Trial by ordeal is a judicial practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused person is determined by subjecting him to an unpleasant, usually dangerous experience; believed to be under divine control. Classically, the test is one of life or death and the proof of innocence is survival. In some cases, the accused is considered innocent if he escapes injury or if his injuries heal.
* Ordeal of Fire
Ordeal of fire typically required that the accused walk a certain distance, usually nine feet, over red-hot ploughshares or holding a red-hot iron. Innocence was sometimes recognized by a complete lack of injury, but it was more common for the wound to be bandaged and re-examined three days later by a priest, who would pronounce that God had intervened to heal it, or that it was purely festering—in which case the suspect would be exiled or executed. * Ordeal of water
The water had to be about boiling, and the depth from which the stone had to be retrieved was up to the wrist for one accusation and up to the elbow for three. The ordeal would take place in the church, with several in attendance, purified and praying God to reveal the truth. Afterwards, the hand was bound and examined after three days to see whether it was healing or festering.
* Ordeal of Poison
People of present-day Nigeria, would administer the poisonous Calabar bean (known as "esere" in Efik) in order to detect guilt. A defendant who vomits up the bean is innocent. A defendant who becomes ill or dies is considered guilty.
* Ordeal of the Cross
Unlike most other ordeals, the accuser had to undergo the ordeal together with the accused. They stood on either side of a cross and stretched out their hands horizontally. The one to first lower his arms lost.