Julian of Norwich - Meets the goblin of her illness
Type of Spiritual Experience
Although Julian recorded the following as a revelation, it was actually a nightmare. When she wakes up she has a hallucination and it is a particularly interesting one as an example, because it combines a straighforward visual hallucination – of mist or smoke which is quite common as hallucinations go and is often a feature of drug experiences – and an olfactory hallucination. The latter may have been synaesthesia. It did make me wonder whether they gave her something – some herbs for example in the process of ‘temple wetting’ – which resulted in the hallucinations.
Illnesses can be personified in dreams and visions by the composer. You can see viruses as demons, goblins and also see bacteria as nasty little creatures, there is the very vague possibility she was given a sight of her illness – the illness attacking her.
Although my description of MG follows conventional medical opnion regarding it as an auto-immune disorder, I do wonder whether MG is actually caused by a virus as yet unidentified or perhaps bacteria, given the nature of her vision. Heat is often the body's immune response to viruses.
A description of the experience
Julian of Norwich – Revelations of Divine Love
And I lay still till night, trusting in His mercy, and then I began to sleep. And in the sleep, at the beginning, methought the Fiend set him on my throat, putting forth a visage full near my face, like a young man’s and it was long and wondrous lean: I saw never none such. The colour was red like the tilestone when it is new-burnt, with black spots therein like black freckles — fouler than the tilestone. His hair was red as rust, clipped in front, with full locks hanging on the temples. He grinned on me with a malicious semblance, shewing white teeth: and so much methought it the more horrible. Body nor hands had he none shapely, but with his paws he held me in the throat, and would have strangled me, but he might not.
….. And our Courteous Lord gave me grace to waken; and scarcely had I my life. The persons that were with me looked on me, and wet my temples, and my heart began to comfort. And anon a light smoke came in the door, with a great heat and a foul stench. I said: Benedicite Domine! it is all on fire that is here! And I weened it had been a bodily fire that should have burnt us all to death. I asked them that were with me if they felt any stench. They said, Nay: they felt none. I said: Blessed be God! For then wist I well it was the Fiend that was come to tempest me. …. And anon all vanished away, and I was brought to great rest and peace, without sickness of body or dread of conscience.