"In Mr. Dimmesdale’s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge"
Cat-o'-nine-tails, a type of scourge
Public DomainCat-o'-nine-tails, a type of scourge - Credit: Pearson Scott Foresman
Procession of Flagellants (c.1808)
Public DomainProcession of Flagellants (c.1808) - Credit: Francisco GoyaPenitent Saint Jerome (1624-50) (316 * 500)

A scourge is a type of whip with multiple thongs, sometimes knotted at the ends so as to inflict extra pain. They have long been used as an instrument of religious penance: the miserable sinner would atone for his transgressions by repeatedly lashing himself on the back. This practice was seen as a realisation of Paul the Apostle's injunction to “Mortify..your members which are upon the earth” and thereby annihilate “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness” (Colossians 3:5). It was also associated with the flogging which Jesus underwent at Calvary. Though Dimmesdale practices this mortification privately, some religious groups, such as the Flagellants, made it an institutional practice.


Flagellation of Christ (1495-8)
Public DomainFlagellation of Christ (1495-8) - Credit: Michael Pacher