French Witch Body Vandalism June 24, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
This is taken from a French newspaper from 1864. It reminds Beach of the beginning of one of those 1970s British neo-pagan horror films, Blood on Satan’s Claw, Wicker Man and the like. In fact, Beach would not like to be Lemonnier… He’d probably have a couple of very unlikely erotic experiences and then be sacrificed to the dark gods.
A sportsman named Lemonnier, was out shooting in a small wood not far from the cemetery of St Andrew [this is apparently in Normandy, French witch country], he found the dead body of an old woman wrapped up in a shroud. He immediately informed the authorities, and the body was recognized as that of a Madame Allain, aged 82, buried at St Adresse on the 24 th ult. It was at first supposed that the corpse had been disinterred for the purpose of stealing any jewelry that might have been buried with it, but a closer examination having shown that the corpse had been in part deprived or the skin, and that the chest and abdomen had been out open, it was concluded that some believer in witchcraft had taken the skin and fat to use as charms in his incantations.
Fat is everywhere in witchlore. But usually it is in learned versions of witchcraft: that the witch is supposed to fly with dead man’s fat or make candles with the fat of babies. This is interesting in that it is not just the fantasies of priests (we’re back to Blood on Satan’s Claw) but actual practices out in the wilds of the French countryside. Of course, we might not be talking of witchcraft in the strict sense. There are lots of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century examples of body parts – for instance, of executed felons – being used in magic and health cures. Reading between the lines, perhaps something like this happened here. The newspaper report continues:
It appears that a belief in the magical virtues of human remains is prevalent in that neighbourhood, for only a few months since a young mason dug up a body in the same cemetery, cut off one hand, and burnt it to ashes, which he mixed with gunpowder, in the belief that he should then be able to shoot game without his gun making any report to attract the notice of the garde champetre.
Any other opinions about what happened to Madame Allain: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beach will leave Lemonnier’s fate to your imagination.
25 June 2013: The Count writes in: Blood On Satan’s Claw is a bad example, because the witchcraft in that film is real and utterly evil, and the witch-hunting judge, though arrogant and ruthless, is neither wicked nor deluded. And the magic involving body-parts is quite different from what you describe – individual members or patches of skin are possessed by a demon which is physically reincarnating itself piecemeal, and severed from the living bodies of (mostly) willing cultists. Though it does show in alarming detail what happens to pre-feminism Doctor Who’s helpless girly assistants (they weren’t called “companions” back then) when they encounter Bad Weirdness and the Doctor isn’t around to save them – poor Wendy Padbury! Here’s a link to a photo of the last remaining Hand Of Glory. And here’s another link, to the grimoireLe Petit Albert. Unfortunately I can’t find an unexpurgated English text, but if you can read French, this may be of use to you. Human fat is certainly necessary for the manufacture of the candle held by the Hand, and perhaps other purposes too (my French isn’t good enough to struggle through large lumps of archaic text). Since the hand itself had to come from an executed felon, possibly the anonymous magician in your example obtained such a hand from a body in a very dessicated condition, and had to look elsewhere for the fat? Here, unfortunately, is an example of modern practices of a similar nature, except that the body-parts are obtained from donors who aren’t actually dead yet (though obviously they become so during the process). Many of the current magical beliefs that hold sway in rural Africa are surprisingly similar to what Europeans believed several centuries ago, but this goes way beyond anything even the most demented European peasant got up to! It’s probably politically incorrect to point out that many Africans are still this barbaric, but the fact is that they are. There’s something to be said for doing away with “traditional beliefs” when they lead to horrors like this, as opposed to the picturesque dancing and chanting beloved of New Age bubbleheads! I mean, does anybody miss the Aztecs?’ Thanks Count!