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Meowing, Biting Nuns

Nuns are just about the most identifiably Catholic image. To some, they are symbols of authority, to others, they are something of an oddity. Whatever your take on nuns, one thing is for certain – nuns acting weird can be creepy.

Throughout history, women have been forced into convents across Europe. This was done as a way to get rid of unwanted daughters, or to win some favor with their god.

Forcing a young woman into a life of strict hierarchy, harsh schedules, obedience, celibacy, and moderation can lead to some strange psychological quirks. Here are a selected few tales of Conversion Disorder (or Mass Hysteria, as it is more commonly known) in convents.

Both of these stories come from The Epidemics of the Middle Ages, by Justus Friedrich Carl Hecker and John Caius.

Meowing Nuns

a cat dressed up as a nun

Who doesn't love a cat? Cute little critters that are surprisingly affectionate and great at keeping pests away. I'll tell you who doesn't like cats, medieval Catholics. They associated our feline friends with Satan – go figure.

Any catlike behavior could land you in deep trouble. That's why, when one of the nuns at a French Convent started meowing, people grew concerned. Modern scholars point to the stress that a young girl would go through when placed into the tough reality of a convent as the cause. Medieval people claimed that the devil made her do it.

One meowing nun does not a mass hysteria make. Her sisters took to the mimicking of cats as well. Soon, most of the nuns would spend hours meowing together.

The townsfolk were freaking out, as they could hear the cat-chorus emanating from the nunnery. Local leaders knew that there was only one cure for the psychological malady. Severe, and consistent, beatings.

Soldiers were brought in to administer vicious beatings on the nuns, using rods, until they pinky-promised to stop meowing. Forgotten psychology hack of the medieval ages, or idiocy?

Biting Nuns

The 15th Century was a bad time to be into vampires. Like most other times in European history, an interest in the dark and macabre could get you in trouble. That's exactly what happened in a German convent.

Likely due to frustration, a nun began biting her cohort. This new outlet for their energy appealed to the other nuns. They took to it like fish to water. So taken were the local nuns, that they spread their new 'hobby' to other nunneries.

There was thus a time that, for a large portion of Germany, the nuns were all biting each other. Nuns in Holland joined in, and the mania spread as far as Rome before it petered out.

The authorities didn't seem to consider beating the habit out of the nuns.



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