This case intrigues historians, psychologists and theologians over the last 80 years, but the scientist found what may be the oldest known attempt to diagnose unstable religious behavior Margery Kempe. A prescription for a medicinal candy, written 600 years ago in medieval mysticism memoirs, was deciphered by Dr. Laura Kalas Williams – Exeter University-based researcher is convinced that it reveals the attempt to prescribe a cure for the Kemp’s notorious fits of devotion.
Although the recipe is written in the final portfolio the manuscript 1438, has long been known scientist, he still could not read. Dr. Andrea Clarke, senior curator of the British library’s medieval and early modern manuscripts, the proposed technology of multispectral imaging used to reveal their secrets. Kalas Williams and two of his colleagues, Professor Eddie Jones and Professor Daniel Wachlin, then managed to decipher the composition and found that it was a cure for “flow”, defined in the medieval English dictionary as “a morbid flow of blood, excretions or secretions from any part of the body, or of dysentery”.
The recipe is translated as containing: sugar with anise seeds, fennel seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger [make] a confection, and [then] beat them together in a mortar, and heated them in the form of foods and beverages, dry first and the last is. Photograph: British library Board, Dr. Andrea Clark and Christine Duffy
Kalas Williams said she was sure the recipe was a response to a variety of mystical attacks of the disease, as well as its abundant crying. “I don’t think [the recipe] is written there, by chance,” the scientist said. “The book tells us that at one point she had a terrible episode of flux (probably dysentery) and given the last rites, thinking that she will die, so the presence of this recipe at the end seems more than a coincidence.”
Margery Kemp, the first English autobiographer, goes online
The middle class, the mother of 14, Kempe lived in Norfolk from 1373 to 1440. After the birth of her children, she took a vow of chastity, and for the rest of her life, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, Italy and Germany.
Kalas described Williams as a “Marmite medieval mysticism”, she was the infamous “loud cries and frantic cry” in the Church and dramatic manifestations of religiosity, which included a mystical vision that placed her in the center of events during the Christmas and the crucifixion. They also made her as many enemies during his life, as they did the followers; she was arrested for heresy and almost burned at the stake.
Kalas Williams admitted her thesis was controversial. Scientists have speculated about the meaning of the recipe, as the manuscript was discovered in 1934. Although medieval books often have an arbitrary outline, because parchment was expensive, no other random notes appear in the manuscript, which was dictated by mystical between 1436 and 1440, initially for his son. “There are a lot of other notes in the book, but it can directly interact with the words on the page, in a dialogue with the content,” the scientist said. “This makes it unlikely that the recipe is random, thoughtless and annotations.”
The original manuscript of the book of Margery Kemp. It is believed to have been completed and connected between 1442 and 1450. Photograph: British library Board, Dr. Andrea Clark and Christine Duffy
Originally, the recipe was thought to be drink to cure the flux, and the thermal imager showed him to be “dragges” herbal candies used to update the sky and to heal various ailments. Ingredients – sugar, Anis, fennel seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger – was a luxury at the time.
The manuscript, which is the only surviving copy of the memoir, the autobiography is considered the oldest woman in the English language, proved to be very controversial because it was re-opened in 1930. Many attempts have been made to explain the abundant camp crying, falling and roaring, but under the influence of her visions. As well as epilepsy, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, it was stated that mystic had suffered post-partum depression as her first extreme religious experience and “demonic torment” followed by her first difficult pregnancy.
Kalas Williams rejected the attempts of diagnosis, as an “anachronism” and prefer to use the memoirs of the camp to understand the medieval view of the body and women’s health. “For me, camp is a tenacious figure, determined to be heard in a society where women’s voices are not heard, and brave enough to Express their emotions publicly and rationally,” added the scientist, who wrote his findings for academic publication later this year.
Laura Kalas Williams will make a presentation on Margery Kempe in the Royal festival Lynn in July of this year. Tickets will be available on the festival website.