10 Human Rituals of Pain

Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

In our podcast episode "The Zen of Pain," we discuss religious and secular rituals of voluntary and self-inflicted suffering. How does this desire for pain factor into our evolutionary ascent? Can we really find liberation by the lash and transcendence on the rack? Even your morning workout may serve as a kind of ritualized self-punishment.

I hope you'll join us for "The Zen of Pain," as well as our other pain-related blog posts, but for now let's explore some imagery from humanity's rituals of pain. This isn't meant as an exhaustive, all-inclusive list, but perhaps it will provide some informative visuals to accompany the podcast.

Above we see a scene of torture (left) and transfiguration (right) from a first century CE fresco in Pompeii's House of the Mysteries.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.