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If the person died of Starvation, please add the profile to that project also.

Anorexia mirabilis literally means "miraculous lack of appetite". It refers almost exclusively to women and girls of the Middle Ages who would starve themselves, sometimes to the point of death, in the name of God. The phenomenon is also known by the name inedia prodigiosa ("prodigious fasting")

Anorexia mirabilis is an extreme religious and spiritual practice associated with young women and girls of the Middle Ages who held aspirations toward martyrdom. Literally it means a ‘great’ starvation and a ‘miraculous’ lack of appetite. The practice, predominantly engaged by young Catholic women ~ Miraculous Maids ~ supposedly employed it as a vehicle to attain higher relations with God, hoping to receive His divine voice. The absence of sustenance in the gut in exchange for divine vocalic sonority, anorexia mirabilis was frequently accompanied by self-mutilation, self-flagellation, and a variety of self induced inflictions. Life long chastity was a prerequisite for the young women, who performed their holy starvations in an attempt to cultivate an inner purity and piety, many survived on the Holy Eucharist to signify their total devotion to Jesus, and the fasting could extend to months, years, or to a final tragic conclusion culminating in their premature deaths. The allure of the ‘special achievement’ of prolonged fasting was confirmation to these female practitioners that the body was a separate entity from the spirit. It has been suggested that some felt inebriated by the hunger for God, and claimed that from this edible absence they experienced possessions of religious enlightenment, which then made them spiritually replete.

In the Middle Ages across Catholic Europe, young women “suffering” from anorexia mirabilis – miraculous lack of appetite – were seen as ascetics and saints. They were upheld by their communities as pillars of the religious community, women who took their holy fasting to a new level of discipline and devotion to God. This carried forward to the Victorian era, where “fasting girls” captured the admiration and attention of the public because of their miraculous ability to live without food.

Fasting in the 13th to 16th centuries was seen as a way to purge oneself of sin and to bring the human body closer to God. Denying food to their bodies made them more pure in the eyes of God and their peers, leaving no doubt about their intact virginity and pious mind. By refusing to eat anything but the holy Eucharist for extended periods of time – weeks, and often months – women would gain an unsurpassed level of spiritual awakening and purity, as well as the respect and admiration of their community. These women were purported to gain special powers akin to that of Jesus;  healing the sick with their touch and saliva, the ability to miraculously multiply food and drink, as well as other, stranger, benefits like virginal lactation and producing oil from their fingertips.

The practice of anorexia mirabilis faded out during the Renaissance, when it began to be seen by the Church as heretical, socially dangerous, or possibly even Satanically inspired. It managed to survive in practice until nearly the 20th century, when it was overtaken by its more popularly known counterpart, anorexia nervosa.

In the Victorian period there was a resurgence in the belief in miraculous fasting, with the public sensations of the Fasting Girls. There were several instances of young women refusing to eat for weeks and allegedly even years at a time, and they became media sensations in the US and Europe. They survived on nothing at all, or tiny amounts of specific foods like fruits or beef tea. The term “fasting girl” was applied by the medical community, and used interchangeably with anorexia mirabilis, denoting a miraculous quality to their emaciation.

Contemporary accounts of anorexia mirabilis do exist, most notably that of a fundamentalist Christian girl in Colombia, as reported by medical anthropologist Carlos Alberto Uribe.


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