What’s a worse Medieval job than executioner? A Rackare

If medieval executioner is too good a job for you, try Rackare. The job description for a Rackare is: deputy executioner, flayer, dog and cat killer.


Various torture and execution styles, 1509

In Medieval Sweden, a Rackare prepared execution sites and equipment, and worse, cleaned up afterwards.

They cleaned up animal carcasses, put down dogs, buried the corpses of suicides (in unconsecrated ground), sometimes acted as chimney-sweeps, and they were responsible for the killing, skinning and gelding of horses.

Butchers refused that last job because of a stubborn superstition about killing horses from Norse religion, where they’d been sacred.

(Horses had been sacrificed and consumed ritually, though. A probable reason pope Gregory instructed Saint Boniface to “suppress [the eating of horse] in every possible way” among the Germans)

The unfortunate Rackare was untouchable. He and his family would sit on their own bench in church. Inns kept  specific glasses, plates and utensils for their use.

The specific rackarglas gave rise to the expression ta en rackare (have a ‘rackare’) for having a drink.

Calling someone a rackare was formerly strongly disparaging. Today it’s closer to English ‘rascal’, mildly derogatory in a joking manner.

There was also ‘rackars!’ both as an cursing expletive, but also as an adjective for damning some object.

The family of the Rackare wasn’t exempt. ‘Rackarunge’ (rackare-child) and ‘Rackarkona’ (rackare-wife) are still derogatory terms for children and women.

The dirtiest sounding job that isn’t is perhaps sumprunkare. The word reads as ‘swamp wanker’ (really) but actually refers to a person who had the job of rocking fishing boats!

The idea was that you’d get some oxygen into the sump (fish hold) and keep the fish alive in there.

If you liked this, find out more about the life of a medieval executioner here.

Hat Tip: Ask Historians on Reddit,

(Apologies for my reliance on Ask Historians here. Great source, but its solitary status is due to my sadly complete lack of Swedish. Are there any Swedes out there who could enlighten us? )

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