Thursday, January 27, 2011

Deadly Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage by Jeanne Favret-Saada




This book examines witchcraft beliefs and experiences in the Bocage, a rural area of western France. It also introduces a powerful theoretical attitude towards the progress of the ethnographer's enwuiries, suggesting that a full knowledge of witchcraft involves being 'caught up' in it oneself. In the Bocage, being bewitched is to be 'caught' in a sequence of misfortunes: a heifer dies, the wife has a miscarriage, the child is covered in spots, the car runs into a ditch, the milk cannot be churned, the geese become panic-stricken, or the bride-to-be wastes away. According to those who are bewitched, the culprit is someone in the neighbourhood: the witch, who can cast a spell with a word, a touch or a look, and whose 'power' comes from a book of spells inherited from an ancestor. Only a professional magician, an 'unwitcher', has any chance of breaking the succession of misfortunes which befall those who have been bewitched. He undertakes a battle of magic with the suspected witch, a battle which is eventually fatal.
















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