It’s a rare, rare situation, but the sheer craziness of this (hat tip PZ) knocked the wind out of me, so that I’m having a hard time finding something to say about it:

Health officials in the Philippines have issued a warning to people taking part in Easter crucifixion rituals.

They have urged them to get tetanus vaccinations before they flagellate themselves and are nailed to crosses, and to practise good hygiene.

On Good Friday dozens of very devout Catholics in the Philippines re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.


The health department has strongly advised penitents to check the condition of the whips they plan to use to lash their backs, the Manila Times newspaper reports.

They want people to have what they call “well-maintained” whips.

In the hot and dusty atmosphere, officials warn, using unhygienic whips to make deep cuts in the body could lead to tetanus and other infections.

And they advise that the nails used to fix people to crosses must be properly disinfected first. Often people soak the nails in alcohol throughout the year.

I suppose it’s all the health department there could do to try to minimize the medical complications of this bizarre tradition, given that apparently the best advice of all, namely don’t do stupid things like flagellating yourself or having yourself nailed to a cross, would be ignored.


  1. #1 Jason Failes
    March 20, 2008

    The stupid, it burns…I think it may be an infection.

  2. #2 MarkH
    March 20, 2008

    I’ve seen video of them doing this. It isn’t a real crucifixion, it’s really just a bunch of drama queens going overboard for their religion.

    Basically, they are strapped to the cross at wrists and feet, and they drive a skinny nail through their palm. Painful yes, crucifixion no. Then they lift them up for about 10 seconds (no weight bearing on the nail), let them down and pull them off the cross.

    It’s really pretty silly when you see it. It’s not torture, it’s no worse than those guys in India or wherever that pierce themselves all over with spikes for a holiday.

  3. #3 Ian Findlay
    March 20, 2008

    It is only a personal opinion, but Christians should be flagellated and nailed to planks.

  4. #4 Scote
    March 20, 2008

    If only they had had these kinds of helpful health notices in Jesus’ time, then maybe he wouldn’t have died–er, or something.

    It is, however, funny though tragic that cross re-enactors know that their body weight can not held up by a nail through their hand and take precautions to hold up their body by other means to avoid tearing their hands apart, yet continue to believe that Jesus hung from a cross for days, held by nails through his hands. Sigh… The cognitive dissonance is palpable.

  5. #5 Doug Alder
    March 20, 2008

    iirc – the mythical Jesus was also nailed through his crossed feet and that would have provided some support to take the weight off of the hands.

    If they want this experience they should do a real crucification and plant the crosses and leave them. A few less crazies in the world that way.

  6. #6 The Ridger
    March 20, 2008

    Of course, Romans nailed through the WRISTS and not the palms. Problem of translation – Greek (like several other European languages) uses the same word for hand and arm, and the translators, never having seen or, I suppose, thought hard about, a crucifixion picked the wrong word.

    Not that KJV-worshipers will ever admit this. Nor, I suppose, stigmatists…stigmata-bearers… whatever they’re called.

  7. #7 King of all jews
    March 20, 2008

    It’s one thing for a jew to be crucified so that the world can be fucked thru the bullshit religion brought about by the crucifixion.
    It’s another thing to see these stupid polynesians nailing themselves up every year. I ve known about these dumb mothe phukkers for years. Yea Xtianity; yea monotheism; lemmie go worship Mithra

  8. #8 Eamon Knight
    March 21, 2008

    Yeah, the best advice is “Don’t do it”. Failing that, think of this as a harm-reduction thing, like needle exchanges for drug addicts (there’s a parallel there).

  9. #9 Tom T.
    March 21, 2008

    Certainly, this isn’t something I’d want to do myself, but is the risk of infection really that much higher than from the thousands of ear and other piercings that take place in U.S. malls every day?

  10. #10 Ephena
    March 23, 2008

    Well to begin, I don’t really get the re-enactment thing. If somebody you cared for… say a close friend was nailed to a cross by a psychopath… would you annually re-enact the event? And more obviously, who would wear a miniature cross on a chain to commemorate the occasion? There’s probably a fine line if a line exists at all between any of the various worldwide factions of religious zealots. These rival factions account for, and have left a long history of, much of if not most of the worlds violence and conflict.

  11. #11 Calli Arcale
    March 23, 2008

    Reminds me of a year or so ago when there was a big health alert during a ceremony like this — one of the participants had died of rabies shortly afterwards. No additional rabies cases were reported, but they were warning participants to get vaccinated because of the small but non-zero chance of exposure.

    To “King of all jews”, I’m surprised you’ve read of this before but haven’t realized it occurs in the Philippines. Then again, the rest of your post sounds like a basic screed against people who think differently than you, without any real depth of thought, so perhaps confusing Philippines with Polynesia shouldn’t be surprising.

    Doug Alder and The Ridger — there is significant scholarly debate as to the actual method of crucifixion. The Romans do not seem to have had a single, specific method but had regional and temporal variations (that is, the practice evolved over time). Complicating studies of the practice is the fact that the bones of crucified people are rarely well preserved; most victims were obviously not well regarded by the community. The depiction shown in some of the most famous Christian art, mostly dating to the Middle Ages and later, should not be trusted for accuracy, though it heavily informs modern impressions of the practice.

    Speaking of the Middle Ages, the practice of flagellation has a very old history. It has never been a mainstream Christian thing, though. In the Middle Ages, groups of flagellants roamed the countryside, performing public rituals in which they would whip themselves and then don hair shirts (leather shirts with the coarse hair on the inside, scraping the raw wounds on their backs). The Catholic Church condemned the practice, and officials sometimes went to the extent of excommunicating practitioners. But it appealed to some who felt that terrible things like the Black Plague and the massive famines around the time of the Little Ice Age were divine retribution for an insufficiently holy community. We’ve got people who think that today, but unlike the modern ones, they didn’t just complain about it — they decided to perform rituals of penance to atone for everybody else’s sins. Of course, their doctrine was fairly screwy; with the exception of Christ, penance doesn’t help atone for anybody but yourself, and such highly public penance may be a sin of pride — penance to show off what a wonderfully holy and righteous person you are.

    In my opinion, these modern penitents are probably in that latter category. I am a Christian, and I believe that means that penance like this is utterly useless for getting oneself into heaven. It won’t atone for your sins, it won’t atone for anybody else’s sins. And to me, it smacks of a certain kind of arrogance. Look how holy I am! I can do this! Yeah, you can, but so what? What’s the point of deliberately inflicting misery upon oneself? I can understand a private, personal exercise in discipline — physical exercise, for instance, which has the added benefit of being *good* for the body — but such a public exercise in discipline freaks out the non-Christians and makes an ass of oneself in front of the Christians. At least, that’s how I see it.

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