The New Flagellants

Up ahead a small group of people walked slowly on the shoulder of the road, heading south for God knows where. Penitents they called themselves, convinced the plague was a punishment from God, and determined to atone for all past sins, real and imagined. Dressed in ankle length roughcloth robes and hand-made sandals, they wandered the Interstates, determined to redeem the souls of all the departed, fervent in the belief that by traveling the country once inhabited by those now departed souls, mortifying themselves enroute, they could convince God to let up a little. (From Susan Darling, a mystery/thriller by Walter Erickson) 

Flagellants are not new. They appeared in the 13th century in response to the Black Death, and rather lately in New Mexico in the nineteenth century where they called themselves Los Hermanos Penitentes. But these were original penitents, beating themselves with knotted cords, crying to God for succor. Present day flagellants do not pray to God, they pray to Gaia, and they do not physically beat themselves with whips, they try to beat others into appeasing the great Earth goddess, usually to their financial and spiritual benefit.

No longer does the knotted cord
Hang by their side with which to flay
The body of the sick and bored
Who call on God to save the day
The penitentes with us now
No longer travel on bare feet
Preferring Guccis, smiling ciao
To every sucker that they meet
Save the planet! is their cry
Fossil fuels will kill us all
Like the dinosaurs we’ll die
Who were once here you will recall
One hundred fifty million years
It took them to destroy the Earth
While many of you shed no tears
For this the land of Gaia’s birth
Come join us as we save you guys
From global warming which will melt
The ice caps causing seas to rise
From dams that kill endangered smelt
From newts and toads rained down from high
Yes Gaia weeps for we’re the ones
Who litter lawns as we drive by
And frack the shale once warmed by suns
We weep for all who do not care
We weep for all who just refuse
To lighten up the load we bear
And tell the truth we need the dues

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