The Scourge Part 1

“The Goddess’ scourge is light—usually.”

           A scourge by any other name is still a scourge.  A scourge is the name given to what is basically a many-tailed whip used in Wicca.  People in the scene often call it a flogger, or if it has knots, a cat, and to outsiders it’s a whip, but all these boil down to a scourge.  According to Merriam-Webster, the word first appears in its current form in the 13th century and is originally derived from the Latin word corrigia, which means “thong” or “whip”.    It’s a ritual tool that many Wiccans either don’t own, don’t use, don’t understand, or have purely for show.
            Scourges and other whip like implements have been associated with religion forever. 
In Ancient Egypt, Osiris was often depicted with a crook and a flail, symbols of authority but also symbols of agriculture.  These symbols of agriculture could sympathetically translate to virility symbols.  There is more about the flail (which looks an awful lot like a scourge) in the “Ritual” section of this blog.
The Ancient Romans used scourges, whips, and switches sympathetically in their magic and rituals. These implements were seen as being phallic and were used in fertility rites, primarily Lupercalia.  According to a Hellenic expert, while Lupercalia is primarily a Roman festival, it has its origins in Ancient Greece. Originally male adolescents in Arkadia would reenact the feast of Lycaon every year. At the original feast, Lycaon prepared a feast for the Olympian gods that included some human flesh, perhaps from one of Lycaon’s male relatives. This so enraged Zeus, that he struck Lycaon’s house
with a thunderbolt and Lycaon turned into a wolf.
At the Arkadian reenactment, the teenagers would gather on a mountaintop and
partake of a meal of animal entrails. However, among the animal guts was hidden one piece of human intestine. If a participant ate this juicy morsel, he would turn into a wolf and was only able to become human again if he refrained from eating human meat for nine years. Another way that the boys could achieve this lupine transformation was to swim across a special mountain pool. Once again, after nine years, they could regain their human form.  

 

This tradition traveled to Rome via Hermes’ son, Euandros, who exported the cult of Pan Lykaios and the festival of Lykaia to Italy. This festival later became the festival of Lupercalia, which is described in the opening lines of Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar.

Once the wolf festival was transported to Rome and became Lupercalia, many
different stories and deities became associated with the celebration.  To honor Pan, two goats and a dog were annually sacrificed. The dog was sacrificed because they were sacred for their ability to protect flocks and because Pan raised hounds.
           Skin from the sacrificed goats was used for the flails that the Lupercalia runners would whip the female spectators with. It was believed that through this aggressive behavior Pan would bless the ladies with fertility. 

 

 

In Julius Caesar, Caesar tells Antony:
Forget not, in your speed, Antonius,
To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,
The barren, touched in this holy chase,
Shake off their sterile curse.
Act I, Scene 2

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