Flagellants are practitioners of an extreme form of mortification of their own flesh by whipping it with various instruments.
Various religions, like the cult of Isis in Egypt and the Dionysian cult of Greece, practiced their own forms of flagellation. Women were flogged during the Roman Lupercalia to ensure fertility.
Flagellantism was a 13th century and 14th century movement, consisting of radicals in the Catholic Church. The followers were noted for including public flagellation in their rituals.
Movements of flagellants did not have a central doctrine or overall leaders. A popular passion of self-flagellation occurred all over Europe in separate outbreaks. The first recorded incident was in Perugia in 1259, the year after severe crop damage and famine throughout Europe. Other notable incidents are recorded at the time of the Black Death (1349), and 1399.
There are some marginal self-flagellation practices in Catholic Christianity, and Taoism today and are quite widespread in Siitic Islam. (Wikipedia)
There is a view that flagellants experience altered states of mind because of the endorphins that are released during extreme pain, a view that gives also an explanation to sadomazochism. But in general is a practice of self-punishment and purification from the flesh desires.
James Hamilton, The Last Days of Pompeii - Brooklyn Museum Date: 1864 Technique: Oil on canvas, 152.2 x 122 cm *Source*
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