Cover image for Witches, werewolves, and fairies : shapeshifters and astral doublers in the Middle Ages
Title:
Witches, werewolves, and fairies : shapeshifters and astral doublers in the Middle Ages
Author:
Lecouteux, Claude.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Fées, sorcières et loups-garous au Moyen Age. English
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
Rochester, Vt. : Inner Traditions, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
xxiv, 200 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
The ecstatic journey -- Pagan ecstatics -- An unusual concept of the soul -- -- The double and fairies -- The double and witchcraft -- Metamorphosis : the double and werewolves -- Autoscopy -- Shadow, reflection, and image.
Electronic Access:
Table of contents http://www.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip043/2003009563.html
ISBN:
9780892810963
Format :
Book

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BF1045.D67 L4313 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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BF1045.D67 L4313 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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BF1045.D67 L4313 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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BF1045.D67 L4313 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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BF1045.D67 L4313 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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BF1045.D67 L4313 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

Reveals the true nature of medieval belief in the Double of the Soul

* Demonstrates the survival of a pagan belief that each individual owns three souls, including a double that can journey outside the physical body

* Explains the nature of death and the Other World hidden beneath the monsters and superstitions in stories from the Middle Ages

Monsters, werewolves, witches, and fairies remain a strong presence in our stories and dreams. But as Claude Lecouteux shows, their roots go far deeper than their appearance in medieval folklore; they are survivors of a much older belief system that predates Christianity and was widespread over Western Europe. Through his extensive analysis of Germano-Scandinavian legends, as well as those from other areas of Europe, Lecouteux has uncovered an almost forgotten religious concept: that every individual owns three souls and that one of these souls, the Double, can--in animal or human form--leave the physical body while in sleep or a trance, journey where it chooses, then reenter its physical body. While there were many who experienced this phenomenon involuntarily, there were others--those who attracted the unwelcome persecution of the Church--who were able to provoke it at will: witches.

In a thorough excavation of the medieval soul, Claude Lecouteux reveals the origin and significance of this belief in the Double, and follows its transforming features through the ages. He shows that far from being fantasy or vague superstition, fairies, witches, and werewolves all testify to a consistent ancient vision of our world and the world beyond.


Author Notes

Claude Lecouteux is a professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of nine other books exploring the true nature of medieval beliefs in the afterlife and the supernatural. He lives in Paris.


Reviews 1

Booklist Review

This is one of those rare delights, a book as readable as it is scholarly on a subject appealing to general readers, especially to those interested in folklore and magic. Although he emphasizes European wonder tales in his search for understanding of the worldwide phenomenon of the spirit double, Lecouteux's approach is cross-cultural. Tales of the phenomenon stem, he maintains, from the very widespread belief that the soul isn't trapped in the body but can move about at will or, sometimes, even against a person's will. Common beliefs in spirit doubles, and werewolves, witches, and fairies, can be traced to that idea, the origin of which may lie in shamanic soul travel. Filled with unusual narratives--such as that of the churchman who challenged a Lapland magician to prove that his skills were no superstition, whereupon the man traveled in spirit to the minister's house and stole his wife's wedding ring, a theft confirmed by the woman in question--this book may ask more questions than it answers but is always absorbing. --Patricia Monaghan Copyright 2003 Booklist