Saturday, January 6, 2007

Whip it. Whip it good.

When a problem comes along.
You must whip it.
Before the cream sits out too long.
You must whip it.
When something's going wrong.
You must whip it.

(click for video)

People have whipped themselves throughout history for fun, sexual pleasure and/or religious reasons, but it wasn’t until the Black Death that it became really popular. The flagellant movement – a radical Christian movement that involved mortification of the flesh as a demonstration of piety - gained momentum because many believed that the plague was a punishment sent down by God. Flagellants believed that if they demonstrated their devotion to God through their pain, they might bring an end to the greater suffering of the living victims of the plague.

Groups of flagellants would spring up spontaneously in Europe, and wander from town to town for 33 1/2 days (1 day for each year Jesus was alive), never spending more than one night in any one place. Each flagellant would carry a scourge, a heavy leather thong tipped with metal spikes or studs, to whip themselves and others with. The ritual began with the reading of a letter, claimed to have been delivered by an angel and justifying the Flagellants' activities. Next the followers would fall to their knees and scourge themselves, gesturing with their free hand to indicate their sin and striking themselves rhythmically to songs, known as Geisslerlieder, until blood flowed. Sometimes women would soak up the blood in rags and treat it as a holy relic, dabbing the blood on their eyes.

The procession would usually start small, and grow as they passed through towns, gaining new members in each new place. It wasn’t uncommon for a procession to grow to 5,000 or even 10,000 people. This is despite the harsh requirements for new recruits. New entrants had to make a confession of all sins since the age of seven and then flagellate themselves for thirty-three and a half days. Each member also vowed never to bathe, shave, sleep in a bed, change their clothing or converse in any way with members of the opposite sex. They also had to pay a fee.

Sources: Catholic Encyclopedia, History Guide, Wikipedia

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