“Bring back the birch, and the cat of nine tails. Bring back corporal punishment. Bring back the stocks. And the axeman’s block”-The Kinks
Birching is a form of corporal punishment. It typically involves using a birch rod or a bunch of birch branches. The person being punished exposes their bare bottom and it is then whipped with the birch. Sometimes the birching may be done to the back or shoulders, but the bum is the most common.
What is Birch?
Birch, in reference to corporal punishment, is bundles of leafless twigs that have been bound together with the express intention of inflicting corporal punishment. Despite its name, the twigs used do not have to be from a birch tree. The birch can be made from any twig that is strong and smooth. The construction of the birch greatly influences the severity of it. The number of twigs used, as well as their smoothness, length and weight all greatly affect how hard it hits the body. Some people prefer birching to cat o’ nine tails because they have more control over the severity by simply adding or removing twigs.
Birching was used all throughout the UK for many centuries, as well as in other countries. It was used as a form of corporal punishment in jails as well as in schools. In schools special chairs were built specifically for birching, known as birching donkeys or birching ponies. The use of the birch fell out of favor in the mid 1900’s as corporal punishment became less common. In other parts of the world, like Russia and the Baltics, birching was used as a spa therapy. People would use the birch to flagellate themselves. It was thought to be good for the body as it increased circulation. Soaking the birch in water before use and leaving the leaves on softens the birch and creates a soft stinging sensation which is quite pleasant.