbe(1913), p. 334-35
  28. Jump up^ Brown(1919), p. 425-26
  29. Jump up^ Bowring(1857)p.306
  30. Jump up^ Bowring(1857)p.313For rather similar, vivid depictions of the sufferings in Hell from Buddhist temples inCambodia, seeVincent Jr.(1878), p.237
  31. ^ Jump up to:b Deodato, Ruggero (2000-11-12). “Cult-Con 2000”. Cannibal Holocaust DVD Commentary (Interview). Interview with Sage Stallone ; Bob Murawski. Tarrytown, New York.
  32. ^ Jump up to:b On Offizi Sergio (interviewee) (2003). In the Jungle: The Making of Cannibal Holocaust (Documentary). Italy: Alan Young Pictures.
  33. Jump up^ “C Movies” . . Retrieved 2007-01-15 .
  34. Jump up^ See, for example:Impaled
  35. Jump up^ Pinkerton(1811),p.172