Many major religions have as part of their conceptual framework the threat of eternal punishment in the afterlife, and Christian art in particular has used Hell as the vehicle for a kind of sadistic phantasmagoria exemplified in the work of Hieronymus Bosch:
Posthumous spiritual torment is rendered into inventive, bizarre forms, but above all it is made physical, not just because that’s better represented in the visual medium, but because it is simply easier to comprehend. So when James Janeway, a godly English writer of the seventeenth century, tried to explain it to young people in a suitably terrifying way, he picked the most dreaded experience of their youthful lives: he told them that Hell was like being spanked, only a thousand times worse. He was tapping exactly into the conceptual structure of retribution: there is always an ultimate punishment, a final sanction, which might be a sound spanking for a misbehaving teenager, or eternal damnation in the wider metaphysical context of humanity’s place in the overall created universe. And, in the visual imagination of the eastern Christians in what is now Romania, the analogy was exact.
Here’s a young woman who has been sent to Hell for sleeping on a Sunday:
It’s a detail from a damnation mural on the wall of the monastery in the Transylvanian commune of Sambata de Sus. And lest you suppose this is a purely medieval phenomenon, part of the age of Bosch that was banished with the coming of the Enlightenment, here’s one from St Eleutherius’ Church in Bucharest, which was done as recently as the 18th century:
And here’s a better preserved one, but of similar date, at the Horezu Monastery in the south of the country:
A special place in Hell: surely the ultimate in spanking threats!