Harsh is a word that means unpleasant and ungentle in an action or effect. Superstitious/Superstition is any type of belief or judgement based on belief that relate to God or any thing to defy the laws of science i. e. Omens, bad luck and the supernatural. There can be no doubt that there is evidence to support that Saxon justice was harsh and based on superstition because most of the punishments in 400-1500 were based on Trial by Ordeal. Trial by Hot Iron was an ordeal usually taken by women. The accused had to carry a piece of red hot iron for three metres.
Her hand was then bandaged and checked again after three days, if the hand was healing cleanly then God was saying that she was innocent. Saxon punishments are also seen as harsh today because firstly the Blood Feud was introduced this gave the right to families and friends to track down the murderer of their loved one and kill them as punishment, but later the kings abolished the Blood Feud and introduced the Blood Price or Wergild. The victims received compensation depending on how serious the injury was.
Some laws were quit harsh as well such as King Alfred the Greats Law 14 clearly states that if anyone is born dumb or deaf so that he cannot confess or deny sins then his father has to pay compensation for his crimes and Law 6 states that If anyone steals anything in church he is to pay the normal fine and then have his hand struck off. However there is some evidence that the Saxon Justice system was justified, for example the laws in the Saxon era were very detailed and were made up by the Kings ruling at the time.
Some laws might seem harsh and cruel but the King had to get permission from the Bishops and Nobles before he could state that they were laws. The method of catching criminals was also very detailed and as there was no police force in Saxon England people relied on there friends and families to help them catch wrongdoers. In result to all the violence, by the tenth century Kings had set up a system called A Tithing.
A Tithing is a group of ten people and all men aged over 12 years had to belong to a tithing and this meant that everyone who was in that tithing was responsible for each other and if a person in that tithing had broken the law then it was the others job to bring him to court or pay compensation to the victim. In a way we could say that this was a good kind of peer pressure because this way it encouraged the men not to commit crime. The whole idea of trial by ordeal seems like it should be a last resort, well it was.
Trial by ordeal only occurred when the local Jury could not come to a verdict or if the accused had murdered someone and there had been no witnesses. Trial by ordeal was usually led by the church this meant that most people in Saxon England were very dependant on God and they believed that he was the Just Judge. There were different types of Trial by Ordeal but whenever one was used it was carried out before a careful religious ritual, this statement suggests that Saxon England's people were very religious and not necessarily superstitious.
In conclusion I think that Saxon Justice has been looked at as a very cruel and superstitious way of handling things but I think because we live in a different era and our justice system is a bit more advanced our ideas are a bit more stereotypical and we only think from our point of view when we ask and answer questions about the past and that we should also think about what it was like in the Saxon period, maybe the violence and crime was so bad that the King had to take the decisions about trial and ordeal, maybe the King didn't want to introduce the death penalty but had to because of the way the people in his kingdom were behaving but on the other hand I do think some Saxon laws and punishments were a bit extreme and most trial by ordeals were based on superstition such as Trial by cold water. This trial was taken by men. People believed that water was pure and would reveal truth so the accused was lowered into the water on the end of a rope and if the person sank and the knot went below the surface the accused was innocent but if the accused stayed above the surface he was guilty.