Medieval Oaths in Modern Society

In ancient Egypt people swore by their lives and “ankh”, the word for oath, meant “an utterance of life”. Romans, Greeks and Germanic tribes all swore oaths – often by their swords or other weapons that symbolized the god of war.

In the more recent past, colorful oaths have been sworn in British Columbia, Canada courts, reflecting a witness religious beliefs or country of origin. 

The Candle Oath involved a witness placing their right hand over a lighted candle placed on the ledge of the witness box, and saying, “I will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and if I do not may my soul be extinguished as I quench this flame” before extinguishing the candle. Another oath required the witness to write their name on a piece of paper and burn it, swearing that their soul would be consumed by fire like the paper, should they not tell the truth.

The Chicken Oath was even more elaborate, involving lighting candles, decapitating a chicken, and burning a signed oath in the candle flame.

The Saucer Oath involved a witness kneeling and striking a china saucer against the witness box, before declaring that if they did not tell the truth their soul would be cracked like the saucer.

For More Information check out

  • The origins of the American Criminal Justice System can be found in Volume I
  • Marriage Customs can be found in Volume I
  • The Animal & Criminal Cases can be found in Volume I
  • The Inquisition and Heretics can be found in Volume III
  • Religious law can be found in Volume III