Since this blog focus more on art then on the written word I like to refer to this site for those interesting.
· The first ever recorded public punishments- ancient Greece- explicitly associated pain with pleasure. The pain of the sacrificial victim (N.B. suffering and not death was the intention) was believed to give the respective god great pleasure, and thus both the willing victim and the witnessing crowd would experience vicarious pleasure through this. The greater the torment inflicted upon the victim, the greater pleasure the god was reported to feel and thus the greater the pleasure experienced by victim and bystanders. As such, it was a great source of pride for both tormentor and victim to inflict and experience the maximum pain possible, and for both to exhibit the marks upon the victim’s body; it was an experience that uniquely bonded both participants.
· The later concept of religious flagellation and the ecstasy of martyrs and self-flagellators (particularly within Christianity) may be traced to this tradition and the desire to gratify the divine through chastisement of mortal flesh. It constitutes both a pact between the divine and mortal and thus provides spiritual gratification for physical suffering.
· The notion of striking a person across the buttocks was first propositioned by the Catholic church as punishment for ‘Lower Order Offences’ in the tenth century- failure to demonstrate proper respect during religious ceremonies for example. In this case the victim would be struck with hand or cane (depending on the victim’s age, sex and constitution) over their clothes buttocks by religious senior. The most common punishment dispensed by the Catholic church up until the 1960s was that of spanking; Papal punishments were not recorded after this time.
· In the eleventh century, the Catholic church prescribed and legitimised spanking and self-flagellation as a legitimate outlet for sexual desires, intended to both satisfy and discourage further sexual urges. Several high-profile Saints, Hermits etc. engaged in this: Peter the Hermit, Saint Dominic, Catrerina of Cordova. Religious brotherhoods dedicated to flagellating each other as a form of bonding experience.
· In 1350 Pope Clement V outlawed flagellation as a means of Christian discipline owing to the Paris incident: a procession through the streets of naked penitents, castigating one another, had devolved into an orgy.
· The most enthusiastic practitioners were nuns, however, for whom flagellations became weekly events. It became common for novices and young nuns to bear themselves for correction and lessons in submission: for this they were stripped naked and paraded before the superior nuns before being bent over and struck on the buttocks with the flat of their superior’s hand. A Florentine nun, known only as Elizabeth and indicated to be in her mid twenties at the time of the report, spoke of her spiritual delight at receiving such punishment however her report appeared to contain heavily sexual connotations “love, o love my soul!”
· Margaret Anson, ‘The Merry Order of Saint Bridget’ (1854) written from the perspective of a young female novitiate and spoke in eroticised detail of the flagellations she received and witnessed.