A word about whip history.

The Pharos' Crook and Flail
I have read on many reputable web sites including wikipedia.org that whips can be traced back to ancient Egypt. As evidence they sight the fact that the Pharos carried whips to signify their position and dominance over the people. Unfortunately this couldn't be further from the truth. While I don't dispute the fact that ancient Egyptians used whips and I will show evidence of that later in this article. However the items the Pharos carried for ceremony where not whips. Before I go any further let's define what a whip is. According the Webster's Dictionary a whip is defined as "an instrument consisting usually of a handle and lash forming a flexible rod that is used for whipping". Further more it defines a bullwhip as "a rawhide whip with a very long plaited lash". So we can safely say that a whip consists of a single tail that varies in flexibility. What the Pharos carried where called a "crook" and "flail". It's pretty hard to confuse the crook for a whip. In case you don't know, the crook is the one that looks like a walking stick. But the term flail has been confused here as being synonymous for whip when in fact it is not. If we go back to the trusted Webster's Dictionary and look up flail we get the following description "a hand threshing implement consisting of a wooden handle at the end of which a stouter and shorter stick is so hung as to swing freely".
So we can safely say that a flail is basically a nunchuk. Two pieces of wood connected by a flexible joint. I doubt this design would ever produce a sonic boom. Some might argue that a flail is a device used for whipping people. We all know that some people do partake in different forms of flagellation either self inflicted or inflicted by others. But the crook and flail carried by the Pharos signified something entirely different. The crook signified the control of livestock like sheep and the flail signified the control of produce specifically grain. This type of flail was used for crushing grain. Could it have been used to hit people? Of course it could. So could the crook for that matter, but in this case the symbolism was that the Pharos controlled the land and the livestock, both symbols of wealth and life. Of course this is a simplification but accurate none the less.


So what did an Egyptian whip look like?

Well it did not look much different than what we call a whip today. As you can clearly see from these two ancient Egyptian medallions the whip in his hand is clearly of the single tail variety. What's more there is no evidence of two pieces of wood nor does it look at all like the flail that has been mistaken by some for a whip. To my eye it looks a lot like a stock whip or a long handled bullwhip. I am pretty sure it was a variation of one or the other. So now that you know the historical truth. You can look like a "whip whiz" the next time you get together with your whip cracking friends. If they don't believe you, you can always show them this article.

Now that we have cleared that up, lets take a look at the origins of the bullwhip.


© 2006 Victor Tella

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