Oxford

Florence Waters: Journalist died on 'vision quest' meditation

Florence Waters Image copyright family handout
Image caption Florence Waters, who was also an artist, wrote for the Daily Telegraph

A journalist died of hypothermia after spending days outdoors on a meditation "vision quest", an inquest heard.

Florence Waters, 33, who wrote for the Daily Telegraph, was found in a ditch near Thame, Oxfordshire, last November.

Relatives said she had an interest in vision quests involving "going into the wilderness, starving oneself and finding the animal inside".

Her family said she was "fearless and brave with the courage always to go her own way".

Oxford Coroner's Court heard Ms Waters had gone missing from her home in East Street on 19 November.

Foraging in bushes

When she was found on 22 November, Ms Waters, who was also an artist, had injuries to her knees and hands consistent with climbing through vegetation and over barbed wire.

She also had the remains of what could have been hawthorn berries in her stomach.

Someone matching her description was seen foraging in bushes on 21 November, the inquest heard.

On 20 November she was also seen walking through a ploughed field near Thame carrying her boots.

What are vision quests?

Vision quests are most typically found among the native peoples of North and South America.

They are described as supernatural experiences in which a person tries to interact with a guardian spirit, which usually takes the form of an animal.

In some tribes they were rites of passage that marked a young person's transition to adulthood.

The quests often involve going to an isolated location and praying, while forgoing food and drink for several days, with some cultures also using hallucinogens.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica

Her brother Freddie said her family was worried her mental health might be deteriorating, but it was "really hard to stop her doing what she wanted to do".

She was "committed to seeing the meditation experience through to completion", he said.

Coroner Darren Salter said there was no evidence anyone else was involved, or that she had any intention of taking her own life.

Recording a narrative verdict, he said: "Florence had this idea and desire to meditate outside, but has unfortunately succumbed to cold and hypothermia."

After the inquest, her family said: "She was unaffectedly beautiful inside and out, and touched the lives of so many with her kindness, generosity and warmth."

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