Thursday, February 10, 2005

Stigmata, just a religious experience?

Stigmata- bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Christ and sometimes accompanying religious ecstasy appeared for the first time on the hands of the founder of the Franciscan order, St. Francis. This and other mysterious phenomena have always intrigued me.

"In Christian mysticism, bodily marks, scars, or pains suffered in places corresponding to those of the crucified Jesus-on the hands and feet, near the heart, and sometimes on the head (from the crown of thorns) or shoulders and back (from carrying the cross and being whipped)," Encyclopedia Britannica says.

The phenomenon of stigmata is still considered a religious enigma. The phenomenon appeared long ago. At the end of the 19th century doctors examined Louise Lato - bleeding wounds appeared on her hands during religious holidays for no particular reason. Doctors put a sealed band on one of the girl's hands prior to a religious holiday. The band was removed on Good Friday - members of the Belgian Academy of Sciences saw bleeding ulcers on the girl's hand.

Teresa Neiman (deceased in 1962) was kept under medical supervision for a very long time. Teresa was suffering from Christ's Wounds too: blood would start flowing spontaneously, causing terrible pain to the woman. Wounds would then heal up in a week without scarring. Furthermore, the woman was suffering from bloody tears and bloody sweat.

As it is known from the history of religion, stigmata appeared for the first time on the hands of the founder of the Franciscan order, St. Francis (1182-1226). Over 300 cases have been described since then. What is interesting is that religion is not the only ground that causes stigmata to appear. Writers may suffer from them at times too, when they become too much preoccupied with their own characters.

Charles Dickens wrote, for instance, that his face had swollen when he was working on the story "The Chimes."

Soviet writer Maxim Gorky fainted, when he was writing a scene, in which a jealous husband stabs his wife in the liver. A bleeding wound soon appeared on Maxim Gorky's body, in the area of his liver.

Mysterious bodily wounds may appear, if relatives endure too much of their relatives' sufferings. A sister witnessed her brother being whipped - her back was then covered with bleeding scars reminiscent of her brother's. The fact was officially documented. Doctor Faivishevsky described similar occurrences with women, who were forced to witness their children being beaten.

Stigmatization as a result of nightmares has also been described in medical literature. A medical college student attended the autopsy procedure for the first time in her life. The next day she said she had had a very bad dream, in which the dead man was choking her and grabbing her hands, trying to drag her away. When she woke up, she found her neck and wrists bruised.

Doctor Kolbin described a child, who had lost his hair after a nightmare. The little boy had a dream, in which his grandfather rose from the casket and grabbed the boy's hair. The child had the nightmare several nights in a row, losing more and more of his hair.

Some experts believe stigmata appear due to brain activities, such as imagination. A religious fanatic may suffer from Christ's Wounds, if he or she thinks too much about the crucified Jesus.

Writers may suffer from this bodily ailment if they share the suffering and pain of their own literature characters. Hmm.. I don’t think I’d like to test this theory. Too painful.


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