Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thoughts about Birches

Spring is here with a vengeance, and it's a joy to see the tiny leaf buds that had been dormant all winter swell with the green promise within.

So my thoughts have been upon birches. They are very much a decorating fashion statement at present. While browsing through a Pottery Barn catalogue, I was attracted to a lovely photo of a bedroom, with a very pretty red and white quilt and matching bedding and furniture. In the corner stood a large clump of birch branches, also red, ready for use in a disciplinary scene.

I own a well-thumbed copy of The Pearl, which is a book containing about two dozen issues of the Victorian spanking magazine of the same name. Descriptions of birchings of young ladies, and sometimes of young gentlemen, were very plentiful.

I have never been birched, nor do I want to be, although never say never. But I do have a question for those of you in the know. In some stories, the birch rods were prepared by being soaked in water, while in others, vinegar was the liquid of choice.

Does the use of one liquid over the other make a difference to the quality of the finished rod? Or is any liquid acceptable?

As Robert Frost said, "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches."


Anonymous said...

Hermione, I have never been birched either and from the stories I have heard and read I don't want to be! In the way it is described it feels like a thousand bees stinging you all at once. Okay, maybe it wasn't a thousand but it felt right to put it in my statement! LOL!

I do have mentor friend of mine in NE that soaks his birches in water. I think it has to do with the selling of the birches but I will have to ask him when he returns from seeing his Kitty!

Paul said...

Hermione, I was birched as a child, the orphanage was very strict. I'm happy to report not the Penal birch as used in the Isle of Man, but one more suited to childish bottoms. It can be more painful that the cane in a very stinging way, used with firmness it will break the skin.
They were kept in water to keep them flexible and stop them splintering.
I've never heard of them being kept in vintager.
To my mind a somewhat over enthusiastic weapon of ass destruction.
Mel was very bratty when we were camping once, she expressed a wish to try the birch, silly girl. I made up a moderate weight birch and gave her six moderate to firm strokes, she performed a very active ouchie dance, no cuts but bruising from the little buds. She decided that she didn't like it.
Warm hugs,

Lady Koregan said...

Hermione, I believe I have the answer to your question.

Yes, soaking a birch, switch or cane keeps them more pliant, but what liquid is used does not affect the suppleness of the branches.

The reason for soaking in different liquids is that switches and birches, especially of the unpeeled variety, tend to abrade the skin and the liquid from the birch will then be transfered to those abrasions and welts, causing intense stinging or burning.

Another favorite for soaking liquid is brine, or salt water.

Ms. Betty

Hermione said...

Pest - Yes, a thousand bees sounds about right!

Paul - I think Mel showed very good judgment in deciding she didn't like it.

Ms. Betty - Thank you for unravelling the mystery. I knew there had to be a reason for using vinegar. I believe I remember reading about brine too, somewhere.

Michael said...

Nice post, Hermione, especially now that spring has sprung. I have never used a birch rod on a woman, but I have used a switch from a weeping willow tree. She did not care for it, very ouchy. Yes, I have read that brine or vinegar is not only used to keep the birch supple, but also as an irritant to further increase the punishment.


Hermione said...

Michael - I take that back about spring - it's snowing!

Birch trees don't live very long around here; they get some sort of insect infestation and die young. However, Ron has been talking about getting a willow tree. I wonder what he might have on his mind.


Greenwoman said...

All I can think to say is ow!

Michael said...

SNOW! YIKES! Tomorrow is May, for heaven's sake!

Hermione, you know very well what Ron has in mind planting a willow. Switches right outside your backdoor. ;)

Seriously, though, a willow has long running roots which can play havoc with your foundation and underground pipes, so make sure it's not too close to the house. Best get an expert's opinion.


Hermione said...

Greenwoman - My thoughts exactly!

Michael - Snow, hail, sleet, rain, snow again, and now sunshine. Global warming, right!
I'll take your word for it about willows. They sound highly dangerous, in more than one way.


Anonymous said...

I've never been birched either, but have had small bundles of willow switches used on me. It was quite different from a normal switching, less of a burning line of fire, but still intense because it covered a larger area.

I wish we had birches native here, there are only a few small ornimental stands on grounds we dare not pilfer. Its not that I -want- a good birching, because I don't! Its more that it would be interesting to have the anticipation, then later to look back upon. And, hey, it can not be worse than a wire coat hanger!


Hermione said...

W S M - A wire coat hanger? No thanks! Not even the anticipation of that would be worth it.


Unknown said...

Hi Hermione,
I have been birched twice,and on the first occasion with a birch that hadn't been stored in water.So the twigs were dry and brittle.They shattered so much that the rod was useless within a dozen strokes.

I can confirm that water is used to keep the twigs flexible.Brine and salt are used to increase the pain,as it's driven into any small wounds during the birching.I have no first hand experience of that.Not yet anyway.

Best Wishes,