This is an ancient practice which goes hand-in-hand (or stump-in-stump in severe cases) with general self-mutilation. There are many people throughout history who have felt the need to cut off their genitalia (The 'Day of Blood' festival to commemorate Attis), pluck out their eyes (Soordas saw Krishna and in order to preserve the memory in his mind, enucleated both eyes) or amputate body parts (popular amongst some African bushmen, apparently).
But surely, the safest and yet most satisfyingly painful is pure and simple self-flagellation. Take a small bunch of sharp twigs (or perhaps rose stems, complete with thorns, if you've got the money), tie them together at one end and fan the other, rather like a rudimentary brush, and proceed to beat your own back until you bleed and pass out. Allow the wounds to heal, then do it all again. It's usually accompanied by copious weeping.
For the more advanced self-flagellator, there is always the option of fashioning a cat o' nine tails. Nine thin leather strips, again bound together at one end, but each one with a small piece of sharp rock, twisted metal or broken glass tied to the end of the strand. You can then beat yourself across the spine, allowing the fragments to bury themselves into your flesh, and then draw them through your skin as you drag the 'cat' off your back. Not exactly my idea of fun, but certainly preferable to watching the Eurovision Song Contest.
Nobody self-flagellates anymore and I don't understand why. I think it's time we had a resurrection of this much-maligned pastime. The purpose of it is to purge yourself clean from sin and guilt. So, if you snogged someone you shouldn't have at the office Christmas party, simply beat the guilt away! Your wife need never know!
Perhaps you're on a diet and you just can't stay away from those oh so tempting bars of Dairy Milk. Not a problem. Every time you eat one, thrash yourself soundly with a birch sapling and, I swear to God, your chocolate addiction will be cured within days.
All of this leads me to my point which is this - I have invented a new diet revolution. Self-mutilation!
The larger the indiscretion, the more severe the self-administered punishment. See the sample chart below for examples:
1 salted peanut = A small paper cut
1 bag of Wotsits = Smashing your little finger with a toffee hammer
1 Roast dinner (with buttered vegetables and 2 Yorkshire puddings) = A sharpened fork scraped across both corneas
5 pints of Guinness, 1 bag of pork scratchings, 3 Whiskies and a large mixed Kebab = Disembowelment (self-working)
Forget Atkins! Maim yourself thin in 30 days! Coming soon to a bookshop near you!*
They say insanity is just a hairsbreadth from genius. I like to think I have a foot in both camps.