Recipe found in medieval mystics writings was probably for ‘dragges’

Margery Kempe was known for religious fervour, and a list in the manuscript of her pioneering autobiography has been analysed as a prescribed cure for her fits

It is a case that has intrigued historians, psychiatrists and theologians for the last 80 years, but an academic has found what may be the oldest known attempt to diagnose Margery Kempes erratic religious behaviour. A recipe for medicinal sweets, written 600 years ago in the back of the medieval mystics memoir, has been deciphered by Dr Laura Kalas Williams and the Exeter University-based researcher is convinced that it reveals an attempt to prescribe a cure for Kempes notorious fits of devotion.

Though the recipe, written in the final portfolio of the 1438 manuscript, has long been known to scholars, it had hitherto proved impossible to read. Dr Andrea Clarke, the British Librarys lead curator of medieval and early modern manuscripts, suggested multispectral-imaging technology be used to reveal its secrets. Kalas Williams and two colleagues, Professor Eddie Jones and Professor Daniel Wakelin, were then able to decipher the ingredients and discovered it was a cure for flux, defined in the Medieval English Dictionary as a pathological flowing of blood, excretions or discharges from any part of the body, or dysentery.

The recipe translates as containing: Sugar with aniseed, fennel seed, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger [to make the] confection and to [then] beat them together in a mortar and heat them in the manner of food and drinks and dry first and last eat. Photograph: Board of the British Library, Dr Andrea Clarke and Christina Duffy

Kalas Williams said she was convinced the recipe was a response to the mystics various bouts of illness as well as her copious crying. I dont think [the recipe] has been written there randomly, the academic said. The book tells us that at one point, she suffered a terrible episode of flux (probably dysentery) and was given extreme unction, thinking she was going to die, so the presence of this recipe at the end seems more than a coincidence.

A middle-class mother of 14, Kempe lived in Norfolk from about 1373 to 1440. After the birth of her children, she took a vow of chastity, and for the rest of her life undertook pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, Italy and Germany.

Described by Kalas Williams as the Marmite of medieval mystics, she was infamous for loud cries and boisterous weeping in church and dramatic displays of religious devotion, which included mystical visions that placed her at the heart of the action during the nativity and crucifixion. They also made her as many enemies during her lifetime as they did followers; she was arrested for heresy and narrowly missed being burned at the stake.

Kalas Williams admitted her thesis was controversial. Scholars have speculated about the significance of the recipe since the manuscript was rediscovered in 1934. Though medieval books often feature arbitrary jottings because parchment was expensive, no other random notes appear in the manuscript, which was dictated by the mystic between 1436 and 1440, initially to her son. There are many other annotations in the book, but all of these directly engage with the words on the page, in dialogue with the content, the academic said. This makes it improbable that the recipe is a random, thoughtless, annotation.

The original manuscript of The Book of Margery Kempe. It is thought to have been finished and bound between 1442 and 1450. Photograph: Board of the British Library, Dr Andrea Clarke and Christina Duffy

Initially, the recipe was thought to be for a drink to cure the flux, but the thermal imaging revealed it to be dragges herbal sweets used to refresh the palate and cure a variety of ills. The ingredients sugar, aniseed, fennel seed, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger were luxuries at the time.

The manuscript, which is the only surviving copy of the memoir, thought to be the oldest autobiography by a woman in the English language, has proved controversial since it was rediscovered in the 1930s. Many attempts have been made to explain Kempes profuse weeping, collapsing and roaring while under the influence of her visions. As well as epilepsy, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, it has been posited that the mystic suffered postpartum depression, as her first extreme religious experiences and demonic torment followed her first difficult pregnancy.

Kalas Williams dismissed attempts at diagnosis as anachronistic and preferred to use Kempes memoir to understand the medieval view of womens bodies and health. For me, Kempe is a tenacious figure, determined to be heard in a culture where womens voices were not supposed to be heard, and brave enough to express her emotions publicly and viscerally, added the scholar, who is writing up her findings for academic publication later this year.

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Cliques, Careers, And Cults: How Groupthink Influences Us Every Day

Humanity is complex, to say the least. Why we act a certain way or believe a certain thing is entirely up to us. Or is it? Were all susceptible to picking up habits from our friends and family or making choices based on what we think will please others the mostbut does that mean were fully in charge of our own decision-making? Since weve partnered with the Hulu Original Series The Path (Season 2 streaming now on Hulu) a show that dives into the center of a controversial cult movement accused of brainwashing its followers, weve decided to investigate further to see if were all really victims of groupthink after all.

At one point or another, everyones parents gave them the same lecture about peer pressure: If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

Although your parents probably didnt know it, what they were introducing you to at the time was the concept of groupthinka phenomenon coined by Dr. Irving Janis as being when a group collectively makes decisions that undermine mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgement of the individuals in the group.

Most of our behavior and decision-making can be traced back to being influenced by the people around us. Certain levels of groupthink are prevalent in almost every aspect of our livesfrom cliques in high school cafeterias to upper-management making the big decisions in the workplace.

Its a dangerous mindset to be made part of. And its everywhere.

The problem with groupthink is that it treats a group of people as a homogeneous unit. When it comes to coming up with decisions or solutions ( when the group is under pressure), the desire to keep the group at unanimity overpowers the necessity for alternative thinking or thoughtful discussion. Typically, then, the decision will be left to those in chargeand rarely is that decision the best possible option nor does it benefit everyone.

It forces the members of the group to lose their individuality and voice.

Christen Clemson, author of , describes how schoolyard cliques actually feed into the perpetuation of groupthink later on in life. The construction of boundaries between different groups creates homogeneous cliquesthe more dominant personalities of which typically make all of the decisions for everyone in the group.

Clemson argues that although its nonsensical to try to demolish cliques in schoolsas it is an indisputable part of an adolescents social developmentit is important to discourage groupthink as soon as possible, because issues like eating disorders, bullying, racism, and other problems can arise from groupthink mentality in cliques.

These are serious problems, the effects of which dont just disappear after you pick up your high school diploma.

Bob Ebeling was an engineer working on the Challenger, and recalls in an interview with NPR how he witnessed the effects of groupthink firsthand in the workplace. He and four other engineers had strongly advocated for calling off the Challenger mission the night before, but were shut down by NASA officials.

The Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff.

The situation is a typical example of groupthinkwhere the leaders themselves arent necessarily bad people (NASA, of course, didnt want to kill the seven astronauts on board), but good people who make bad decisions. And the whole group suffers for it.

But sometimes, there are groupthink cases where the leaders bad. Arguably one of the most damaging and widely recognized perpetrators of groupthink is cults.

The intentions of different cults vary, but the generic definition for the term refers to a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object. According to Dr. Max Wexler, cults are founded by individuals who, through the use of ordeals, draw a loyal, elite group of followers.

To a higher degree than your high school Queen Bee or the NASA officials who went through with the Challenger expedition, cult rules utilize intentionally destructive and psychologically manipulative tactics to get their members to do what they want.

According to Dr. Wexler, cultic decision-making is entirely faulty. This level of internalized groupthink is incredibly destructive and problematic. Cults set up an environment that sheds old behavior guidelines and creates new expectations and emerging norms in order to establish an airtight homogeneous state within the groupeliminating all possibilities for members to feel comfortable even considering that the decisions being made could be wrong.

A central question that surrounds cults is: How do these leaders lure their followers in?

Cults are appealing because they promise ideals and values that, on a surface-level seem positive and infallible. They offer close-knit friendships, opportunities to feel needed and wanted, andarguably the biggest selling pointan identity.

For those who struggle socially or who feel lost in their lives, it appears to be the perfect solution to all of their psychological needs. We, as humans, are social creatures, and the cultic environment offers a powerful incentive for us to join and immediately feel accepted and welcomed. Its the inclusivity we all crave.

However all of the positive promises of cultic life are simultaneously manipulated into ways to control members.

This promise of inclusivity demands that you sever ties with your family and friends. This promised identity requires you to unquestioningly follow the beliefs and practices of the chosen leader. The promise to finally feel accepted and needed comes with an ironclad rule about essentially trading in your individualism and personal liberties for the greater good of the community.

Its what Dr. Wexler calls enthusiastic conformity. The members internalize the idea that what happens within the group is all that mattersthe outside world and their rules do not apply to them. They idolize their leader for creating a community for them to fit into, and return the favor by never examining or questioning the leaders beliefs or decisions.

This type of brainwashing preys on people who crave acceptance, which deep down is most of us.

The appeal of cults makes sense, but what convinces people to stay after theyve joined? Dr. Adrian Furnham explains that cults deliberately induce powerful emotions like fear, guilt [and] also pride as a means for retaining memberships. Its a further manipulation of our basic emotional and psychological necessities.

The groupthink phenomenon is found in almost all sectors of life. Its deeply rooted in the basic human desire for acceptance and validation, and is a force that drives all of us. Our natural need for socialization sways us in our decision-makingparticularly in our decision to be heavily influenced by others.

Groupthink gives us a false sense of stability. And to combat it, we have to learn to adjust to the idea of just being comfortable with ourselves first.

Season 2 of The Path is Now Streaming on Hulu. New Episodes Wednesdays.

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Pope Francis: better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic

Pope criticises double life led by some members of his own church during the sermon of his private morning mass

Pope Francis has delivered another criticism of some members of his own church, suggesting it was better to be an atheist than one of many Catholics who he said lead a hypocritical double life.

In improvised comments in the sermon of his private morning mass in his residence, he said: It is a scandal to say one thing and do another. That is a double life.

There are those who say, I am very Catholic, I always go to mass, I belong to this and that association, the head of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic church said, according to a Vatican Radio transcript.

He said some of these people should also say my life is not Christian, I dont pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, [I lead] a double life.

There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal, he said. How many times have we all heard people say if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist.

Since his election in 2013, Francis has often told Catholics, both priests and lay people, to practise what their religion preaches.

In his often impromptu sermons, he has condemned sexual abuse of children by priests as being tantamount to a satanic mass, said Catholics in the mafia excommunicate themselves, and told his own cardinals to not act as if they were princes.

Less than two months after his election, he said Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good.

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Jakarta governor election a ‘litmus test’ of Indonesian Islam

Incumbent Ahok, a Christian from the ethnic Chinese minority, fights to retain office after a campaign charged with racial and religious intolerance

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Jakarta governor election a ‘litmus test’ of Indonesian Islam

Incumbent Ahok, a Christian from the ethnic Chinese minority, fights to retain office after a campaign charged with racial and religious intolerance

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In the wake of Trump, a top Jewish and a top Muslim organization are banding together.

Donald Trump’s election has touched off a wave of uncertainty and fear across the country particularly among members of marginalized groups targeted during his campaign and those who have been singled out for harassment after his victory.

Since Trump’s election, over 200 hate crimes have been reported across the country as of Nov. 15, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The troubling trend goes back further the FBI’s latest hate crime report shows a 67% spike in hate crimes, mostly against Muslims, from 2014 to 2015.

In December 2015, Upworthy reported the story of a young Muslim-American girl who feared being deported after watching a news report about Trump, leading a group of veterans to send her messages of support. 2015 also touched off an increase in anti-Semitism, according to an Anti-Defamation League report.

President-elect Trump’s early campaign pledge to ban Muslim immigration to the United States “until we figure out what is going on” alarmed many Muslim-American leaders and citizens. The appointment of Stephen Bannon a far-right publisher whose website has traded in anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic rhetoric to the top strategy post in the White House, has only inflamed concerns.

Now, some protection might be coming in the form of a collaboration between two surprising groups: the Islamic Society of North America and the American Jewish Committee, which are banding together to form the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC).

The council includes representatives from the worlds of business, politics, and faith, including former Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota), businessman Farooq Kathwari, and author and “Serial” activist Rabia Chaudry.

According to a statement from the new task force, first reported in Haaretz, the group’s mission is threefold: combatting anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, celebrating the contributions of Jews and Muslims to American civic life, and pushing for expanded rights for religious and ethnic minorities.

Jewish and Muslim groups have been active on multiple fronts since the election results came in. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has rededicated itself to providing support to Muslim-Americans frightened by the outcome of the election and building bridges to other groups in a show of solidarity. Bend the Arc Jewish Action released an open letter to members of groups targeted by the president-elect during the campaign promising support.

This is not just an inspiring show of unity it’s critical right now.

Organizations like the MJAC could help make a huge difference in the coming years.

Following months of bigoted campaign rhetoric and the troubling elevation of figures like Bannon to positions of power and influence in the White House millions of Americans are suddenly wary that harassment and violence may soon become an uncomfortable fact of life.

Collaborations like this are a hopeful signal that regular citizens are willing to reach across ethnic, religious, and gender lines and take care of each other.

The election is over.

How we react to what comes next will speak volumes about who we are as a country.

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French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

Authorities in 15 towns have banned burkinis, citing public concern following recent terrorist attacks in the country

Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the burkini, which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the towns Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last months Bastille Day lorry attack.

After they arrive, she appears to remove a blue long-sleeved tunic, although one of the officers appears to take notes or issue an on-the-spot fine.

The photographs emerged as a mother of two also told on Tuesday how she had been fined on the beach in nearby Cannes wearing leggings, a tunic and a headscarf.

Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.

The woman was on the beach when the police arrived. Photograph:

I was sitting on a beach with my family, said the 34-year-old who gave only her first name, Siam. I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming.

A witness to the scene, Mathilde Cousin, confirmed the incident. The saddest thing was that people were shouting go home, some were applauding the police, she said. Her daughter was crying.

Last week, Nice became the latest French resort to ban the burkini. Using language similar to the bans imposed earlier at other locations, the city barred clothing that overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks.

The Nice ban refers specifically to the truck attack in the city on 14 July that claimed 86 lives, as well as the murder 12 days later of a Catholic priest near the northern city of Rouen.

Nice banned the burkini last week. Photograph:

The ban by several towns will come before Frances highest administrative court on Thursday following an appeal by the Human Rights League, a French NGO. It is challenging the decision by a lower court in Nice, which upheld a ban on the outfit by the town of Villeneuve-Loubet.

Villeneuve-Loubet, just west of Nice, was among the first of 15 towns to ban the burkini, triggering a fierce debate in France and elsewhere about the wearing of the full-body swimsuit, womens rights and secularism.

A Corsican mayor has also banned burkinis, amid tensions on the island and violent clashes between villagers and three Muslim families. Skirmishes at a beach in the commune of Sisco earlier this month left four people injured and resulted in riot police being brought in to stop a crowd of 200 Corsicans marching into a housing estate with a high population of people of North African origin, shouting this is our home.

A police investigation is under way to determine the cause of the violent brawl, although there has been no confirmation from authorities as to whether anyone on the beach was wearing a burkini at the time.

Tensions have risen in the area since the Bastille Day attack in July Photograph:

Nevertheless the local Socialist mayor, Ange-Pierre Vivoni, banned the garments, describing the measure as necessary to protect the population.

The Nice tribunal ruled on Monday that the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet was necessary, appropriate and proportionate to prevent public disorder after a succession of jihadi attacks in France.

The burkini was liable to offend the religious convictions or (religious) non-convictions of other users of the beach, and be felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by the community, it added.

The ruling by the state council, Frances highest administrative court, will provide a legal precedent for towns to follow around the country.

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