Eva Flegen and Other Fasters
A note to Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book III, chapter 21

From George Hakewill (1630) An Apologie or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God, the Third Advertisement (or appendix; unnumbered pages 529-530):

The third Avdvertisement.

My third Advertisement is, that some very observable things touching some part of this booke have come to mine handes since those parts passed the presse, and some others I had in readinesse but could not conveniently insert them, by reason of mine absence when they should have beene inserted in their proper places. And that which made me the more willing to expresse them heere, was that if the booke chance to come to a third impression,1 they may be in a readinesse to be inserted. Of the first ranke then is the admirable abstinence from all kinde of foode of diverse persons, and those for the most part of the female sexe and virgins, for the space of many yeares together, such and so strange as neither Pliny himselfe, nor any other of the Ancients that I have yet met with, have so much as mentioned any thing comparable thereunto in that kinde. Paulus Lentulus a doctour of Physicke in the province of Bearne, a Canton of Swisserland hath published a booke which he intitles Historia admiranda, de Appolloniæ Schreiræ virginis in agro Bernensi inedia,2 and dedicated it to our late Soveraigne King Iames, at his first entrance to the Crowne, in which epistle dedicatorie he saith, admirationem ingentem parit quod nostra & patrum memoria, jam aliquoties diversis in locis talia contingerent: priscis sæculis (quantum quidem ex omnis ævi monumentis colligi potest) autt ignota plane, aut fortasse parum observata, exceptis paucis illis quæ in sacris literis commemorantur, quæ a deo immediate ad certum finem (sicut ex eisdem sacris literis pates) plane contra totum naturæ ordinem, vere miraculose edita scimus. In the historicall narration he tells us that himselfe was with the maide he ther writes of, three severall times, and that shee was by the command of the Magistrates of Bearne brought thither, and having a strict guard set upon her, and all kinde of tryalls put in practise for the discovery of collusion, in conclusion they found none, but dismissed her fairely: In the first yeare of her fasting, shee slept very little, in the second not at all, and so continued for a long time after. The same author in the same booke produceth diverse other examples in the same kinde, though not upon his owne experience, yet upon the testimonie of witnesses not to be excepted against; as of one Margaret a girle of about ten yeares of age borne in a village named Roes, about two miles from Spire who began to abstaine from all kinde of sustenance Anno Domini. 1539, and so continued for three yeares, walking in the meane season, and talking, and laughing, and sporting as other children at that age use to doe, yet was shee by speciall order from the Bishop of Spire delivered into the hands of the Pastor of the Parish, and by him narrowly observed and afterwards by the command of Maximilian King of the Romans committed to the keeping of Gerardus Bucholdianus his Physition with whom he joyned a gentleman of his bed chamber, and at the end of 12 dayes finding by their relation that there could be no jugling in the businesse, he gave her leave to returne to her friends, not without great admiration and princely gifts. A third narration he makes of Catharin Binder borne in the Palatinate whom Iohn Casimir Anno Domini 1585, committed to the search of a Divine, a statesman, and two Doctours of Physicke; she is said to have fed only upon aire by the space of nine yeares and more, the discourse whereof Lentulus received from Fabritius and therewith the narration of another maide borne in the Dukedome of Iuliers, who being about the age of 14 yeares was brought to Cullen, and is certainely reported to have taken no kinde of meate or drinke by the space of at least three whole yeares. But the strangest I have met with in this kinde is the Historie of Eve Fleigen, out of dutch translated into English and printed at London Anno 1611,3 who being borne at Meurs is said to have taken no kinde of sustenance by the space of 14 yeares together, that is from the yeare of her age 22 to 36, and from the yeare of our Lord 1597 to 1611, and this wee have confirmed by the testimonie of the Magistrate of the towne of Meurs, as also by the Minister who made tryall of her in his house 13 dayes together, by all the meanes he could devise, but could detect no imposture. Over the picture of this maiden set in the front of the dutch copie stand these Latine verses.

Meursæ hæc quam cernis decies ter sexq; peregit
Annos, bis septem prorsus non vescitur annis
Nec potat, sic sola sedet, sic pallida vitam
Ducit, & exigui se oblectat floribus horti.

Thus rendred in the English copie.

This maide, of Meurs 36 yeares spent
14 of which she tooke no nourishment
Thus pale, and wan she sits sad and alone
A garden's all shee loves to looke upon.

Franciscus Citesius a French Physition likewise witnesseth that one Catharin Colberghen lived in Spire 7 yeares without meate or drinke: as also that within the towne of Conflans in France lying upon the borders of Limosin and the river Vien, a Smith by name Iohn Balam had a daughter named Ioane borne in the yeare 1588, who for the space of 2 yeares did neither eate nor drinke; in admiration and for verification of which wonder that famous and eloquent Doctour Iacobus Viverius wrote and published certaine verses too long to be here inserted. He that desires to see more of these kind of admirable fastings, let him consult with Sylvius Consil. adversus famem, Laurentius Ioubertus Deca. I Paradox. 2 and Schenkius in his Medicinall observations. Lib. 3 observ. 39. and truly me thinkes such wonderfull workes of God as these, should not passe by us without a marke set pon them, specially considering that the greatest and most notable part of the examples alleaged have beene of religion: but I proccede.


*For a nineteenth century take on the question and some more recent examples, see Fasting Girl by William A. Hammond.

1. [There was a third edition, in 1635; this "advertisement" was incorporated in Book IV, Chap. 7.]

2. [Berne, 1604); the title properly "de prodigiosa Apolloniae Schreierae" etc.]

3. [In pamphlet form; see Eva Fliegen of Meurs.]

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