Publication Year



Mysticism, asceticism, gender, religion


Comparative Methodologies and Theories | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | History of Religions of Western Origin | Religion | Women's Studies


What would be considered acceptable motivation to injure oneself? Is it love, sadness in mourning fanaticism, r perhaps just boredom? In the modern West, depression or sadness are seen as major factors in self inflicted pain or self abuse. But once one crosses over the threshold of religion, the situation changes drastically and suddenly every action has a new meaning. There are two major categories of pain in religious practice, chronic and acute. Acute being "short term"-ritual burning of flesh for example- while chronic pain would be long-term. Activities in this category would be long-term starvation, flagellation, wearing a belt of nails for months at a time. There are also strong motivations behind rituals of sacred pain, each implying different motivations--and therefore different practices--for men and women. This paper will use the lens of gender to examine the ritualistic practices of chronic and acute pain in two religious communities--Medieval European Christianity and Central Asian Sufism. Furthermore, in so doing, I argue that women and men do hurt differently despite tradition, however gender itself is not the motivation behind the divide. Instead, it is the socio-religious construct within which these men and women must function which dictates how they choose to hurt.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

Religious Studies

Department 2 Awarding Honors Status

Johnston Center for Integrative Studies