A scourge (from Italian scoriada which in turn comes from Latin excoriare = "to flay", corium = "skin") is a whip or lash, especially a multi-thong type, used to inflict severe corporal punishment or self-mortification on the back.
A whipping with a scourge is called a scourging. The scourge is called in other languages:
- German: Geißel
- Latin: flagrum or flagellum
- Portugese: Azorrague
- Russian: Флоггер
- Swedish: Gissel
There were scourges made from cords of rope, and ones made from leather. Sometimes these cords or thongs were knotted or weighted with pieces of metal or bone to make the scourge more effective in breaking the skin and cutting into the flesh of the person being scourged. The scorpio ("scorpion") was a Roman type of flagrum. Hard material was affixed to multiple thongs to give a flesh-tearing 'bite'. It is mentioned in the Bible in 1 Kings 12:11: "...My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions". The name testifies to the pain caused by the arachnid.
To the generous Roman application of the flagrum testifies the existence of the Latin words flagrifer ("carrying a whip") and flagritriba ("often-lashed slave").
The scourge continued as a popular whipping implement throughout the Middle Ages and into modernity. It was equally popular in judicial corporal punishment, in prison corporal punishment, in military corporal punishment, and in religious corporal punishment. In the British navy, scourges made of thick rope with knotted ends were used, whereas scourges in the army and civil prisons were usually made of leather.
Scourges, as far as is known, were practically never used in school corporal punishment, although minors were occasionally subject to scourging in judicial corporal punishment, and encouraged in self-scourging in religious contexts. But mostly the scourge was thought to be inappropriate for the corporal punishment of children; instead, other implements such as the birch were preferred for that.
The scourge was practically always used on the (bare) back and very rarely on the buttocks, therefore it can't really be called a spanking implement. Modern versions of the scourge as used in BDSM (such as martinets and floggers) are used on practically all body parts.
Use as a symbolEdit
The scourge, or flail, and the crook, are the two symbols of power and domination depicted in the hands of Osiris in Egyptian monuments; they are the unchanging form of the instrument throughout the ages; though, the flail depicted in Egyptian mythology was an agricultural instrument used to thresh wheat, and not for corporal punishment.
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