Werewolves and witches, in the 18th century and now

The research for Book 3 is leading me to explore the topic of witchcraft in 18th century French countryside. Let me simply say that, during the Enlightenment, beliefs in witches and werewolves were alive and well.

werewolfThe only difference with earlier times was that accusations of witchcraft were no longer investigated or prosecuted, and that any phenomena related to the traditional beliefs were greeted by derision and contempt by the authorities. This was cleverly exploited by the killers in the case that will be the starting point for my third novel.

Nevertheless people accused of witchcraft, though they were no longer burned at the stake, were dreaded and reviled by the community.

Even when I was a child, one of my grandfather’s tenants in the Normandy countryside shot to death another man he accused of witchcraft. And that was in the late 20th century!

For an ethnological analysis of modern-day witchcraft in the French countryside, I recommend Jeanne Favret-Saada’s excellent ethnological work Les mots, la mort, les sorts (Words, death, curses) translated into English under the title Deadly Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage.

On the fiction (and American) side, I remember reading with pleasure Skinwalkers, by Tony Hillerman. Set nowadays in the Navajo Reservation, but beliefs in werewolves and witches apparently cut across continents, eras and cultures.

To go back to my own Book 3, I cannot resist quoting a short but illuminating book I read over the week-end: “It remains to write, now that the facts and culprits have been exposed, of the true reasons behind these crimes. It is another, troubling story.”

This new novel is screaming to be written…

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31 Comments to “Werewolves and witches, in the 18th century and now”

  1. Ree says:

    I’d heard a prof in college say that the belief in werewolves and vampires was encouraged by the authorities in past centuries to keep people from venturing about at night in rural areas and potentially fomenting revolt…an interesting idea

  2. Sweed says:

    this site is just awesome! isnt it?

  3. Catherine Delors says:

    Bravo for your post, Le Loup! No wonder you are interested in this topic, with your name. I think I have a pretty good idea of what La Bete was. Not a wolf, definitely, because all eyewitnesses agree it wasn’t one, and it also didn’t behave like one. Very close, though. It was both a very simple and very complex criminal case.

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  23. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Thank you so much, Danielle! Probably every writer works in a different manner. In the beginning, I usually have  sketchy ideas about plot and characters.

    This is what is happening for this third novel: I hear the voices of three, maybe four of my characters very clearly. In addition I “know” the Montserrats well already. For the plot, I will have to follow the historical events. I already have my opening chapter: snow, a fox, a frozen lake and my male protagonist. Also some scenes from the middle of the book. The ones that “scare” me because they are very visual.

    That’s all I know for now. The rest will fall into place on its own as I begin writing and go back and forth between my developing novel and to my research material. Then my characters will come to life, interact with each other, be confronted with the twists of the plot.

  24. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Yes, Elena, I want to take a bite at this subject!

  25. Danielle says:

    I’m always curious how writers create. Do you already have a story in mind, or do you begin with the characters and see where they take you? Do you already know the ending or does it come as you work? I couldn’t write, but I’m so glad there are talented people out there who do, as I don’t know what I’d do without good books!

  26. “Screaming to be written,” I’ll say! Can’t wait!

  27. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Thank you, Danielle!
    It is s great this time around to share my enthusiasm for this new project with my readers. For Books 1 and 2 I did not have a blog yet. I now realize how much of a difference that makes.
    This third novel already has an amazing grip on my mind. For one thing I can’t wait to reconnect with the Montserrat family. My characters are “talking” to me and I visualize a scene, towards the middle of the book, that has a tremendous emotional impact on me. I scare myself!

  28. Danielle says:

    It’s so interesting reading about a book that is only in the beginning process of being written! This is a very enticing post…something to look forward to.

  29. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Thank you, Eva. Indeed I am very grateful for the reviews I receive from fellow bloggers. This is wonderful for a debut writer.

    And I am thrilled to count you among the very first fans of Book 3!

  30. Eva says:

    How interesting about your grandfather’s tenant! And you’re just teasing me with hints about the new novels: I love magic-y things. :D

    And congrats on all of the continuing stellar reviews!! I think it’s safe to say that you’re well on your way. How thrilling!

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