Easter is the best holiday for sadists, as Catholics worldwide bloody themselves imitating the passion of Christ, just like Mel Gibon's torture porno with that name. It's also rural Filipinos' annual season of infamy, for literally nailing themselves to crosses.
Welcome to a guided tour of modern Christianity's scariest Jesus imitators. Click here to view on one page. Some images are graphic.
Though Easter passion plays are fairly common (think Christmas pageant plus gore), actual mortification of the flesh is rare outside of the Philippines, and even there it's only a handful of people, confined mostly to small region. The Vatican and local bishops issue annual reminders that they do not condone these "acts of superstition."
People do it anyway, though, because they believe experiencing Christ's pain helps them repent and protect themselves and their families. The AP interviewed one such penitent this year:
"This is for my family, so there is no sickness," said the unmarried 36-year-old decorator, a piece of cloth covering his head which had a crown of barbed wire.
The rituals begin with Good Friday flagellation, like this man in a village near San Fernando city, which is a one-hour drive north of Manila. They use ropes and bamboo shingles to whip penitents. The AP describes,
By lunchtime, children were running around the villages covered in the blood of the penitents that had flicked off their backs.
The city of San Fernando banned foreigners from taking part in this year's crucifixion rituals. Last year, an Australian comedian claimed he wanted to be crucified for his mother who was suffering from cancer; when it turned out he was doing it for a comedy TV show, locals were incensed.
But foreigners are allowed to attend as spectators. The rites attracted upwards of 10,000 tourists this year, according to a Press Association report. The tourism angle has led some to accuse localities of perverting religious tradition into a capitalist endeavor.
Meanwhile, simulated crucifixions carry on elsewhere, including the United States. Maryland's St. Camillus Catholic Church "crucified" a man at the end of their Good Friday stations of the cross procession.
At Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the scariest weapons are the guns guarding the processioners. Religious violence: The more it changes, the more it stays the same? [Images via AP]