What is Stigmata?
Article by Craig Hamilton-Parker. Stigmata (or the Crucifixion Complex) in the religious sense are the wounds of Christ appearing on the hands, feet and body of an individual, usually a Christian, but to be Christian is not a requisite for the appearance of stigmata. Sometimes the wounds are ulcerated wounds and at other times they are bleeding wounds. There are many recorded cases of stigmata occurring throughout history with the first recorded case being that of St Francis of Assissi in 1224. There had been one stigmatic claimant prior to St Francis (1222) but it was found his wounds had been self-inflicted and he was accordingly arrested. Once people heard of the five wounds of St Francis, others started to be afflicted by the same phenomenon.
It is interesting to note that many of the people who exhibit these wounds are often fervently religious people and quite a number of them became sainted by the Catholic Church. The stigmata is, in effect, an imitation of Christ and it can occur by a pious obsession with the crucifixion and the suffering of Christ – a form of living martyrdom?
It is interesting to note that over the years, as the number of sufferers grow, the stigmata have evolved and whereas those of St Francis, which were impressions on the skin in the shape of nails “round and black and standing clear from the flesh” did not bleed, more and more bleeding wounds are now manifesting. Another matter of interest is the nature of the wounds, some are slits, some are crosses, some are multiple slash marks or indentations and in some cases, such as Therese Neumann, which changed from round to rectangular over a period of time.
The wound in the side has also appeared in different locations or in some, has not appeared at all and that, too, has been variously shaped – as a lateral slit, crescent, cross etc. Some stigmatics also manifest wounds on the forehead made by the crown of thorns and abrasions on the shoulders where Jesus was said to have been scourged. The stigmata is not always confined to the wounds attributed to Jesus and can appear as bleeding crosses on any part of a stigmatic’s body but still indicate an obsession with the crucifixion.
Another interesting trend is how the wounds on the hand have moved to the wrist now it has been suggested that nails in the palm could not hold the weight of the body and also, human remains had been found which showed piercings of a crucified man with the wounds in the wrists rather than the palms.
It can be seen, therefore, that perhaps the position of the wounds relied upon the stigmatic’s perception of Christ’s wounds.
A great number of stigmatics were blessed, allegedly, with other supernatural phenomena, including the powers of prophecy and healing, levitation, bilocation (supposedly being in two places simultaneously), and inedia (the alleged ability to forgo nourishment). As an example of the latter, Angela of Foligno (1250-1309) reportedly went without food for twelve years. After death, the bodies of a few stigmatics were discovered to be “incorruptible” (i.e., to withstand decay). Also vials of blood preserved from the stigmatic wounds of Passitea Crogi purportedly reliquefy on occasion (Wilson 1988, 131-148). Needless to say, perhaps, such claims are unproven, and may be attributed to folklore, misconceptions and misunderstandings born of superstition, and pious fraud (Nickell 1993).
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References and Works Cited
The above story is from my series of books about the paranormal check out these two great books:
- Real Ghost Stories – Sightings, Ouija Board Messages and Séances
- Real Angels and Spiritual Encounters