Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Birch

Does anyone use a birch rod as an instrument of correction as part of their domestic discipline regime?

I ask because it’s something Mistress and I discussed a while back and we recently harvested some twigs to fashion into a birch. I've tried tying them into birch rods - one with three twigs, one with four but also left a couple spare to use like a swtich - but the finished birches look a pretty amatuerish. So I just wondered if anyone has done this and created an effective product.

The term birch rod is a misnomer since it is not a single rod but a collection of twigs – not necessarily from the birch tree. Ours are from a hazel bush. The Isle of Man authorities used hazel to make birches to use in their judicial punishments.

The birch rod of course employs a special place in British corporal punishment history. The Isle of Man used birching right through the 1970s and the birch, as well as the cat-o-nine-tails, was used in British prisons.

The judicial birch was three or four rods bound together. According to Wikipedia the severity of the birch rod was determined by its length, weight and number of twigs. In Dartmoor Prison, for example, prisoners over 16 years old were subjected to a ‘senior birch, which weight 16 ounces and was 48 in length.

The birch was also used in schools, most famously at Eton where they used what is known as the ‘spray birch’ – a much bushier collection of smaller twigs.

Birching apparently took place all over Europe up to the 19th century when caning started to become a more popular method of corporal punishment.

2 comments:

  1. Hi
    We use a birch on high days and holidays, particularly in these Autumn months.
    When we are out walking in the nearby woods my wife will spot some suitable tree with long, straight, thin branches and suggest that I come back and cut some.
    I usually make the instrument out of 8 or 10 branches and bind them together one by one with wire and then wrap the handle end with tape and a ribbon tied at the end. By the time I have finished it is a wicked wand that I hand to my wife. She generally places it in the bedroom, hanging from a hook behind the door.
    Within a day or so I will notice that the birch is lying in cold water in the bath and I know what is coming.
    Have fun
    Michael M

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  2. Hi:

    Her Majesty and I have experimented with rural implements of this type though she still prefers her collection of rattan canes. In an earlier formative relationship I was tied naked to a tree in the Maine woods and flogged with a freshly picked switch! Talk about being close to nature! Luckily there weren't any ants! Fond memories...

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