Facts and Events
Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye (Old Norse: Sigurðr ormr í auga) was one of the four sons of Ragnar Lodbrok. The "Snake-in-the-eye" part of Sigurd's name denoted the fact that that he was born with a mark in his left eye, described as the image of the Ouroboros (a snake biting its own tail) encircling the pupil of his eye. The snake mark had been prophesied by his mother Aslaug, the daughter of the Valkyrie Brynhildr. In modern times, it has been suggested that the mark in Sigurd's eye was a result of a congenital mutation of the PAX6 gene. As a boy, Sigurd was close to his father and accompanied Ragnar on a hazardous expedition through Russia to the Hellespont. Later on in life he is said to have sojourned for a time in Scotland and the Scottish Islands.
In 865 King Ella of Northumbria killed Ragnar Lodbrok in a pit of serpents. When Ragnar was suffering in the pit he is reputed to have exclaimed: "How the young pigs would squeal if they knew what the old boar suffers!"
And soon his sons did know, as King Ella was foolish enough to send an embassy to acquaint them of the fact. When the brothers heard of their father's death Sigurd is said to have cut himself to the bone with a knife he held in his hand and his brother Björn Ironside gripped his spear so tightly that the imprint of his fingers was left in the wood.
Sigurd and his brothers swore they would avenge his killing in time-honoured Viking tradition. The legend says that their first attempt failed, but through the treachery of the oldest brother, the notoriously cruel and cunning Ivar the Boneless, Ella was duped into a battle he could not win. In 866 they crossed the North Sea with a large army. This Great Heathen Army sacked York, met King Ella in battle and captured him. They sentenced him to die according to the custom of Rista Blodörn (Blood Eagle), an exceedingly painful death. It consisted of cutting away the ribs from the spine and pulling the lungs backward through the cavities formed to form the shape of an eagle.