One of the first recorded Stigmatics was St Francis of Assisi. Coming from a wealthy family, he was an adventurer. However, in 1202 he was taken prisoner, the experience causing illness. From this point on he changed, eventually having a religious experience and publicly stripping himself, thus denying material things.
In 1224 he founded the Franciscan Order and shortly afterwards he had another vision on the slopes of Mt Alvernia. He began to bleed, then, from the wounds of Christ, and bled continually for the last two years of his life.
Early SPR member Eric Dingwall studied cases of Stigmata such as that of St Mary Magdalen de Pazzi who became a Stigmatic in 1585 after much religious devotion. Dingwall concluded that it was nothing more than self mutilation, caused by the masochistic attitudes of early religious devotion.
However, when we consider the case of Padre Pio who bled continually from 1918 to his death in 1968, we must doubt the most fanatical masochism as the cause.
In 1972, ten year old Cloretta Robertson from Oakland, California, became a Stigmatic after watching a film about the crucifixion. Not particularly religious, Cloretta shows that we may not be dealing with religious devotion at all.
This becomes clear from the case of Elisabeth K, a psychiatric patient looked after by a Dr Albert Lechler in 1932. After watching slides of the crucifixion, she began to feel tingling effects at the traditional sites of the wounds of Christ. Hypnotising her, the doctor suggested wounds at these points, which duly appeared.
This suggests the idea that Stigmata is a replication of Christ’s wounds is unlikely. Evidence suggests people were nailed through the wrist during crucifixion, not the palms. Similarly, Stigmata seems to have begun when Church statuary first depicted crucifixion, giving a cultural stimuli.
A MIND THING?
What seems to be the guiding principle here is stress. Further, hypnosis can cause similar, if less severe, phenomena.
Researcher Ian Wilson feels Stigmata is self-induced by stressful sufferers who turn to prayer, causing multiple personality-type symptoms, from which the Stigmata comes. Indeed, Oscar Ratnoff of Cleveland, Ohio, investigated some sixty cases where emotional distress has caused inexplicable bleeding.
Just what causes Stigmata remains unclear. But one thing that is clear is that the ability to cause bodily scars by mind power is more common and observable than we think.
That hysteria is involved seems more than likely. Indeed, cases of hysterical blindness and paralysis are quite common, the mind having a definite effect on the body. Further evidence is offered by the placebo effect.
Here, it has been shown that a state of mind can have up to a 30% effect upon the severity, or not, of illness. As for bleeding itself, psychological states are known to have an effect upon menstruation.
Bodily blemishes, weals, and even sores can have a psychological foundation, with some cases of psoriosis being put down to stress. And if release is caused by, say, a reliance upon Christianity, it is easily possible for the result to be imitation of Christ’s wounds.
This shows a distinct cultural effect to the form psychologically induced body mutation can seem to take. And bearing this in mind, Stigmata can often be seen to be of benefit in other areas of phenomena.
For instance, the ‘focus’ of a poltergeist infestation can often exhibit such bodily change, such as words appearing on the body as weals. Evidence for reincarnation often comes in the form of similar physical scaring to a previous life.
Perhaps most relevant to modern phenomena, some cases of alien abduction are said to include physical evidence, such as marks on the body. However, by inducing the possibility of known hysteria in Stigmata, we can maybe conclude that other forces may be involved – forces from the inner mind rather than outer space.