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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