09 May 2009

Waterboarding: from Schwedentrunk to BlingH2O

After I posted the item on waterboarding, I researched the topic a bit further. From a Reddit thread last year I found that the "water curing" used by Americans in 1902 appears to be the "Schwedentrunk" maneuver employed by the Swedes during the 17th-century Thirty Years War:
This method of torture was administered by other international troops, mercenaries and marauders, and especially by civilians following the Swedish baggage train, who received no pay. It was used to force peasants or town citizens to hand over hidden money, food, animals, etc., or to extort sex from women…

Though specific circumstances differed, in every case a restrained and gagged victim was forced to swallow (by means of a funnel) a large amount of unappetizing, sometimes boiling liquid. Substances such as urine, excrement, liquid manure, and sullage were used for this purpose.
While the mind reels at the prospect of extorting sex from women who have had their belly filled with Schwedentrunk, the more important point is that this historical perspective reveals how far we have progressed from the barbarism of four centuries ago. Instead of pouring liquid excrement onto and into victims, we now offer them tap water. One can only hope that as we enter a more progressive, enlightened, and prosperous era that future victims may offer their confessions after encounters with bottled water - perhaps even Bling H2O.

Addendum: A post at Arbroath this week notes that the Maori still use large-volume water cures as a technique for religious exorcism. A 22-year-old woman died after being subjected to this ritual:

The exorcism began with family members standing in a circle around Ms Moses chanting incantations of prayers, or karakia...

"Water was poured down her face and in her eyes in an attempt to get rid of the makutu," Ms Feltham said.

"Several people also leant over Janet, put their mouths over her eyeballs, and tried to suck at her eyes in an attempt, again, to remove the curse."

Containers of water were passed hand to hand from the kitchen sink and poured down Ms Moses's throat until the house was flooded, the court heard.

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