Embracing the lash: pain and ritual as spiritual tools


  • Jo Pearson University of Winchester


Ritual, Pain, Suffering, Spirituality, Wicca, Witchcraft, Erotica, Sex, Body, Human, Christianity, Religious movements, Popular, Flagellants, Sadism, Masochism, Trance, Altered states of consciousness, Gender, Neopaganism


Whilst the use of flagellation for the purposes of purification, punishment or redemptive salvific activity has long been accepted in Christianity, its use in newly emergent religions such as Wicca, where the religious use of pain cannot be sidelined as an historical aberration but must instead be understood within the context of (post)modern spirituality, has elicited little debate. Whilst purification and, to a far lesser extent, punishment still have their place, in Wicca submission to pain must also be explored in terms of initi­atory ordeal, as well as an opportunity for transcendence and as arousal, sensation, and energy generation. However, voluntary submission to the infliction of pain, especially in order to enable religious/spiritual experience, tends to be regarded as anathema and as such, remains largely hidden, concealed behind a veil of categorisations of sexuality and psychopathology. Whilst acknowledging that BDSM remains taboo amongst most practitioners of Wicca, this 60 year old religion contains within its practices elements of techniques often associated with BDSM, techniques which, though having an established history in the world’s religions, are now being pioneered by a small cohort of priests and priestesses within the ritual framework of a twentieth/twenty-first century religion. This article concentrates on those elements now more or less stripped of their association with medieval Christianity, and more commonly framed within the context/s of BDSM. 



How to Cite

Pearson, J. (2011). Embracing the lash: pain and ritual as spiritual tools. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 23, 351–363. https://doi.org/10.30674/scripta.67394