Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, January 02, 2012

Flora Anorexia

An early 17th Century Human Flower Project: Was it miraculous, a charade, or an eating disorder?

imageEva Vlieghan

Image: Online History of Dutch Women

This New Year, we present Eva Vlieghan, Jenny Craig of the Counter Reformation. Eva was actually Protestant but her dietary version of mysticism is a good example of the era’s spiritual calisthenics.

Vliegan was born in Meurs, North Westphalia, near what’s now the Dutch/German border, 1575. In her late teens, she gradually refused food and in 1597 began what some claimed to be a 34 year fast.

“In 1599, when she was persuaded to eat a single cherry, she became so ill that she nearly died. It was said that she lived from the fragrance of flowers.”

Today we would call Eva Vlieghan “anorexic,” but in the late 16th century, her eating habits were interpreted differently: as a sign of extraordinary sensitivity and power.  This online article about “hunger artists” gives many more examples of those whose abstinence from food became a statement – religious, political, personal.

None of the others, so far as we know, relied on the scent for flowers for sustenance.

“Eva herself maintained that every other day at sunrise she was surrounded by a glittering light and her mouth was moistened by a honey-sweet substance.”

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Posted by Julie on 01/02 at 11:47 AM
Culture & SocietyMedicineReligious RitualsPermalink
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