Human Flower Project


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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Get Down with Bissap

Build your verve and calm your nerves with a glass of festivity, gift of the hibiscus.


Brewing bissap from hibiscus flowers over an open fire.

Photo: Janagada

What’s red and healthy and drunk all over?

Hibiscus tea. It goes by many names across the world – karkade in the Sudan, roselle in Thailand, flor de jamaica in Jamaica, and Red Zinger at your favorite hippie restaurant. Since moving to Texas 12 years ago, it’s been our favorite summertime beverage, though only today did we learn that it’s a widely acknowledged “refrigerant,” that like Barton Springs Pool, can actually lower body temperature.

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Posted by Julie on 12/27 at 05:07 PM
CookingCulture & SocietyMedicinePermalink

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Chick with Urushiol

Jerry Leiber’s songs were so catchy they made you itch.

image“She comes on like a rose

And everybody knows

She’ll get you in Dutch

You can look but you’d better not touch….” 

Lyricist Jerry Leiber died Monday, age 78, leaving behind indelible pop songs like “Hound Dog” and “On Broadway” – the kind that won’t turn you loose.

A favorite of ours is “Poison Ivy,” sung by the Coasters in 1959. At 6 years old, we found it tremendously witty to compare a nasty girl to the three-leaved weed. Only later did we get it, that the song was about a lady with the clap.

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Posted by Julie on 08/24 at 06:42 PM
Art & MediaMedicinePermalink

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nightshade Compensation

If you can’t join ‘em, sniff ‘em. A modest proposal for the tomato-allergic.

imageAnnick Goutal’s Folavril, containing tomato leaf

The day came, and a sorry day it was, when we could no longer comport with ripe tomotoes. Grave interior distress three summers in a row had us searching the annals of ayurvedic medicine for some remedy.

“Avoid nightshades” – is one recommendation for the Vata type. (Both tomatoes and tobacco, another plant that’s brought us agony, are in this family, Solanaceae).

We wish we had picked up on that; instead it was the trauma caused by one early summer’s first stupendous tomato that proved informative— and complete recovery once we abstained.

Before this degenerates further, let’s move up several chakra – to scent. If we can’t eat tomatoes anymore, we need not be deprived of the spicy and delicious fragrance of tomato plants, a sensation that takes us way back, behind the old garage, into early childhood.

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Posted by Julie on 06/27 at 08:47 PM
Art & MediaMedicinePermalink
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