Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Many torture methods make you cringe. Others can make you sick. Then there are those that almost make you laugh and wish they were used today. Almost…. The Brank is one such device.
Also, known as the Scold’s Bridle, the Brank was not your typical piece of torture equipment. It could have been used to inflict pain as most forms of torture were used for. But most of the time, the Brank was used as a form of humiliation. For what? For women who gossiped too much.
When a woman was deemed troublesome due to gossiping or other malicious acts, she could be charged with disrupting peace and placed in the Brank. It was then obvious to all that she had been found guilty of misusing her tongue. In a sense, it is very similar to that of the Scarlett Letter that was used to represent adultery.
In some cases, the humiliation was made worse by the placement of adornments such as bells on the casing of the Brank. Everyone would know where the person in the Brank was located. It was designed to be a cage for the head that did not completely encase it. In fact, there was more exposed than covered up. The intent was not to hide or inflict pain. It was just meant to humiliate.
A woman could be placed in the Brank for a day or for the rest of her life. There are reports of women dying within the Brank. It all depended on who administered the punishment and the degree of the woman’s crime. Once it was on her, anyone in the community could easily identify who the likely culprit was for spreading vicious rumors about them or sullying a reputation. All one had to do was look for the Brank in the crowd.
For those who wanted to inflict pain, it was easily done by putting spikes or nails in the Brank that would pierce the person’s skin. Though not commonly used, this form of torture was known to have occurred and went far beyond the purpose of humiliation. The person this was done to more than likely would have committed a much graver offense than just gossip.
The Brank was more heavily used during the Middle Ages than in any other time in history though it was not solely used during that time. Torture has been around for thousands of years with each new generation improving on the methods and inventing all new ways.
The use of the Brank was not as much of a painful punishment as it was a public judgment on someone usually a woman. Wonder how many Branks would be seen today if it was brought back into practice?