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Monday, January 8, 2024

Something About Cat-Calling Nuns

Reciting Old Deuteronomy?

John Bellairs infused the Johnny Dixon novels with much from his Catholic upbringing, including references to priests, crucifixes, incense, prayers, and attending Catholic grade school. Bellairs also referenced a lot of Catholic history in Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966) – though it's not history so much as Bellairs's parodies of people, places, and events.

When I came across this article a few months ago, I immediately thought of Bellairs and wondered how these nuns would have fit perfectly in the pages of Saint Fidgeta.
Ashley, writing at the Curious Archive, tells the story of a nun living in a convent in France, sometime during the medieval period, suddenly starting to meow like a cat. 
After a brief time, other nuns in the convent began to meow with her in unison. The nuns were so loud that the sound carried to the town below, disturbing the residents with the bizarre sounds coming from the normally peaceful convent. After continuing for a number of days, police were brought in to cease the bizarre orchestra and were only able to do so by threatening to whip the offending nuns. The reason the first nun began to meow and why the other nuns decided to join remains a mystery.
But Ashley's piece is not so much about the nuns' strange serenade as it is about documenting the event, turning the piece into a digression about original sources:
I’m giving our meowing-nuns the benefit of the doubt. Could it have happened? Absolutely, it’s incredibly believable because human behaviour is strange and unpredictable. The meowing could have been a form of rebellion, a weird prank, or...the influence of solitude on the mind. It’s difficult to make an educated guess of why the meowing would have started in the first place without knowing where exactly it happened and when. Perhaps the unknown medical writer shared his findings...in conversation but never went further with his study or wrote any of it down. It would be incredibly helpful if even the name of the abbey was known, but without that and the vague reference to it being in France...there isn’t any way to prove whether or not this event actually took place.

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