Archive for March 10th, 2010



medieval penitential sex flowchart

I tend to keep papers. Receipts, movie stubs, photos and illustrations from magazines, and of course funny things I’ve photocopied from books. Which makes sense: if you’re going to keep things, why not keep lightweight and information-packed things? At least, that’s what I say to myself when I look at my files full of random bits of paper. Someday they’ll all come in useful.

Today, one of those scraps of paper has indeed made itself useful. It is a penitential flowchart on when you can and, more importantly, when you can’t have sex with your partner.penitentials-guide-to-sex

I couldn’t remember exactly where I got this; fortunately the internet exists to answer exactly these type of questions. First of all, penitents are lists of sins and the penances prescribed for them. Penitents were used in Medieval times first in Ireland, where sin is everywhere, then spread to England because they’re a bunch of sinners as well. In this particular case, the flowchart doesn’t list the specific penance, but it would have been either prayer or cash payment to the Church. Or both!

As a Jew I find this chart silly and hilarious, but back in the day Christians hung this in their homes, right above the bed. Which just goes to show, one man’s religion is another man’s laugh riot.*

*Don’t even get me started on the weird things about Judaism. See: any Woody Allen movie.