"When he had finished, he picked up the whip and began hitting himself"
Flagellants, from a 15th century woodcut
Public DomainFlagellants, from a 15th century woodcut - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 Flagellants are people who perform self-abasement through whipping, normally for religious purposes. It is seen as a way to cleanse the soul, or as an act of atonement.

In the Zuni religion, whipping is not used as a punishment but for purification. At a young age, boys are whipped by masked kiva spirits in a purifying ceremony to drive out bad luck.  The ceremony is repeated just before puberty.

Flagellantism was a Christian movement in the 13th and 14th centuries, focused on penance. Although the act of flagellation is rarely practiced today, it can still be found in some Catholic countries, such as Spain, Italy and the Philippines.