Episode 90 - Nebuchadnezzar’s Hypnotic Udders (Psychiatry Week)
I went to be tested for COVID a few days ago. Nasal swab is rough. Much worse than a cervical smear. I’m sure Cervical Smear sounds like a baddie from a cartoon from my childhood.
Feedback; Hello Sam and Tom, Happy thanksgiving from the states! Listened to your fantastic new episode on my drive home for the holiday and it made the drive very enjoyable! My dad is an amputee and I got him to listen to the podcast, he laughed so hard at the Santa Anna leg bit he had to pull over until he had stopped laughing. Tom mentioned Vietnam flashbacks and a WWII documentary which made me think of two points to share with you both. The first is a favorite quote of me and some friends that “you’re never too young to have a Vietnam flashback!” The second is an episode topic idea, what about crazy military inventions that worked? Such as, in WWII the US invented a pigeon guided missile system that was 100% accurate, but was never used in battle because it was ruled to inhumane to the pigeons. Thanks for all of your guys work on this podcast, and happy holiday season to you and your families. Best,Michael.
Tommygunns; laughed a lot at your joke about Birtles being spunked on my RAF pilots in the Middle East.
So psychiatry is the treatment of mental disorders right. Psychiatrists are doctors who can prescribe medication and other forms of treatment for diagnosed conditions. These are the ones in the US who give a fucking massive cocktail of drugs to a kid who is just a bit energetic because they eat shits loads of sugary food and aren’t taken to play sports. AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE VOICE; “Here’s little Sandy-May; she’s got Oxywoxymoron for her sleep, she’s got Flixypixypoopon for when she’s tired, she’s got Humpbumpypam for when she’s hyper, Burpyfartypril to help her spelling and Arsyparpysone for her concentration.” HOUSEHUSBAND VOICE; “That’s right Honey, you do such a great job of looking after our Sandy-May.”
Psychologists are different; they are not medical doctors and as such cannot diagnose or prescribe medicine. Instead, they use the power of open questioning, “Tell me why did you shove Weetabix up your bum?” “How did it feel when you walked through town naked singing ‘I should be so lucky’?” “What did you hope would happen when you screamed ‘porcupine’ at your neighbour’s dog at 3 in the morning?”
The history of psychiatry at first glance would appear to be the history of maltreating people with mental illness. Not really a barrel of laughs then. Here’s quite a well-known but worth repeating fact; the word ‘bedlam’, meaning chaos, comes from the Bethlem Hospital in London. Bethlem being a shortening of Bethlehem. Bethlehem being a shortening of Bananananananananananana-UNDERPANTS. Bethlem Hospital was a lunatic asylum in the early modern period and was most definitely somewhere where mentally ill people weren’t looked after in a time when people had very little understanding of mental illness.
It would appear that we still have a way to go when it comes to mental illness. There’s still a stigma around it and just a personal opinion, I think lots of people with serious mental health issues don’t deal with it for fear of what people might think, whilst others revel in a label and dive straight into the patient role when in fact they just need to harden up and deal with their problems. Have you ever known anyone who’s been on antidepressants? Apparently they’re horrible to come off.
I came across the Rosenhan Experiment which was very interesting; very briefly, a psychologist in the 1970s recruited a large number of people who pretended to be nutters to get sent to mental hospitals. Once in the hospitals, they went back to acting normally. However, they weren’t then allowed to leave!
In a follow up study, the mental hospitals told Rosenhan they can detect sane people and so they asked him to try and get a load more recruits into the hospitals. Rosenhan agreed, didn’t recruit anyone, and then a few months later the hospitals came back to him with a long list of people they thought were imposters.
Anyway, on the subject of mental health issues being misunderstood, I’m talking about exorcisms again this week. Now I don’t want to come across as picking on Christians again here. I believe all religions are bloody stupid and do stupid things, it’s just that there are some great examples from European history that are well documented and resonate more than exorcisms from different cultures.
So, I’ve got three incidents of demonic possession from 17th century France.
The first is the Aix-en-Provence Possessions of 1611. A 17 year old aristocratic girl called Madelaine de Demandolx who had mental health issues as a teenager joined a convent. Father Louis Gaufridi was the local priest. There were rumours that she was becoming close to Father Louis Gaufridi and so the Mother Superior spoke to the girl’s parents and they decided that it would be for the best if they moved Madelaine away to a different convent. A few years later, Madelaine began to act rather strangely; convulsions, fits, that sort of thing. During these episodes, she started making accusations against Father Gaufridi. The hysterical behavious began to spread to the other nuns. Today, we’d check the local water, or maybe see if there was a small gas leak in the convent, or maybe get Madelaine seen by a doctor. But this was the 17th Century, before we all got boring. She is possessed by a devil! We must exorcise here! FRENCH GIRL VOICE “I do not understand why you are making me do so many star jumps and burpees”. No, I said exorcise. It didn’t work.
Madelaine and another nun who was particularly bonkers were pulled out of the convent for some intense exorcism in cave. Some specialist exorcisers were called in; the real top dogs in their field. During these episodes, the two nuns seemed to be trying to outdo each other with their stories. Before long, Father Gaufridi was accused of attending witches Sabbaths and every perceivable sexual perversion. They exorcisers agreed that 666 devils were in her body and that Father Gaufridi had put them there. They even knew some of the devil’s names; Barry, Jim, Susan...
Having failed to remove the devils, who did they chose to exorcise her? It’s that pervy old Father Gaufridi again (who was actually a well-regarded man and there was no other evidence of him being a sexual predator) and what was his reward for all of his efforts? He was arrested and brought before a court accused of being a wizard based on the testimony of a few nutty nuns with unsubstantiated claims and no other evidence. Well, I say that, there was evidence. There was a confession signed by Father Gaufridi and a pact with the devil that was signed in his own blood. However, Father Gaufridi had been tortured into signing these documents. He’d also been shaved from head to toe in search of the devil’s mark. Once in court, Father Gaufridi said that he’d been forced to sign these documents, but that wasn’t good enough for the court and Gaufridi was sentenced to death. But why rush these things? That would be boring. Gaufridi was tortured some more, including being hung up in the air by his wrists and ankles, then being dragged through town, then strangled, then burnt to ashes.
Good times. Don’t ever forget people; we live in a Golden Age.
Here’s a great quote from a chap called Jean-Pierre Papon writing about a century after the trial relating an incident during the trial:
"One day, when these depositions had been read to the Parliament, and the imagination of the judges excited by a long recital of supernatural events, there was heard in the chimney an extraordinary noise, which suddenly terminated with the apparition of a tall black man. The judges thought it was the devil come to the rescue of his disciple, and fled away swiftly, with the exception of a councillor Thorton, their reporter, who finding himself entangled in his desk, could not follow them. Terrified by what he saw, with trembling body and staring eyes, and repeatedly making the sign of the cross, he in his turn affrighted the pretended demon, who was at a loss to understand the magistrate's perturbation. Recovering from the embarrassment he made himself known, and proved to be a chimney sweeper who… had by mistake descended into the chamber of the Parliament."
In 1634 we have the Loudun Possession. Father Urbain Grandier is the unfortunate victim this time. He was a handsome, charismatic and outspoken priest who liked to dilly-dally with his female parishioners and was openly against celibacy in the church. The town of Loudun at the time was very factional, I won’t go into details but as with the Aix-en-Provence Possessions there is strong undercurrent of personal and tribal politics guiding events.
Anyway, the possessions started one night when 3 nuns were visited during the night by a spectre of a holy man. Noises were also heard and the nuns felt that they had been hit by unknown sources. After this, the possessions began, usual shit, episodes of laughing uncontrollably, fits, seizures, shouting, barking, that sort of stuff. Of course exorcisms were prescribed. The nuns came out with all sorts of shit about who or what was possessing them, then, Father Grandier’s name came up.
Anyway, long story short, Father Grandier was tried in court of being a wizard who had possessed all the nuns. Hilariously, as evidence, a pact was produced that had been allegedly signed by Father Grandier and also signed by Satan, Leviathan, Astaroth and a host of other demons. This document can be seen online. If there’s one thing devils like Sam, its contractual arrangements. Cough, lawyers.
Father Grandier was tortured and executed in a similar way to Father Gaufridi, with the exception that he wasn’t strangled prior to burning. This was a decision made at the last moment by the executioner who was annoyed at being taunted by the crowd who presumably thought it was all a sham. Comically, Father Grandier was also told that he’d be allowed to address the crowd before his burning, but as he began to speak, a group of monks repeatedly threw holy water in his face. Two things come to mind here, firstly, why didn’t he keep talking? Enough water would have put out the flames. Secondly, this water couldn’t have been that holy because it didn’t stop a many being brutally tortured and executed on nonsense charges. Mysterious ways.
Our third incident of possessions took place in 1647 in Louviers. Its starts with an orphan girl called Madelaine Bavent who it would seem had a rather unpleasant upbringing even by 17th century standards. She was probably sexually abused and probably had mental health issues too. She ended up in a convent where a chap called Father David claimed to be an Adamite, so he conduct his business in the nude. Bit weird. When Father David died, he was replaced by a chap called Father Picard, a pervert Sam, but not as we know it. According to Bavent, Father Picard apparently used potions on the alter wafers to make the nuns have sex with him and he got Bavent pregnant. Orgies were commonplace and so were morbid Sabbaths. In one particular Sabbath, Father Picard and a local Priest called Father Boulle, forced Bavent to have sex with a devil called Dagon on an alter whilst two men were crucified and disembowelled around her.
Father Picard died before these accusations. As with the other two incidents described, exorcisms were the order of the day! In the lead up to the trials, there was general mass hysteria, Father Boulle was tortured, confessed and then burnt alive. Father Picard’s body was exhumed and ex-communicated. Bavent meanwhile was to live the rest of her life in the church dungeon (what sort of church has a dungeon!?).
Wikipedia is a source of information that really does need to close scrutiny. It’s entries for these three events are particularly sketchy. However, it does come up with a quote for the last possession that I described which I thought was too funny to ignore despite there being no citation and me being unable to find the quote elsewhere; apparently one nun that suffered with hysteria, "ran with movements so abrupt that it was difficult to stop her. One of the clerics present, having caught her by the arm, was surprised to find that it did not prevent the rest of her body from turning over and over as if the arm were fixed to the shoulder merely by a spring."
The same page also claims that he following list was drawn together in the aftermath of the Louviers Possessions . Again, no citation.
1. To think oneself possessed.
2. To lead a wicked life.
3. To live outside the rules of society.
4. To be persistently ill, falling into heavy sleep and vomiting unusual objects (either such natural objects as toads, serpents, maggots, iron, stones, and so forth; or such artificial objects as nails, pins, etc.).
5. To utter obscenities and blasphemies.
6. To be troubled with spirits ("an absolute and inner possession and residence in the body of the person").
7. To show a frightening and horrible countenance.
8. To be tired of living.
9. To be uncontrollable and violent.
10. To make sounds and movements like an animal.
11. To deny knowledge of fits after the paroxysm has ended.
12. To show fear of sacred relics and sacraments.
13. To curse violently at any prayer.
14. To exhibit acts of lewd exposure or abnormal strength.