- Joan of Arc
- (1412-1431)Joan of Arc, whose real name was Jehanne, is also known as Jehanne d'Arc, Jeanne d'Arc, Jeanne la Pucelle (i.e. 'the virgin'), and the Maid ofOrleans. She is revered as a Catholic Saint and the heroine of France, who led the French army to a series of important victories over the English during the 100 Years' War. Joan of Arc claimed divine guidance, in the form of voices and "visions. Her successes were spectacular but short-lived. In the end she was captured by the English, and burned at the stake at the age of 19. Most of what is known about the nature of her voices and visions is based on the transcript of the English condemnation trial. It has been suggested that Joan experienced " verbal auditory hallucinations from the age of 13 onwards. These consisted of voices which she initially attributed to God and later to an angel and various saints as well. The voices were accompanied by a bright light which shone from the direction of their apparent source or by visions of the saints surrounded by angels. The trial transcript also includes Joan's testimony that she had embraced the saints and even smelled them. The French alienist Alexandre Jacques François Brierre de Boismont (1797-1881) maintains that "Hallucinations of all the senses are evident in this case." Others have questioned the accuracy of the trial transcripts as regards the references to Joan's hallucinations. However, there is general consensus that she did experience "auditory and " visual hallucinations. Post hoc biomedical speculations on the origin of Joan's hallucinations have yielded a differential diagnosis which includes " aural phenomena occurring in the context ofa paroxysmal neurological disorder such as epilepsy or migraine, "schizophrenia, and " tuberculosis. However, none of these hypothetical illnesses would seem to be compatible with her rigorous lifestyle, her cognitive functioning, and her military and strategic achievements.ReferencesBrierre de Boismont, A. (1859). On hallucinations. A history and explanation of apparitions, visions, dreams, ecstasy, magnetism, and somnambulism. Translated by Hulme, R.T. London: Henry RenshawIreland, W.W. (1883). On the character and hallucinations of Joan of Arc. Journal of Mental Science, 29, 18-26.Smith, D.B. (2007). Muses, madmen, andprophets. Hearing voices and the borders of sanity. London: Penguin Books.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.