Ordeal holds a strange fascination with us. It appalls and intrigues. We marvel at the mentality of those cultures that officialize it; we feel a sense of horror as we imagine ourselves intimately involved with boiling water or glowing irons. And we don't feel up to it. So our terror and cowardice becomes their brutality and irrationality. I am not about to urge to reinstitution of ordeals, although most practicing lawyers will tell you that that is still what going to law is, a crapshoot they say. What I want to do is call attention to the difficulty of not being either contemptuous or romantic about the customs of others that shock us or amuse us.
Miller, William I. "Ordeal in Iceland." Scandinavian Stud. 60 (1988): 189-218.