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The world of birch rods – spanking implement –

birch_rod_spanking

The birch rod is a type of whip that was used widely and for a long time in Europe.

Due to its use for basic bare bottoms, it was replaced by the cane in the 19th and 20th centuries, but until then, it reigned as the most popular spanking implement.

The key words for this old European implement are “Eton College” and “judicial spanking”.

七峰

Hey there, it’s Chika, your gear specialist

The birch rod, which had such a strong presence in medieval paintings as the quintessential punishment implement, has now become a legacy item with the rise of the cane

十束

Hi, Emma from the History responsible

The spread of the enlightened idea that it was indecent to let children show their bare bottoms, even if they were children, after the Victorian era also helped to bring about the decline of the Birches

TOC

Birch and I

So, here’s the introduction.

Nowadays, especially in Japan, I think the birch rod is considered a rather niche item.

However, there are still certain situations that are unique to the birch rod. I first encountered the birch rod in the comic “Sarari.”

柴田昌弘_サライ_バーチング_1
柴田昌弘_サライ_バーチング_2
『サライ』1 (少年画報社, 柴田昌弘)
七峰

Ah, the birch rod in the monastery—

Shibata-sensei (author)’s love for spanking really comes through.

In fact, birch is very suited to monasteries. This may be because in the Middle Ages, when public schools and other institutions had not yet been established, they were one of the few closed, controlled societies.

But let’s first look at the basic specifications and history of birch, and then we’ll discuss how to make it look good in the second half!

What kind of whip is a “birch rod”?

About the birch

First, let’s take a look at the birch tree.

白樺

Birch is a hardwood that is widely found in the Northern Hemisphere, and is characterized by its beautiful white trunk that is recognizable to anyone.

In Europe, it is one of the major trees that is widely distributed from Central Europe northwards to Russia. In Japan, it often grows in clusters in Hokkaido and the Tohoku region, as well as in other regions with low temperatures, such as mountains and highlands.

The branches are long, thin and supple, so they can be used as a whip when used individually or in groups. However, they are not particularly durable compared to other trees, so they are best used as a familiar, relatively suitable tree for punishment.

七峰

We’ll cover the methods for enhancing durability and safety later.

Not all birch trees are white birch, but white birch is the most common. (Maybe birch trees that grow wild in America are not very suitable for whips.)

So from now on, when I say birch, I hope you will think I mean white birch.

History of Birch Rods

The history of birch whipping is thought to be ancient, but the exact date of its appearance is not known.

七峰

……Well, to be frank, it’s not really an invention or anything, since it’s just a tool to beat the branches as they are or put together!

And it hasn’t evolved at all until now

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A living fossil, indeed

As mentioned at the beginning, the birch rod was not refined as a tool for corporal punishment. Therefore, from the 19th century onwards, it was replaced by the more modern implement, cane. The main reasons for the birch being replaced by the cane are as follows.

  • Due to changes in social morals, the cane became more convenient than the birch, which is only effective on bare skin, as the cane can deliver sufficient impact even over clothing.
  • The spread of girls’ education further supported this shift.
  • Rattan, the material for canes, primarily comes from Southeast Asia, but with the expansion of trade, rattan became widely available.
  • Unlike the dried cane, the birch naturally deteriorates, making long-term storage difficult.
七峰

Like pepper and tea, Europeans are really good at developing Asian products

Thus, while the birch rod has become an outdated tool in practical terms, its traditional aura still gives it a unique presence in historical works and folk culture.

The presence of a birch rod instantly evokes a medieval atmosphere.

『7人のシェイクスピア』(ハロルド作石、講談社)

Is Birch a weak implement?

Now, as mentioned above, birching is basically intended for bare buttocks, with some exceptions. So, is it less powerful? The birch itself is not weak, as it is used for punishment. Of course, it depends on the thickness and length of the branches.

However, one of the main characteristics of the birch is that the numerous branches bundle together, dispersing the force and making it difficult for the user to handle.

七峰

This seems to be closely related to the trade-off issue with punishment tools:

“Single Point Impact” vs. “Distributed Broad Impact.”

Sure, here’s the translation:


Sometimes thicker, longer branches are bundled together, but branches that spread out like a broom towards the end have a more “birch-like” shape.

The reason for the spreading branches is to essentially widen the impact area, similar to a paddle. This way, each branch inflicts small, precise damage to the skin of the buttocks, resulting in a subtle yet effective punishment.

However, since the force is dispersed among the branches, the impact of each individual branch is weaker. Therefore, it is less effective when used over clothing.

But I suppose that’s pretty self-explanatory.

七峰

I guess if I were to put it into words, it would go something like this

Thinking about it as an RPG game…

Birch:
Low attack power but can attack multiple times simultaneously

Cane:
High attack power but can only attack once at a time

[When the enemy has armor]
The birch’s low damage per hit results in 0 damage, even with multiple attacks. However, the cane’s high attack power can still deal damage despite the armor. So, the cane wins.

Historic Birch Rods

Unlike industrially manufactured wooden paddles and rattan canes, birch, made from natural tree branches, are all unique. Their individuality can either be a blessing or a curse for the spankee.

Let’s explore the diverse world of birch switches.

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On the other hand, even if you create a one-of-a-kind personal birch switch, it is a consumable item that won’t last long

There’s a certain charm in its fleeting nature

1: The “Eton Birch” – A punishment whip used at Eton College

イートンバーチ
Eton College Website FDA-A.399-2014 | Eton Collections (etoncollege.com)

The “Eton Birch” or “Eton Rod” is a traditional corporal punishment tool used at Eton College, one of the most prestigious public schools.

It consists of a 4-foot (1.2m) birch branch, with about two-thirds of it tightly bound together. The remaining part of the branch spreads out like a fan, large enough to cover the entire bare buttocks of the boys.

Kept in the Headmaster’s office along with a punishment block, this birch is a symbol of the educator’s authority.

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Speaking of Eton College, one of the UK’s prestigious schools, Charles Beaumont, the protagonist of “Frank and I,” which is available on our site, often mentioned receiving the birch during his student days

I am a bit of a disciplinarian, and I believe in the efficacy of corporal punishment; moreover, I think all boys require a flogging occasionally. I was often birched when I was at Eton, and I am sure the punishment was good for me.

“Frank” and I : Part 1 Chapter 2

あ、いまではなく、19世紀のイートン校の話ですよ、もちろん。

七峰

Founded in 1440… is that really a school with 600 years of history?

No wonder the punishments there have such a rich history

Interestingly, the cost of the birch rods, which were everyday consumables, was charged to the students. At Eton College, it was half a guinea per term. It’s hard to say whether that was expensive or cheap for 19th-century prices.


Additionally, various spanking devices have been devised throughout history as punishment tools to be used with birch rods, such as the “birching table” and the “birching pony.”

At Eton College, it is well known that, in addition to the Eton Birch, a unique device called the birching block was used. Although it is visible in the photo above, there is also a more illustrative drawing for better understanding.

イートン校のバーチングブロック

This step stool-like item on the left is the “block.” As for the positioning:

  • First, bare the buttocks.
  • Kneel on the first step.
  • Rest the abdomen on the upper platform.
  • Lower the head and place both hands on the floor on the other side.

This way, the buttocks are raised high. The body is then held in place by prefects or other supporting students from both sides, and the punishment is administered.

七峰

A bare butt is a must, after all.

十束

To accommodate the growing boys, blocks of various sizes were available

The one depicted in the illustration seems to be for junior students

2: The “Judicial Birch”

Until a law change in 1948, birching was used as a form of punishment in the UK. The maximum size of the birch was 42 inches (about 106 cm). Most of these birches were stripped of their leaves and branches, making them resemble rods.

アイルランドのバーチロッド

19th-century Judicial Birch at the National Museum of Ireland

Birch Rod | National Museum of Ireland

According to the National Museum of Ireland, this whip was used for male prisoners as an additional punishment for acts of defiance, administered in the presence of a doctor.

From the 19th to the 20th century, in British and Irish cultural spheres, two main types of whips were commonly used for official punishment:

  • The cat-o’-nine-tails
  • The birch
七峰

Of course, the cat was the harsher punishment

As mentioned above, judicial birches were basically abolished in the UK in 1948, but they were specifically permitted until 1962 as a punishment for insubordination and rebellion. However, the whip was administered at Wandsworth Prison, the central prison in the UK, and the operation was stiffly regulated, with the whip being sent as needed.

While referred to as birch, it’s not always made from birch; hazel or willow branches are commonly used as well. Willow, in particular, is a significant instrument for punishment, especially in places like Ireland where it’s renowned.

十束

For instance, there’s a song in Irish folk music called “The Sally Gardens.” In Ireland, the willow, known as “sally,” is a cherished motif in culture and literature

In Oceania, during tribal initiations, whips are made from the stems of aquatic plants native to the area…

It’s rather curious how the choice of branch for whips varies from country to country

Three Ways to Bring Out the Charm of Birch

For some, the unique appearance and atmosphere of birch are undeniably captivating. So, how can we make birching even more appealing?

1: Making the spankees create their own rods

Now, when birch appears in a punishment scene, unlike canes that hang imposingly on walls or cupboards, the key difference is…

It can be gathered from the garden.

In “Frank and I,” the protagonist Charles fetches fresh branches from the garden for Frank’s punishment.

I had not got a rod, but there were several birch trees growing in the grounds, so I went out and cut a few long, slender, sappy, green twigs, and soon made a first-rate rod; and, as I swished it in the air to test its flexibility, I said to myself: “Ah! master Francis, this will make your bottom smart.”

“Frank” and I : Part 1 Chapter 2
七峰

Well, it’s more of a single branch than a bundle, though

…Collecting a lot of them can be laborious. However, birch deteriorates over time, so it’s best to gather it when needed.


Another common situation is…

Making the spankee fetch birch from the garden.

There are guys who enjoy these kinds of scenarios, right?

Like the “Go fetch the hairbrush from the drawer” type.

Plus, with branches, there’s the added choice of which one to select. Do you opt for a less painful branch or one that looks like it might sting? And then, what happens next?

七峰

Besides birch…

In the realm of freshly picked disciplinary tools straight from European gardens, there’s the nettle

That one’s a bit more vicious…

2: Soaking birch in water or saltwater.

It’s quite common to soak branch whips, not just birch, in water or saltwater. Some might have seen it before.

19世紀の女子刑務所での鞭打ち
Whipping in Women’s Prisons in the 19th Century – Author Unknown

Now, the main reasons for soaking branches in water or saltwater are as follows:

  • Preventing cracking due to drying, thus increasing durability.Increasing pain by adding weight to the soaked branch.Disinfecting by soaking in saltwater.
  • Increasing pain by adding weight to the soaked branch.
  • Disinfecting by soaking in saltwater.
十束

Ah, the butt flesh bouncing and splattering with each strike, lovely.

The above painting depicts scenes from a prison, but particularly in settings like schools or prisons where birch is used, it’s often reused.

Disinfecting birch is crucial not only to prevent infections but also because birch is meant to strike bare skin and can cause damage. So the birch’s spread ends are tied and soaked overnight to disinfect it.

十束

Well, aside from the risk of infection from others’ blood…

We don’t often think about it, but the area around the buttocks can be quite unhygienic

Imagine the conditions in old prisons. It must have been something awful

Also, sometimes they’re soaked in water with vinegar added. It serves a similar purpose to saltwater.

…I feel like I’ve seen descriptions of soaking branch whips in “urine” before. It sounds like some kind of superstition or folk belief, but I couldn’t find anything after a quick search…

Maybe it’s just my imagination… I’ll add a note if I find anything.

七峰

If it’s a memory from porn or something, I’ll smack you!

3: You can decorate the birch with ribbons.

By the way, in “Frank and I,” the spanking enthusiast protagonist Charles brings along a specially crafted spanking birch adorned with cute ribbons for punishment when he visits his mistress’s house.

On one of my visits, I took with me a nice little birch, prettily tied up with bows of blue ribbon, which I hid under the pillow when we were going to bed at night.

“Frank” and I : Part 1 Chapter 
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Isn’t that adorable!

Nowadays, when making birches for play, you can wrap them with tape or other materials, allowing for various design options.

Moreover, their preserved flower-like appearance suggests they might offer better aesthetics when hung on a wall compared to paddles or canes.

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aesthetics !

七峰

fantastic !

Considering the areas targeted by the birch

Unlike boys who can bare their bottoms without hesitation, encounters with birching for girls are not so common in classic literature (excluding erotica).

So, let’s take a look at a classic of 19th-century English literature, “Jane Eyre” (1847, Charlotte Bronte).

十束

“Jane Eyre” might be familiar to those who enjoy literature. It’s the work of Charlotte Bronte, the eldest of the Bronte sisters, who were British authors

It has been adapted into movies and dramas multiple times, and there have even been musical adaptations

The protagonist, young girl Jane Eyre, enrolls in the boarding school Lowood Institution, where corporal punishment is rampant. Below is a scene where her friend Helen Burns receives punishment.

バーンズはすかさず立ち上がり、書物がしまってある奥の小部屋に入っていき、まもなく小枝の束を手にしてもどってきた。その小枝の一方の先端は紐で縛ってあった。この恐ろしげな道具を彼女はうやうやしくスキャチャード先生にさしだした。それからおとなしく自分からエプロンをはずした。すると先生はいきなりその小枝で彼女のうなじをぴしぴしと十二回も打ちすえた。

『ジェイン・エア(上)』(シャーロット・ブランテ, 小尾芙佐訳, 光文社古典新訳文庫)

Neck?

Punishment by hitting the neck is certainly not common, and while I’m not aware of other instances, exposing the neck seems to serve as an effective target for inflicting pain.

… probably.

七峰

Of course, but remember not to mimic it.

Lowood Institution is modeled after a school Charlotte Bronte attended during her childhood. It’s often cited as a quintessential portrayal of Victorian England, particularly from a female perspective, and is frequently referenced in historical explanations and discussions.

映画『ジェーン・エア』
From the 2011 TV drama adaptation of “Jane Eyre”.
七峰

Even though it’s called a boarding school, it’s more like an orphanage than the boarding schools like Eton College we discussed earlier

十束

The school that served as the model for Lowood was heavily criticized by the public after Charlotte Bronte exposed its harsh conditions in her novel

By the way, in the 1983 BBC drama adaptation of “Jane Eyre,” Helen Burns is struck on the palms with a stick. Indeed, birch lacks durability and is prone to natural deterioration, so it’s not suitable for environments like schools where punishment occurs frequently.

…However, here, I’ll introduce the scene I encountered.

In 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, right around the time this site was launched. At that time, due to the “Stay Home” recommendation, various organizations worldwide were uploading content on YouTube.

The National Theatre of Britain also temporarily released stage performances on YouTube, including “Jane Eyre”. In an unexpected turn, the scene depicting Helen’s punishment showcased birching on her buttocks.

『Jane Eyre』NationalTheatreLive

There may have been directorial intent behind it. It’s surprising that they chose to depict birching on the buttocks when it wasn’t in the original work. I was taken aback too; I was just idly watching and was caught off guard by the unexpected scene.

七峰

Dude, seriously, how bored were you during the pandemic to be watching theater adaptations of classic novels like this?

Back then, I didn’t have any task…

Sisterhood of the Birch – Other Branch Whips –

ヘーゼル・ロッド

七峰

As mentioned earlier, hazel also has a presence as a whip, alongside birch

ヘーゼルロッド
hazel and birch
Ludwigsburg Prison Museum | Dark History (wordpress.com)

The above photo is from the Ludwigsburg Prison Museum in Germany. According to the explanation, birch was mainly used on the naked backs of women, while hazel rods were introduced for men starting in 1853.

十束

The text in the description of the photo was too blurry to read, so I used a tool to decipher it. If I got it wrong, I apologize.

Vihta

ヴィヒタ_白樺

“Vihta” is a Finnish word referring to a bundle of birch twigs. As some may know, it’s used in saunas to gently whip the skin, promoting blood circulation.

十束

It’s called “whisking,” you know. Kaede goes there often

Birch, the white birch, is the national tree of Finland. Vihta, of course, is a tool in a different context from punishment.

However, like other northern countries, Finland is surrounded by an abundance of birch trees, so the use of birch for punishment is indeed a natural progression. It might even be considered more mainstream than in Central Europe.

Conclusion: The Great Achievements of the Birch Rod

This turned out to be quite lengthy, even with significant content cut. The birch rod, being a tool of punishment with a long history, offers endless topics to explore. I’m considering planning individual topics for further discussion in the future.

Punishment in schools and similar settings may be strongly associated with canes or paddles.

However, it took nearly twenty centuries for these to emerge, and just as quickly as they appeared, corporal punishment vanished from reality. In the grand scheme of history, this period seems like a mere instant. Throughout the long, long history preceding it, the birch was the star of countless punishment sessions, painting numerous backsides.

Taking a broader perspective on birching, one might begin to appreciate the simple yet profound allure of this remarkable implement.

七峰

So, until next time!

Goodbye!

TOC