•About this Urban legend•
According to J. F. Hecker's book: 'The Epidemics of the Middle Ages (1884.)'
“...A nun, in a very large convent in France, began to meow like a cat; shortly afterward, other nuns also meowed. At last, all the nuns meowed together every day at a certain time for several hours together. The whole surrounding Christian neighbourhood heard with equal chagrin and astonishment. This daily cat-concert, did not cease until all the nuns were informed that a company of soldiers was placed by the police before the entrance of the convent and that they were provided with rods, and would continue whipping them until they promised not to meow anymore.”
This is often quoted & touted as fact: appearing very frequently in online 'top 10 lists' and 'Iceberg videos' as an example of actual "Mass Hysteria." - (it is one of the first examples on the Wikipedias article on the subject & it also appears across various youtube video's.) - (popular ones at that)
...Unfortunately as hilarious as a bunch of meowing nuns might be in concept: It should be noted that Historians(such as nun expert: @yvonneseale) have pointed out: Hecker was actually directly quoting from 1784's -"On Solitude" by Johann Georg Zimmerman – who, as it turn out, was unfortunately; also a huge misogynist! – in 'On solitude' Zimmerman was recounting the incident as 'proof' that women's minds were inherently 'more excitable & prone to folly while living a life of celibacy' which unfortunately: many sincerely believed at the time. - Further more, Zimmerman gives no source for this story beyond a vague reference to "a good medical work." - There are seemingly no other known records of this supposed 'french cat nun incident.' from the time either. –If it really was a 'large convent' & if the 'medieval police' were involved, then (like the recent 2016 clown hoaxes for instance.) The incident surely would have been documented or at least mentioned elsewhere!!) - J. F. Heckers book (which everyone today quotes the story from.) seems to have taken the original story (partially) out of context and used it as an example of 'Mass Hysteria' from the Middle Ages. - Mass hysteria as a concept on its own should also be handled with care & taken with a pinch of salt for similar problematic origins.
-if by some wild chance more evidence surfaces and it turns out that it IS true, Well, it sounds to me that the sisters where just having a laugh which they took a bit too far. (They where purr-aying cat-holics nya-uns afterall.) -- I digress its a cute/funny story regardless of its origins, the fact that this 'hoax factoid' has become so wide spread and believed by many for such a long time, that in itself, IS in fact its own form of Mass Hysteria, isn't it? (well, if nothing else the misinfo is at least feels pretty ironic.) - in short I'd still use this as an example of “mass hysteria” but perhaps put a spin like that on it instead. - Theres no reason why we can't reclaim the cat nuns too, hoaxes can become folklore & things change over time.
-oh and just for the record: I have no clue about the validity of 'the biting nuns' or 'the laughing nuns' etc (separate cases that that often come up whenever this particular case is mentioned. -I just wanted to use the oppertunity to draw a cute catgirl nun & use the clickbait-y title to hopefully help clear the air about this myth a little ❤️🙏😂✨