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of Modern History, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 451-478 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2953593 Accessed: 30/05/2010 00:44
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Possession on the Borders:The "Malde Morzine"in Nineteenth-Century France*
New College, Oxford A few Parisianphysicianswill soon stretchincredulityto the point of claiming that the possessed and witches are nothingbut frauds. That is going too far. The majorityare sick under the sway of an illusion.(J. MICHELET, La Sorciere, 1862)
In 1857, a series of psychic tormentsand bodily seizures eruptedin Morzine, a Savoyardcommune of some two thousand migrant masons and seasonal workersin the high countryof the Chablais.The crisis began when young and adolescent girls claimed to see the Virgin Mary, but this transitoryinteraction with the Mother of God had neitherthe beatific nor the awesome qualities normallyassociatedwith contemporary visionaryexperience.Ratherthan heavenly smiles and bodily rapture,they instead had alarmingconvulsive attacks, had no message to relay,and relishedblasphemingthe Eucharistduring their seizures. The women believed themselves possessed as a result of a mal throughmagic, magdonne, a witch'scurse, and they sought to counterattack netism, and pilgrimage,going far from their village world in search of relief. Their errantlife began when they felt abandonedby their parishpriest:Abbe Pinguetand his minions had willingly exorcised them beginningin 1857, convinced such expedientswould rid the communityof the "devils," but the situation changeddramatically in 1860 when FranceannexedSavoyandthe authorities pressuredthe priestto stop his "superstitious" both practices.He retracted his belief in their possession and his willingness to exorcise, and from that moment the intensityof the mal grew rapidly.' The degree of attention lavished on the girls and women-numbering aroundtwo hundredat the end of 1861 -is evidencedby the physicianswhom
* This article could not have been completed without the help of JacquelineCarroy, who generously made availableall her primarydocuments;special thanks are due to CarolineFord,RobertNye, LyndalRoper,Nicholas Stargardt, Megan Vaughan,and an anonymousreviewerof the Journalof ModernHistory,as well as to lain Pears for his usual tireless aid. 1 C. L. Maire,Les posse'es de Morzine, 1857-1873 (Lyon, 1981), pp. 44, 63-64. [TheJournalof ModernHistory 69 (September1997): 451-478] ? 1997 by The Universityof Chicago. 0022-2801/97/6903-0002$02.00 All rights reserved.
to intern some in public hospitals. 1867. By 1863.3Unwilling merely to observe and analyze." a figure which points to the persistenceand intensity of the disorder. 1864).with the foundation of a library and the institution of a regime of lectures and dances intended to provide some "enlightened"diversion and "soothing"distraction. only a few lone sufferersremained. a Parisianalienist with court connections and the inspecteur ge'ne'ral des asiles des alie'ne's. But the terrifiedresponse of the afflictedwas misplaced.which remarked:"Parmiles 120 filles de Morzine environ qui sont parties ces jours-ci.452 Harris the Savoyardauthoritiesand later the Frenchadministration summonedto investigate the strangeepidemic. A local medical man. However.4 The outbreakbroughtConstansand the infantryback to the village. il y a une cinquantaine de maladesenviron. and the reprinted letterin L'unionmedicale (July 2. Archives Departementales. causing many of the women to flee throughthe mountainpasses into Switzerland. was followed by Doctor Arthaud. arrivedto repress the furious public displays. the articlesin Courrier des Alpes (May 21. reprintedin Le Monde (May 22. 1867). 3 See his Relation sur une e'pidemie en 1861 (Paris.The "Rapport du Docteur Broc.a Lyonnese physician.andmost of the Morzinoises. the mal reappearedin more violent form: some ninety women flew into mad convulsions. Although some still went on secret pilgrimages and had crises at home. Constans and his successors forced the mal underground.gives a brighterpictureon August 12. the seizures no longer occurredin public and never duringreligious services. 1864). 1864).women who experiencedtheirconvulsions 2 J. Dep.fearful of being deportedlike criminals to the New World. visited the village the following year. . 1863).seemingly cured. who diagnosed the outbreak as demonopathyin 1857.were allowed to return. 1864). MonseigneurMagnin. -"Rapportde gendarmerie" (May 30.2But the resistanceof the mal to orderlycontrol and treatmentseemed to require a more interventionistpolicy. Constansused all his considerable power to expel the afflicted from Morzine."one of Constans'ssuccessors. and in 1861 Adolphe Constans.Througha mixtureof subsidy and coercion-which ended with billeted soldiers helping villagers with the harvest-as well as the continuedhospitalizationof the possessed. Arthaud.5 By 1873. it appearedthat his methods had worked.when the bishop. pour allereffeuillerles vignes en Suisse.morer subtle measures of "educationmorale" were introduced. who made the more up-to-date diagnosis of "hystero-de'monopathie" aroundthe end of 1860. d'hystero-demonopathie 4 See CharlesLafontaine in Le Magne'tiseur (May 15. 1862). attackingand insulting him and pleading desperately for a collective exorcism.Relation d'une hystero-demonopathie epidemiqueobserve'e a Morzine (Lyon.After this second outbreak..and to use both a small detachmentof infantryand a new post of the gendarmerieto maintain order. claiming that the majority had reverted to a simple hysterical state. Arch.
The gendarme described two women. one forty-eight years old and the other thirty-seven. control. 1869." September 14. 9 See Maire. to a lesser extent. 1899). While they both begin by elucidatingproblems of witchcraftand possession in the local world and seek to uncoverits religious roots. 7See the pathetic letter. and administrators-and seek to uncoverthe different tactics employedto help. I intend in this article to question not only the vision of secularizationbut also the broaderconceptualcategoriesof "tradition" and "modernity" thatunderpinit. and Maire. Relation sur l'epidemie de Morzine (Lyon.I will show how the fears and seizures of througharchaicrituals. I limit myself to this brief introductory descriptionbecause of the narrativesweep already providedby JacquelineCarroyand Laurence Maire. Dep.Les posse'ees de Morzine.Abandonedby her husbandand seeking shelter in Geneva. still had crises lasting three-quarters of an hour and was instructedby the mayornever to speak of them to anyone. 8 See Jacqueline Carroy.7 Such a synoptic account gives only the slightest taste of the events surroundingthe mal. Le mal de Morzine: De la possession a V'hysterie (Paris. both Carroyand Maire nonetheless tend to see witchcraft and possession as expressionsof traditionalcultureand their manifestation as the last gasp of a dying world. and Dr. Baleydier. in misspelled French.1949).focusing on the impact of discursivestrategies. Henri Bouchet.A proa Morzine (audience solennelle de la rentree du 2 octobre) pos d'un mal myste'rieux (Chambery.p.8 Theirinformativeandperceptivevolumes concentrateon the key male actors-priests. in containing and transformingthe epidemic. 1981).JosephteChauplannaz. these works show the markof Michel Foucaultand.static in favor of an account that grapples and "modernity" concepts of "tradition" 6"Rapport de gendarmerie. I reject the bipolar.who lived alone and in the worst poverty.9 the Morzinoiswere partof a changingand developingpeasantcosmology that drew on the dilemmasof nineteenth-century society. of Michel de Certeauon historicalscholarship.otherworks includeA.Publishedin the early 1980s.The first. Arch. she wrote asking for the means to get throughthe winter and to keep her children. they are chiefly concernedwith the mal as a key case study in the coercive secularizationof peasant society. of January4. with a particularinterestin demonstrating how the diagnosis of hysteriawas centralto thatprocess. 118. physicians. Although sympatheticto the plight of the villagers and interestedin local religious beliefs. and transformthe women undertheir supervision. 1870.Les possedes de Morzine.Possession on the Borders 453 in privateignominy.Mairegoes so far as to liken the mal to Luddism.Indeed.6 eking out a meagerand marginalexistence eitherin Morzine itself or in neighboringSwitzerland. written to the prefect by JeanneBerger.especially medical expertise. and she sees it as an attemptto restore a lost civilization In contrast. .
The mal was too emotionally disruptiveand above all too physical to be understoodfully in these terms. Jones.Religion and "superstition" were thus hardlya brakeon peasantmentalitiesbut..that the women created their own discursive response to authoritythroughwitchcraft and possession and that they were ultimatelyconstrainedby the more powerfuldiscoursesthat marginalizedand silenced them. CarolineFord.psychological. Lehning.The persistenceof possession. I depart.but related. In additionto this historiographical I aim to provide a funreinterpretation. the desire for exotic urban affluence and. as well as on problemsof regionalandnationalidentity. I will arguethat it neglects centralfeatures. the afflicted not only resisted the demandsof husbands " In making this argument. medicine.Creating the Nation in ProvincialFrance(Princeton. Michel Lagree.with Maire tentativelysuggesting a protofeminist bid for emancipationencoded in the actions of the afflicted women. She suggests.Whatis surprising. 1850-1950 (Paris.given this approachto the problem. religion. 1993).and it is these unstable.which the mal and possession crises reveal. meant that sufferers could not articulatetheir distress. . from this trend with my special interest in the parallel. damentalcritiqueof the discourse analysis that underpinsprevious studies of the mal de Morzine. P.I owe much to a developing revisionist historiography that. 1988).As will be seen.'0I will show how possession in both its linguistic and its bodily dimensions expressed the tension between. squeezed between the articulatedexigencies and expectationsof family. their statementsduringtheir possession crises are recountedand an anthropologicalgloss is painted on the language of collective distress. M. without arguing directly. on the one hand. Culturesen Bretagne. and above all painful dimensionsthatI intend to underscore. they remainedlocked in a culturaldramain which the definingpower of language was largely absent.however. 1994). and the state.is how little energyhas been spent on examiningthe discursiveworld of the women themselves. and economic integrity. 1995).See. e. by and large. rather. has concentratedon questions of political and social acculturation.J. and the recent synthesis by James R.mediatedthe conflicts between the village and the nation.N.sometimes violent. guilt over the loss of the village's spiritual..Peasant and French:CulturalContact in Rural France during the NineteenthCentury(Cambridge. occasionally.Such work shows the women as if grippedin a discursive vice. g.454 Harris with collective distressby not dismissingwitchcraftandpossession as anachronistic relics. on the other.sphereof subjectiveand collective meaningand experience. ThePeasantry in the French Revolution (Cambridge. and the enduringconvulsive experience. Although the linguistic interpretation provides a powerful account of the mal. I will show instead how the mal opens a window onto the unconsciously aggressive fantasies of the women against menfolk who were not "good enough"to rid them of their "devils"and purge the parishof witchcraft.
and showing how unstablegenderrelationswere at the heartof the psychological drama.Like manyvillages in Savoy. From the eighteenthcentury. Savoy became famous for its migrantworkers-peddlers.see Rapportde l'Abbe Chamoux'a l'Eveque. Archives Diocesaines. the afflicted left the village in searchof exorcists and magnetizers to cure them.and later factory workers. non il ne peut debarrasser du sous-Prefetau Prefet sur les evenements qui se sont fille du diable.Morzine dependedon emigrationto sustainits expandingbut impoverishedpopulation. including the impact of changing social conditions and French annexation."Arch."See "Rapport passes le 30 avrilet le ler mai. 1986). how neithermedical intervention was of any use and how priests in particularwere singled out for not being "assez saints pour avoiraction sur les demons. left the village in disarrayand ultimately.It will continue by investigatingthe fantasies of fear.Possession on the Borders 455 andfathersbut also condemneddoctorsfor theirinadequacyandcursedpriests Nonetheless. the streamof emigrantshad become a flood. The prefecthimself was struckby one of the raging women who had no respect for his authority. and longing voiced by the "devils. carpenters.Dep. I will argue.when subsistenceon the land became increasinglydifficult.if unwittingly. with the men andboys of Morzineleaving for Genevaand Lausanneto work in the building trades. 150-54. . While such measuresappeasedthe Morzineinto the Frenchnation. This quest for men more powerful than those at home.but his authoritariansolutions were rarelyto theirliking. it sits perchedon the banksof the Dranse and at the time includedseveraldispersedhamlets. the mal enabled them to renouncepatriarchal offer a means of resolving village tensions. 1866. By the time chimney sweeps.The final section will examine why. This study will begin by examiningthe mal in its village context."1 it did not authoritytemporarily.the women called him a "Loup la d'Eveque"who did not have "le pouvoirde guerirla fille. evil.p.A 11Constansdescribesin Relation. they did not alleviate village and "integrated" the psychic distressor bodily misery. 12 See AndrePalluel-Guillard a nosjours. pp.Difficult of access. emulating the menfolk who emigratedto find work. remorse. 53.separatedfrom Switzerlandby only a single mountain. masons.'2 of the mal. while for having spiritualpowers too puny to exorcise the mal."When the bishop arrived. XIXe-XX et al. opened the door to the manipulationsof Constansand the French state.."analyzing why both the witches and the "devils"were male. RELIGIONAND THE VILLAGECOMMUNITY The commune of Morzine sits in the high countryof the southernChablaisin the far cornerof the Aulph valley. Both Constansandthe women identifiedsome of the same problems. La Savoie de la Re'volution siecle (Rennes.indeed. it only servedto strengthen the prestige and authorityof outsidersinterveningin their affairs.
garneringtheir meager livelihood from managed communalproperty. The peak of this cycle (and the maximumsize of the village) occurredaroundthe time of the outbreakof the mal.as villagers went up to chalets.For Morzine. men who up of large patriarchal contravenedcustom by marrying"outside"were regardedwith bitternessby the young women of the parish. Emigrationthus strainedthis society to the limit. Laterin the 1860s the populationbegan to decline. Van Gennep (Paris. Scarce resources were spent on bread. where once a strictgendercomplementarity hold relations. A. Van Gennep.n.oats. Morzine's traditionswere maintainedby women and children. and then again in June duringthe cheese making. shelter. The Morzinois lived as a group. despite the growing hardshipsthis life demanded. they were also overworkedand increasinglyinsecure. As fathers and brotherswere rarely present to impose discipline.June sowing and summercultivatinghad to continue.and the "foreign"bride was often treatedwith in" underscoredthe prioritygiven to hostility. however. In the valley. Otherwise. first in April to feed the animals on the spring grass. p.The loss of so manyof the active men meantthatyoung women were unableto establish Maire.the community depended on livestock.). See A. absent from the village varied between 400 and 500. The loss of half of the most active men meant that the women were obliged to do more and more of these tasks had ruled work and housealone. pp.d. with the majorityonly returningbriefly aroundthe Christmasholidays. breakingthe strictdivision the villagers' social and between "us"and "them"that had hithertostructured psychic worlds. The tending of animals exacted a heavy burden. vue par les e'crivains et les artistes. and potatoes.'4The emphasis on "marrying local affiliationin maritalunions thatfosteredthe perceptionthat all goodness should be containedwithin the parishand the mountainsthat encircledit.like othervillages in the Chablais.supplying wood. unleashed the witchcraftfears that haunted the village.and even scarce labor for every memberof the village.While "free"from their menfolk. ed. when threatenedby illness. evidence that the was finallybrokenby the decision to settle elsecycle of leaving and returning where permanently."3 The communitysubsisted on a meager mountainagriculturethat produced barley-corn.456 Harris the total men census of 1854 gave Morzine a populationof 2.was made clans that encouragedendogamousunions. whose continuedlife in the village came to symbolize the ideal of domesticatedrootedness. which increasedthe burdenof debt and forced ever more men onto the road to Switzerland. 343-80. The end to this fragile equilibriumbroughta severe change in psychological and social relations. the key resource that. 28. 1 above)."in La Savoie. 13 14 .284 inhabitants.Les possedees de Morzine(n. "Les fiangailles et le mariage en Savoie.
-M.Moreover. more generally.Possession on the Borders 457 their own foyers and were obliged instead to labor in their relations' households to survive. p." Cahiersd'histoire(1966). it Constans(n.An episcopal enquiryof 1845 had noted the fervorand the devotionalregularityof the Morzinois and. bless or exorcise farms and stables.15 Neighbors too began to shun the village when in 1864 the inhabitantsof Montriond. especially those of the Rosary and the Eucharist.while men were key in negotiatingexternalchallengesbut growingmarginalto life inside Morzine. and Palluel-Guillard et al. it was above all these insecure. 3 above).not daring to put their feet onto the lands of 16 Morzine. 60. and protect them against climatic disaster.the village'soldest penitentorganization with early medieval roots and one of the oldest surviving institutionsof its kind in Savoy. Women became simultaneouslymore central to the village communityand increasinglyconstrainedby its demands. After the Revolution.see the hagiography by Abbe F. 184201. the fervor of prayer. pp. Dep.see Paul Guichonnet. Henri Baud (Paris: 1985).EvequedAnnecy (Paris." "Rapports May 7 and 9. As I will show. 17 Roger Devos. acting as a focus for village sociability. Arch. 16 15 . 191-222.often unmarried women who left the village in search of a cure.who usually made an annual procession with theirlivestock to receive communalblessing in the church. Esprit." in Geneve-Annecy: Histoiredu diocese. going on throughthe mountainpasses into Geneva to find relief from a famous magnetizer. and."didan aboutturn at the edge of their territory. 49-83. even among men. "Quelquesaspects de la vie religieuse dans le diocese d'Annecy au milieu du XIXe siecle (d'apresune enqu&ede Mgr Rendu).Investigators pointed to the frequencyof confession and communion. de gendarmerie.the observance of feast days. pp. far from being a refuge from the sinful world. with the region resistingnot only Protestantism but also the seductionsof revolutionarydoctrine. Guillermin.Viede Mgr Louis Rendu..as well as enthusiastic participation in religious confraternities. 1867).Evidence of this belief could be dramatic: one girl carriedaway from Morzine told her bearershe would be able to walk the minutethey came to Montriond(an adjacentcommune). Morzine itself became the site of danger. the Morzinois were even more devotedto the Confraternity of St.the clergy saw HauteSavoie as once again in the front line.the love of the Holy Sacrament andthe Blessed Virgin.The penitentsbelieved in its prophylacticpowers and sought the aid of priests to ring bells.In sum. For more on the vicissitudesof the Savoyard church." The mal took the formit did because of the importance of religion in shaping collective identity."Du concordata l'annexion(1802-1860).and she promptlydid so.The diocese of Annecy and Geneva had priests back in every parish churchby 1820 and by midcenturyhad added another1500 to its ranks. 1864.the confraternity organizedfuneral meals and distributedalms.of the parishesof the high mountains. ed. The mal reversedall these verities to the point of caricature.17While these two organizationshad roots in the CounterReformationand were headed by the clergy. pp.
securingItaly from contamination Catholicpower againstCalvinistGeneva. with one describing their rigorism as "gloomy.or inadequacythat would most enrage the Morzinoises duringtheircrises. scrupulous. Francois de andbuildinga fortressof Sales' evangelism.Les trophe'es sacre'sou missionsdes capucinsen Savoie (Lausanne. 3. as I will show. 405-8.intransigence.For. ethnographic. while lamentationover the entrenched"superstitions" ruralpoor was a leitmotif of medical.13th18th Centuries.by processions. .'21 a type of Catholic piety that mirroredthe Protestantseverity on the other side of the mountains. Van Gennep.was the religion of strands. 1987).22 able to withhold or to offer religious consolation and. Esprit.19This legacy offeredthe Morzinoisa an obsession with hellfire and damnation. Palluel-Guillard 22 confessional. represented by the Confraternity popularritual. For the seventeenth-century see P.trans. The other was shaped by Counter-Reformation the traumaof Protestant conversionand Catholicreconquest...monitoredpenitence through They were confession. Charlesde Geneve. 19 (1536-1622). (Paris. for the priests controlledthe sacraments.Eric Nicholson (New York. 3d ed. du berceaua la tombe(Paris. and hence determinedwho could take the Eucharist.Conn. TheSuperstitiousMind: FrenchPeasants and the Supernatural in the NineteenthCentury(New Haven. p. uneasy. Boutry.and village missionaries." Henri Baud.wearying."20 Local nineteenth-centuryclerical reformers bemoaned the continuation of these associationsby decryingthe stagnantand unyieldingattitudesof the parish clergy. 190. "Le defi protestantet les debuts de la contre-reforme account of this (re)conversion. for an overview of peasantbelief Christianitywas constantlythreatenedby the vitality of more and the way "orthodox" "popular" conceptions. 21 et al.Savoy in general and the Chablaisin particularwas the pays par excellence of St. 20 Jean Delumeau. pp. ed. 1990). 198-217. see Philippe For more on the rigorismof the earlynineteenth-century d'Ars. An equally important elementof religious sensibilitywas the belief in magic of the and sorcery. the region that produced the earliest 18 The centralityof the confratemityis describedby A. in Baud. pp. talismans. 1986).18 The religious life of the Morzinois was thus made up of two intermingling of St. 1976).which included devotion to local saints.Pretreset paroisses au pays du Cure' 23 See JudithDevlin. 1916). Sin and Fear: The Emergenceof a Western Guilt Culture. "religion of fear. pt.One.23 tible because it borderedon the Vaud..sin and guilt.458 Harris managed the supernatural-especially the highly valued cult of the deadand the social life of the parishin a mannerthat satisfiedthe religious requirements of the laity. 98-128.and sometimes clerical the Chablaisseemed particularly suscepwriting in many regions of France. En Savoie. it was often priestly harshness. pp.Such attitudesoften engenderedanticlericalism.
remarkedthat Favre had vexed and wearied her to distraction. took his young female parishionerson retreatto prepare them for their first communion. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MAL: Witchcraft and Possession It was against this backgroundthat the mal erupted. 1869.no straightforwardevolution. Y. Ankerloo and G.occurredin the springof 1857. Le Folkloredes Hautes-Alpes:Etude descriptiveet compare'e de psychologiepopulaire (Paris.and untanglingthe variousaccountsof cause and effect and of witchcraftand possession is often impossible. p.Magnin.intensifying until it attractedthe full-scale attentionof the state.d.see CarloGinsburg.bored. 1914). in their efforts to combatthe mal the Morzinoisseemed all too willing to substantiate a pictureof atavisticresurgence. 2: 72-85."in Early Modern European Witchcraft:Centres and Peripheries. She began to have spasmodic convulsions duringhis lessons and. 1914).she claimed to have had a letter from the Mother of God. Arch.26 and terrorized the girls with his depictionof the treasonousJudas. William Monter. Dioc. and terrifiedby turns.24 As will be seen.Favre seemed to embody the unyieldingreligion that so worriedclerical reformers.Witchcraft in Franceand Switzerland:TheBorderlandsduringthe Reformation(Ithaca.25 andfor this reasonthey attracted the disgusted criticismof a Parisianlike Constans. 28 de l'Abbe Vallentien". esp.27 Reportsof him thus hintedat a priestwho exhorted. 25 Van Gennep sought to prove the historical and geographicallinks in Incantations medico-magiquesen Savoie (Annecy. B.). VanGennep. 27 "Rapport de l'Abbe Chamoux. chap.'.Mgr.. 26 See the "Rapport de l'Abbe Vallentien. pp. 15. Henningsen (Oxford.N.L'inquisition en Dauphine': Etudesur le developpement et la re'pression de I'he're'sie et la sorcellerie du XIVesiecle au debutdu regnede FranVois Ier (Paris. when Abbe Favre. .Possession on the Borders 459 mythology of witchcraftin the fourteenthcentury."1866. Arch.He talked often of Satan.n. 122. 1990). believed in black magic and evil spirits. See "Rapport the words she reportedlyused were "Cetabbe me fatigue.. p. althoughknown to be overjoyedat the prospectof her firstcommunion. It is separatingthe narratives even difficult to know when the mal started." . who became central to subsequentevents. 1976)."Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath. 1. Dioc. There was.One crucial event. andA. however. ed. 235-60. Letters that came into the village from the outside world. JeanMarx. properly 24 For this dating.28 Later. 1948). particularly in relationto the Sabbath. He paid special attentionto one girl. Histoirede l'inquisitionau MoyenAge (Paris. See also E. with anotherten-year-old. Peronne T." January 20. however. L'Evequed'Annecy. and the older works of Jean Guiraud.the vicaire of the parishunder Pinguet'sdirection.
were central events in this tightly woven community. two young shepherdsin the" boring mountaincountryof the Dauphinesaw the Virgin Mary at La Salette. 31 Constans(n. and David Blackboum. Stem. elles tombent par terre et ecument d'une maniere alarmante. esp.J.460 Harris stamped and delivered.one of the leading lights of spiritism. 32 "Rapport de L'abbeChamoux. (Paris. BernadetteSoubiroushad her visions in 1858 in the Pyrenees. 30 See Thomas A.breakthe seal."1866. Laurentin. 1857. 23. tears.'s susceptibility were her infatuationwith the table turningand spiritrappingso popular in the 1840s and 1850s3?and her traumatic of witnessing of the near-drowning a young girl in March 1857. as the pair fell into convulsions. de ris. Death and the Afterlife in Modern France (Princeton.32 This account of the early stages of the mal is remarkablefor the way the descriptionof Marianencounteris so quickly dismissedin favorof possession.Marpingen:Apparitionsof the VirginMary in Bismarckian Germany(Oxford. pp. 1993). and Nicole Edelman. ed. 29 . or satisfactionaccordingto whetherwhat they read is happy or sad. overpopulatedupland areas. 1993). 143-62. 33 See J. ed. for example. Three cases occurredin poor.. esp. 1980-84). May 22. Lourdes:Dossier des documentsauthentiques(Paris. Dioc. 1. Documents authentiques.La moindre idee de priere de l'Eglise les jette dans les contorsionsaffreuses. Indeed. throughout the mal women threwthemselves into the Dranse in some reliving of this traumatic. Indeed. vicaires). It is important to note thatAllan Kardec. all four On voit ces filles lever les mains. R. they fall to the ground and foam [at the mouth] in an alarmingfashion.suicidal experience. on les voit rompre le cachet. Kselman. 108-58. Arch. utteredprophecies-correctly preto dicting. there were enough similaritiesbetween Morzine and villages where visionaries had apparitionsof the Virgin to suggest that the mal might have neighdeveloped differently. de satisfaction selon que ce qu'elles lisent est heureux ou malheureux. 1995). de pleurs. La Salette.Dans le moment actuel. comme pour recevoir des lettres. evidence of the importanceof the recipients:"One sees these girls raise their hands. vol. p. N. Lettrede Abbe Pinguet a l'Eveque (signed also by Favreet Sinvel. Arch. 1958). puis lire avec un melange de gemissements.who else would fall prey to the mal-and surrendered the male "devils"inside them.not only visited Morzine duringthe outbreakbut also wrote aboutit as an example of the veracityof his doctrines."29 From the outset their physical and psychic distress was disruptive. The reasons adducedfor PeronneT.2 vols.gue'risseuseset visionnaires en France(1785-1914) (Paris. 3 above).A decade earlier.. At that moment. Dioc.as if to receive letters. and over a decade later the girls of Marpingenin the Saarlandhad a similar experience. pp. thenreadwith a mixtureof groans.31 Nor was the idea of demonic influenceparticuhad fallen larly foreign:a young girl from the nearbyparishof Essert-Mornand into convulsions a few years earlier and was taken to Besancon to be exorcised. The slightest idea of churchprayersends them into frightful contortions. smiles. Voyantes.33 Morzine sharedwith these otherexamplesmanygeographicaland sociological features..
The Virgin Mary: TheRomanCatholicMarianDoctrine (London.as well as the recent evidence of traumaticevents.36 Otherevents confirmedthe presence of evil. even before 1857.Marpingen.'s affliction was contagious. increasingly overlaid in midcenturyby the Churchsponsoredvariety. 36 Constans. they were increasinglytutoredin the dogma of the Immaculate Conceptionpromulgated in 1854 andwere partof a movementto inculcate a special love of the Virgin as a model for daughterlypurity and motherly virtue. 1955). 1984). the girls experienceddebilitatingseizures. 35 On the cult of the Virgin in the nineteenth century. 107-33."mischievous" experimentation with the spiritworld. a sharedreligious culturethat believed in supernatural the priestsand villagersof Morzinewere intervention.Unlike the visionaries of La Salette. pp. and the Virgin was quickly replaced by a cast of male charactersvariously described as "devils.see Jean-Frangois Soulet. . Moreover. for the images of Mary. at the same time.in a grotto. PeronneT.34 All were deeply markedby local traditions of Marianpiety. Nothing could be more different in the case of Morzine. 97-99.esp. therehad been uncannyhappenings-above all. pp. treasuring miraculousimages discoveredby theirearly modem forebears. but in addition the Virgin did not appearin her accustomedhaunts. MarinaWarner.""demons." Finally.pp. 28-29. see L'image de piete en France.Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the VirginMary (London. her malady spreading to older women.From the outset. Miegge.Possession on the Borders 461 happenedon the borderlands and involved childrenof similar ages. Lourdes also had a similar crisis. chap. all suggested the influence of evil ratherthan of good. Les Pyre'ne'es au XIXesiacle (Toulouse. not only was there no ravishing sighting. or in the forest awayfrom the parishchurch.and Marpingen. For example.see G.the girls of Morzinesaw no "ladyin white". 236-54. the deathof livestock."and the "damned. but one involving more permanentemigrationto SouthAmerica.on the mountain.the childrenastonishedthe villagersby theirfrightening acrobaticfeats of contortionand physical prowess.the visionariessufferedno immediate ill effects from her appearance.their prophecies relayed no general mission. Lourdes. quickly able to distinguishpossession from Marianapparition by referenceto long-standingreligious and folkloric traditions.Moreover. 1976).The poor worshippedthe Motherof God in local sanctuaries. above all. 1814-1914 (Paris. and villagers rememberedthat.BernadetteSoubirouswas even temporarily relieved of her many ailments. 2.35 But for all these similaritiesand.Animal deaths were often seen as an early and ominous indicationof witchcraft. 2:90-91. 1987). pp.and so seriously did Constanslater take this "superstitious" belief that he insisted 34 Blackbourn. and Marpingen and Morzine shareda crisis of out-migration that was the most salient feature of their village communities.
40 Many authorsmention the different languages spoken. Responsibility for their behavior was firmly placed on the "devils" (les dcmons)-on rareroccasions referredto as the "damned" (les damne's)-who took over theirbodies. The use of "good"French was perhaps the most suggestive. and commandedtheir actions.like theirhumanmasters. it is uncertainif they were anonymousor if observerssimply failed to recordtheirnames.The Germanno doubtcame from forays into Switzerland.462 Harris on the need for post mortemsto "prove" to the villagers that the animals' demise resulted from nothing more than the unhygienic and overcrowdedstate of the stables. 88-96. 1865.40 At the same time. spoke theirwords. Arch." * 38o Whateverthe cause of the mal.jumpingon mountainrocks andprecipices. "Lettredu Brigade de Morzine de la Gendarmerie Imperialeau Chef d'escadron de la Gendarmerie de la Haute-Savoie.the "devils. They spoke through the possessed women in Latin. on the other.39 highly localized patois. July 29.throughout the many years of the mal. these "devils"bore a more than passing resemblanceto the errant souls from purgatorywho. seeming to mix them and their characteristics interchangeably. throughoutFrench peasant culture. Dep. Arch. 39 Unfortunately.while smatteringsof Latin came from sermons and exorcisms.a polyglot capacitythatreflectedthe realityof life in the borderlands." fallen angels from the originalrevoltagainstGod souls who returnedfrom hell to tormentthe and.Althoughnevernamed. and hardworking dispositions of the affected girls and women evaporatedunder its influence. who could invertwordorderandmock the priests.seemed possessed. the languageboth of exorcists and of the devil. while at otherintervalshe pointsto the ignoranceof the villagers. 1864. Sometimes their affliction resembled the activities of "devils. animals.37 Moreover. Dep.pp." living.These two descriptiveterms give some clue as to the spiritualuniversethese women inhabited. but few as thoroughlyas Constans. docile. speaking instead in French and German.as well as a devil who spoke with anAuvergnataccent. in this instance he is obliged to acknowledge that lessons were taught in French and that all children spoke the language fluently from seven or eight years of age." July 29. the normallypious. with horses refusingto go where they were biddenandcalves actinglike goats. since it was firstthe languageof revolutionary liberationbut was increasingly also being appropriated by forces of occupationand repression. fromtheirnetherworld to plead playedon the feelings of the living by returning Letterfrom Constansto the prefect. on the one hand."demonstrating such classic symptomsof possession as physicalcontortionsand an ability the "devils"neverused the to talk in foreign tongues. 37 38 . There were also a few wordsin Arabic.the "damned. They used both categories.They seemed unconcernedwith the theological distinctionbetween.
the girls and women of Morzineparticipatedin the vogue for table turningand spiritrappingand were no strangersto the disruptivedemandsof the spiritworld. 47 "Lettre de l'Abbe Blandin. There is some evidence to suggest that a groupof Swiss shepherdsregularlyappearedin the region to practicetheirmedicinal arts and thatthese men combined an exotic. Morzine."September1.47 a type of travelerseen as having a special knowledge of stars. local women were convinced that she was receiving a visit from a recently deceased woman. Althoughthese "devils"had little individuality.46 Othersalso came from the semidomesticated world: one was a shepherd. p. (n. 33 above). 1994). 17 above). as he scratcheda living from the forest by selling wood. One girl insisted that this 41 42 Kselman (n. urging her to the same wildness.45 Above all.vicaire . There was no remorsefor bad behavior. noisily hauntingthe living until they were satisfied. "4Laurentin. 111-24. pig." with a full game bag.in the gendarmes'presence). See CharlesJoisten. 1864 (a statementtaken by Dr. and meat. bull. Sexualityand Religion in Early ModernEurope (London. but others pressed their cases menacingly. pp." June 13. 78.42 In nearbyLanguedoc.girls and young women were frequentlythe targetsof such visits. 45"Rapport de gendarmerie. many had a generic identity as semidomesticatedwanderersor as foreignersnot belonging to the community. describedhimself as a man who detested the Frenchand cursed the priests as hypocriteswho would soon join him in hell.44 Nor was this the only way that beings from the other world visited their erstwhile companions.As the example of PeronneT. 153-54. 190-91. and Protestant presencewith magical practice.see Jean-Pierre Pinies.Arch. tendingherds for families too poor to rent pasturage. whose way of life also combined domestic and wild features. white bread. moon. Arch Dioc. Oedipusand the Devil: Witchcraft. Constans'ssuccessor.48 A thirdwas a woodsman. foreign. 46 For similar kinds of eruptions. pp. One hunter. 1: 143-45. 1864."Lesetres fantastiquesdansle folklore de l'Ariege. esp. and lamb-virtually the entire menagerie of Savoyard culture. 43 For the continuation of such traditions. pp. Dep.43 andwhen Bernadette Soubirousfirst saw her vision..and making charcoal. demonstrated. Figuresde la sorcellerie languedocienne(Paris.4' Such requestscould be made with courtesy. horse. 30 above).Possession on the Borders 463 for masses andindulgencesto speed theirway to heaven. 1983). 205-41.who spoke througha possessed girl. which she acted out by imitatingthe barkingdog and the sounds of the ass. ed. . and sun and who possessed a talent for healing.see Lyndal Roper."ViaDomitia 9 (1962): 25-48.only a celebration of blood lust: "A hunterwalks ahead with the sound of the horn and the barkingof the dogs. liquor.. Kuhn. he praisedthe pleasureof living in the body of the woman. 48 Devos (n.
52 "Lettre de I'Abbe Blandin. disobeyed my parents. on the whole these sinners were not from Morzine. if their families protested. in this instance.The hunterwas most likely a poacher. pp."53 Instead.using the forest to kill game thatbelonged to others.shepherdswere known to bringherdsacross the frontierillegally to escape taxes. often contaminated. describedby Constansas miserablebread.vicaire 'aMorzin?. hard and heavy.Les Diables en Morzineou les nouvellesposse'ees (Lyon. One devil from Abondance (a neighboringcommune) was licked by eternal flames for having "eaten meat on Friday.Mass.playedcardswith libertines.49 All threeof these characters seemed tied to a marginalif not semilegal existence and to occupationsthat were increasingly under threat.the Constans(n. others expressed remorse for sins that had condemnedthem to hell. showing an astonishingdegree of conformity to the rigors of Counter-Reformation teaching."potatoesof bad quality." September1. 54 Ibid... For the story of these struggles in the Pyrenees. 1863." January15.p. Among the many subversiveactivitiesof the "devils"were theirrejectionof local food. the residues of milk.54 Their demandslater became so extremethatthey wantedthe same food at home thatthey had eaten at governmentexpense when in hospital. The two kinds of devils showed differentrelationshipsto sin. 14.the latter tormentedby commission of the slightest infractionagainstreligious orthodoxy. 3 above). 5. 1864. the former reveling in transgression. salted and smoked meat. Arch Dioc. they demanded cripplingly expensive alternativesassociated with luxurious city life. and woodsmen often eked out an illicit living in forests that were no longer communal property but increasingly owned and managedby rich proprietors. 1867. and again in "Rapport de gendarmerie. 51 C. but in Morzine such remorsewas linked to the evils of bewitchmentand an intense fear of hell. 48-50. 55 The distress of the families is evident in "Rapport de gendarmerie.blasphemed. Forest Rites: The Warof the Demoiselles in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge.Any good Catholic might regret such misconduct. Chiara. p. and a bad cheese. called tomme.. such as sugared black coffee and chocolates.went to the veille'e. 49 50 . 53 Constans.Again. as subversivebecause they encouragedindividualsto impoverishtheir families by drinking-and showed immoralityby playing cards."5' One woman who had eight "devils" gave voice to a Frenchmanwho died at fifty-two: "I missed mass. 1861). Dep.55 and. They sat at veille'es-seen. but strangersor outsiders. I am justly damned.50 While these "devils"celebratedtheir deeds." October 15."52 This catalog of misbehaviorin fact summed up well how the women behaved during their winter gatherings... see Peter Sahlins.464 Harris devil had mutilatedher with his axe. pp. Arch. 26-27.said bad things about religion and priests. 1994).
was responsible.and snortedso thatall who knew the womanwere convinced that the "devil. the hunter barked. 156-59. She argues that the unique power of an "anti-language" derives from its "muted" qualities. the mal invertedthis patternwhen the women demandedprohibitedalternatives. 1986).. and the Zar Cult in NorthernSudan (Madison. 1989). for subversivefeelings and ideas are presentedin an idiom of complete irresponsibility: aftereach outburst. brutish. In so doing. they subvertedand mocked. 57 Ibid.or self-flagellatingfantasies..whinnied. and acted like the wildest of men. . The Morzinoises were able to transgress the moral and gender orderof theircommunitywithout sanctionas they blasphemed. Thus. They commentedunabashedlyon the women'stormentsand desires by acting out theirlazy. Such behavior requires interpretation. esp. and by demandingthem they linked themselveswith the sinful life of the urbanworldbeyondthe mountains. the "devils"'commentaryon village life createda poetics of transgression andrelativity. food and identity were symbolically linked.Moreover. the classic gift of the bridegroomto the father of the bride and a symbol of masculine exchange.57 The womencould be seen as mythical"bri56 See her impressive Wombsand Alien Spirits: Women.Possession on the Borders 465 convulsionsbegan again. alwaysprecededby an epigastriccrisis in which they felt as if they would explode.In this kind of interpretation. As in many village cultures."not she.since the devils were foreignersand strangerswho relativizedthe women'sposition at home. 301-9. although making sense of the language and bodily experience of these suffering women takes us beyond conventional historical analysis.Wis. pp.56 Women'sdevilish ejaculationsare describedas an "anti-language" thatexpresseddisquietand longing. refused to work. pp. inverting and reassessingdaily life from the perspectiveof the underprivileged.repentant.the women distancethemnselves from their statementsand behaviorand are able to returnto normallife while creatively forging new identitiesof self and community. Again. as well as Peter Stallybrassand Allon White. Survivalin overpopulated villages dependedon the willingness to sell the best foodstuffs for cash and to keep appetitesconstantlyin check.Men.they insisted on eau-de-vie. The otherfoodstuffs were the preserveof the rich and productsof the city.such an "anti-language" would have permittedthem to confrontthe worldbeyondthe mountains. It is temptingto apply a similaranalysisto the possessed women of Morzine andto see them as expressinga subversivediscoursethatdestabilizedthe hegemonic ones that constrainedthem. Anthropologistslike Janice Boddy who have workedon the Zarcult in the Sudanhaveanalyzedsimilarphenomenain terms of a refinedversion of discourse analysis. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (London.
"You are really stupid. For example. 60 Ibid.466 Harris coleurs"58 who used the debris of historical experience."Abbe Favre and his ineffectual exorcisms were derided. p. the life and times of huntersand journeyers-all would have enabled the possessed to remakethemselves and recast village morality. pp.which this impoverishedcommunitycould ill afford.Visitorscommentedon the women'swide range of physical symptoms. and storytellingto constructtheirdemonworld.59 Moreover. 27-28.could be accompaniedby more destructivebehavior.Fathers had to search for cures among doctors in Geneva and Lausanne. all local men of authorityand influence were swept aside and deemed "not good enough.disruptive.the possession crisis unleashed a hatred of men that had both liberatingand self-defeating consequences. 61 Ibid. 49.however.the feelings of suffocation. Moreover.if my father had done as much to me. these expedients gave the possessed a brief vacation."60 Such understandable gestures of defiance. and physically violent features of the mal.the seizures.The Savage Mind (Chicago. I would have killed him.. As will be seen. 21-22. pp.the mal broughtfamilies to the brink of destruction. above).6'These journeys involved tremendousoutlays of money.still others screamed in agony when the "demons"inside them made them trembleconvulsively.one girl reportedlymocked her friend for receiving a paternalbeating.therebydiminishing men who were alreadyemasculatedby economic pressuresand emigration. 59 Constans(n.and the stomachdisorders. While the theory of an "antilanguage"sheds light on the creativeand imaginativepossibilities of such phenomena-particularly in regardto relativizingMorzineto the worldoutsideit denies the painfulelements that sustainedthe mal for so long.anddaughters reveledin theirwillingness to challengepatriarchal tives. Wives refused to sleep with husdirecbands.Repeatedlythe possessed women sought to provehow ineffective their menfolk were by paradingtheir "devils"as their new masters. religious training. other sufferershurtthemselves when their "devils"mutilatedthem with axes. or when they beat themselves against the furniture. For the rebellion took on a physically compulsiveform thatwas as much self-destructiveas it was subversive.Other 58 See ClaudeLevi-Strauss. 52. 3 .Wandering Jews. 1966).and even as far away as Einsiedeln in Switzerland.however. complementarity. duringa veille'e. Maurice-en-Valais. but they did little to remedy the women'sgrievancesor to restorea sense of gender Nor were fathersand husbandsthe only ones to be mocked. This seductive approachto the understandingof the possession crisis of Morzine. the damnedburning in hell. remarking. p..among the Capuchin missionaries at St.falls dangerouslyshortof graspingthe negative.
resulted from the evil designs of a witch who had ensnaredthe entireparish. p. trans. For the classic example.it was a highly complex social performanceand psychological state. knew a sorcererhad bewitchedher by the way he caughther eye.for the villagers believed that all their misfortunes. with the last only one of the many plagues broughtby the witch'sgreatpower. 24. and in famous examples could destabilize social values and gender roles. 1975). possession.66 A witch made Suzanne B. 29. 64 Arthaud.possession was more than this brief definitioncan convey. .L'e'criture de l'histoire (Paris. Perhapsnowherewas the breakdownin village solidaritymore evident than duringthe accusationsof witchcraft. lapsed into convulsionswhen an unknownman spied on her and her animalsin the stable and then transformed himself into a bird. progeny and property.includingthe susceptibilityof the women to possession. 2 above). in contrast. eat his bread.. p. andthe lack of local solutionsleft open the possibilityof more authoritarian ones devised by outsiders like Constans.In theory.For several years. p.63 with cracks of vulneiabilityappearingeverywherein the parishin a varietyof forms:animals died.1980). accused of witchcraft. 66 Ibid.62 The former phenomenonrests on the knowledge and active perpetration of sin.presents a passive and victimized subjectinto whom the demons enter.Catherine Deadly Words:Witchcraft Cullen (Cambridge.the last category encompassing both animalsand territory. Relation d'une hystero-demonopathie (n. said that one of the witches prowled aroundher house without her being able to see or hear him.La Possession de Loudon(Paris. see Michel de Certeau. see the documentspresentedby Michel de Certeau.Witchcraft and possession were thus linked in Morzinethroughterritory. 1990). pp. 28.the few able-bodiedmen who did not leave the communityin the months of migrationwere.Possession on the Borders 467 men with soundermotives and more power like the bishop were spat on and defiled. Finally.while Morzine showed how an entireparishmight be contaminated. an idea of the self that made no distinctionsbetween mind and body.. She speaks only of familial domains. in theBocage. 196. 63 See JeanneFavret-Saada. Witchcraftimplies a voluntarypact with evil and the spread of misfortunethroughspells and curses. Favret-Saada shows how witchcraftbelief implied a vision of the subject without Cartesiandualism. for the dynamicsof power involvedin the recordingand interpretation of the language of possession. p. 65 Ibid.witchcraftand possession are distinct phenomena.64 Marie Ch.civilized interactionamongthe villagersended.and girls became possessed.65 Fran9oiseB. accidentsoccurred.Claudine G. while the latter disengages the moral responsibilityof the subject. as will be seen.however. The happenings in Morzine obscuredsuch distinctions. the mal spread when village women accused witches-often unnamed-of evil intent. After the early crisis initiated by the communion lessons. forcing her to 62 In practice. 250-73.
the villagers were of also came not from the transubstantiation the Host but ers. once a priest in the parish.and to expel evil spirits. At an uncertaindate early in the story but before Constans'sarrivalin 1861. Dioc.70 implied thatthe power of the sacramentswas tied to the virtueor sinfulnessof the priest keenly affected the villagers' perceptionof Cottet. 12 above). but a poison thatcould neverbe ejected."68 In susVirtuallyall subsequentaccountsrelatedthe mal to this imprecation. There.The womanwho workedin the stable-suggestive of the warmthof the manger-was spied on in a voyeuristicfashion by a bird-mannot at all like the dove of the holy spirit. they could be relied from their constantcontactwith the supernatural. they eviscerateda dog. which merely If good. de l'Abbe Chamoux. influence. p. a group of armedvillagers went in the dead of night to a ruined chapel-the unfinished edifice of Abbe Cottet's ambitions-by a lake near Montriond. (n. wine was not the blood of redemption.They rememberedhow they had thwarted his earlierattemptsto complete a new chapel. The Morzinoiswere obsessed with identifyingthe evildoerresponsible.69 that had acknowledging priests special powpecting Cottet. see Palluel-Guillard et al. What is interestinghere is how closely tied to the liturgy the witches' actions were. and householdsfrom disturbance.Initially. 94-96. 1981).. Arch. 40. no doubt. 33. while a differentFran9oiseB. promptinghim to retaliatewith the words. and scarce resourcesfrom Morzine. savagely ran it througheighteen times with a sabre and then buried it in the middle of the chapel amidst Ibid.they believed the troublelay with the shadowyandelusive figureof Abbe Cottet.fields. on to protectanimals. pp. six or eight kilometers from Morzine. pp. 191. The villagers sought strong countermeasures in the form of sorcery to release themselves from his spells. "I will stick in a thorn in [Morzine] that will not be pulled out a metaphorthatsuggesteda nagging andpainfulinflammation.67 tales seem to reworkreligious mythology and ritual:sharingbread was not a means of spiritualcommunion.468 Harris ingest his evil influence. very quickly. dranka glass of wine The in the companyof a witch and claimed to be vomiting it up a year later. like the "demons"who missed mass and ate meat on Friday. and the new chapel would have shifted power. For the competition among priests for new chapels. took out its liver. 67 68 . "Rapport 69They had risked his wrath. to ease the way The hereticalnotion that of shepherdsand travelers.who was seen as inclined to use his powers for evil. because they would have had to contribute both money and labor to the project.theirbehavior seemed utterlypredictable-simple inversionfantasiesthatreferredrepeatedly to orthodoxChristianbelief. The Circle of Mountains:A Basque ShepherdingCommunity (Oxford. 70 For a discussionof priestlypower in another andpious region of France."1866. peripheral see SandraOtt. but the ingestion of evil.
boardingand lodging at the expense of the afflictedfamilies. Dioc. p. parodiedthe Ave Maria.n.villagers concentratedon the dissolution of their treasuredConof St.this episode drewon a rich fund of secretive. see R. demonstratingthe demonic strengththat enabled him to repel such powerful countermagic. Van Gennep. Arch.In the region.In particular.74 They were convinced that their affliction was due to its destructionand consequentlyinvited a local magnetizerinto their midst to combat their troubles.d. Gue'risseurs-sorciers would divine the saintresponsiblefor particular maladies and then proposea series of offerings to placatesupernatural rage so that the bewitched could be "released. 2:92-93.72 Even in this magical arena. while the crucifix and holy waterwere the most widely used talismansagainstevil spirits. piety and sorcery often went hand in hand. boiling nails in special vinegars. 76-80. Espritin 1860 and the transferof its assets to a secularbureau fraternity de bienfaisance in the last moment of Savoyardadministration.Le Pontificatde Pie IX (18461878) (Paris.As the symptoms continued to grow worse long afterhe had left. La Savoiejadis et naguere (Paris. and in housing these men the Morzinoishoped to restorethe spiritualbalance of the parish. 71 Constans(n. pp."1866. Le Folkloredes Hautes-Alpes:Etude descriptiveet compareede psychologiepopulaire (Paris. 133."73 Whateverhis initial responsibility. 74 For Cavour's ecclesiastical policy. 75 "Rapport de l'Abbe Chamoux. however. they were disappointedwhen the priest survived. Aubert. Unlike the events describedabove. 76 Little is known of the magnetizer exceptthathe was convictedof charlatanism and imprisonedfor five years when his ineffectivenessagainstthe mal was proven.was JeanBerger.This man arrivedwith twelve disciples and for five months went from house to house.it soon became evident thatCottetcould not be the sole cause of the problem.). The key object of hatred. 40-41. magical practicethatdivergedsharplyfrom the liturgy. hoping therebyto deflect the witch'spower. magical incantations. 73 Philippe Terreaux.the accusationsshifted from Abbes Cottet and Favreand came to rest on those holding special power in the village. villagers protectedthemselves against spells by buryingliving snakes underthe thresholdsof houses.or heating a pot until it was red hot and then strikingit.however.for example.75 The symbolism here was explicit:the confraternity was identifiedwith Christand the apostles. Accordingly. 72A.76 Alongside this action was the perceived need to combat those neighbors seen as the beneficiariesof the confraternity's extinction. the notary in charge of propertytransactionsand the miller. 3 above). pp. 1948).Possession on the Borders 469 curses.7'The eighteen blows were meant to representthe days left in Cottet's life. 1952).a cobblerand Chauplanaz. .whetherunderSavoyardor laterunderFrenchadministration. new causes were adducedfor theirpersistence.
accusing him of working against the St. 1864. She never appearedagain in the narrative. 79Constans. older women were most likely to be accused of blighting crops. possibly a reference to liberal-leaninggroupsassociatedwith anticlericalism.." April 11. axes. Moreover. with pitchforks. 83-106.when one of the girls at the communion lesson spoke of an old (unnamed)woman from the neighboring communeof Gest as the likely source of evil. sold for a fee the hated livrets d'ouvrierthat were so vital to migratingworkers:in other words. Berger maintainedhe acted honestly. Mauricehad refusedBergerabsolution.as powerfulmenteenth-century first a vengeful priest and later representativesof the state within the local community-became the targets of hatred.Villagersinsteadtransferred their anger againstthose who benefited from political change and were held responsible for upsetting the already delicate spiritualand economic balance of the community. and misfortunefollowed by individual and collective efforts to forestall the witches' But such superficial similarities are deceptive. certificatesthat testified to the health of animals taken into Switzerland."Rapport tres confidentiel. relatedhow a priestat the Mission of St. the witch accusationsseemed to shareall the characteristics of the sixteenthand seventeenthcenturies. Arch. angryat the dissolutionof the conandfor otheraffronts.-Espritand of being a spy for a secret society.470 Harris the mayor'sadjoint whose influence had increased with annexation. and sticks.illness.accused him of fraudover ministration to the village. and.This im77"Lettre de justification ecrite par Jean Berger au sous-prefet." January28. 80 RobinBriggs.78 fraternity Berger's it was only a step furtherto Frenchloyalties after 1860 sealed his reputation. For a brief moment duringthe mal such a traditionalfigure almost appeared. .bringing the benefits of the new adThe villagers. underFrenchadministration. At Morzine. 1989).pp. 1862. Dep. pp. Eventually.Magistratset sorciers en Franceau XVIIsiecle (Paris.77 building works and saw his claims as merely a cover for personal ambition. he controlled the process of leaving and returningthat was so essential to the village's continuedsurvival. triedto kill him.79 At first glance. taking him to task for not believing in witchcraft. see RobertMandrou. and deformingbabies with black magic. For in the early modern period. 1968). for a fee. For more. however. esp. ninepower.the authoritieswere forced to give him police protectionfrom the murderous impulses of the villagers who. killing livestock. Dep. see his declarationsas an indicationof the sort of disloyaltythata witch would be sure to possess. Arch. Communities of Belief: Culturaland Social Tensionin EarlyModern France (Oxford.80 tensions were revealedby the accusations.the churchseemed to agree and. 43-44.local priestsdenied him confession.Berger issued. however. 78 BrigadierCommandant Fourcade.was paid for official seals.with animaldeath.
Even those who treatedthem on the outside were generally inadequateto the task.make [others]hearthe mewing [of cats] and feel suffocatedby a lump in their throatswhich makes them vomit.font entendredes miaulements. property.and people. they acted out an aggressive fantasy towardthe men-fathers. se sententcomme suffoqueesparun globule qui leur monte au cou. constantly insisting that they were "notgood enough"to alleviate the mal.French pressuremade this course no longer viable. and contemporary reportsrecountthe harrowing physicalexpulsionof the "devils":"ateach exorcismthe people roll on the ground. les provoque a vomir. There were two importantand intertwinedconsequencesof this belief."83 Their bodies invaded by a bestial evil."Recitretrospectifde L'Abbe Vallentien. the afflicted entered the migratoryworld previously restrictedto men.8' Exorcism was the obvious first step." Arch. there is then a panting. Dioc. but rather recordcertainmomentswhen a varietyof particular strategieswere being used. In their searchfor relief. From the earliest days of the mal. and the records show that by 1861 several of the afflicted had already experienced over a dozen such ineffective interventions. First. The controversial Abbe Favrealso conductedsuch collective rites in 1858. the afflictedused overlappingremedies. THE SEARCH FOR A CURE Centralto the villagers' perceptionof the afflictionwas the idea thatthe entire parish was contaminatedand that beyond its bordersimprovementcould be found. 82 81 . husbands. 5:1778-79. Second. they were unable to ingest the Eucharist. as mentionedearlier. an ordinary partof life. encounteredat baptismwhen the priest orderedthe devil to leave the newborn's body and make way for the Local churchmen. performedsemipublic holy spirit. 83 [A] chaqueexorcisme les personnesse roulentparterre. See the entryon "exorcism" which discusses the "exorcismespreparatoires au bapteme. they were permittedthe luxury of traveland affordedthe opportunityfor adventures. 1912). so that Morzine seemed to live in a constantstate of crisis.the documents reveal no linear movementfrom one expedient to the next.qui ressemble 'aune sorte de jappement." January20. Dioc. the villagers built on a centuries-oldtraditionbut invested witchcraft with new and differentpsychic and social anxieties.and in this mortal combat the "devils" were "Lettrede I'AbbeVallentienau Prevot.such as Abbe Pinguet. the afflictedbegged the priests at home not only to say the conventionalblessing for loci et animaliumbut also to exorcise beasts.82 and collective exorcisms and only stoppedwhen. They turnedto the priestsbecause exorcismwas. 1869.priests.like the yapping [of a dog]. in a sense."in the Dictionnairede the'ologie catholique(Paris. physicians-at home. Arch.Possession on the Borders 471 portantshift shows how wrong it is to see witchcraftin Morzine as a throwback. suit une respirationprecipitee.Abbe Vallentien.
.88 in convulsionsby the time he came to the churchand. 80-97.84 early on in the story (althoughthe exact date is uncertain). Arch. pp. 1864).kicking and insulting him. Dioc. we must tearout his eyes. . not diabolicalpossession. for Constans'sconciliatoryresponses see his letters of July 30 andAugust 9.. and finally ripping off his pastoral ring.see Aubert (n. particularlyimportantin bringingCatholic Savoy to heel.the Morzinoisseemed calm. 171-80. Dioc.going to the nearby bourg of Samoens and then to the Capuchinmissionariesat St.Dioc. 1985). See also Rene Remond." May 20. l'eveque. 89 du Sous-Prefetau Prefet.472 Harris Those afflicted deserted their priests more powerful than the local priests.. illness.Arch. 287-91. 232.86 the faithfuland to exercise his moraland spiritualauthority. see Roper (n. Propertyand the Politics of Anticlericalismin Nineteenth-Century France" (unpublished typescript. 1864). 1864).L'anticle'ricalisme en France (Brussels. the clergy were accused of not being "good enough. both from internalclerical scandals and from the increasingly divisive Roman question.did not mean he was willing to exorcise. See also CharlesLafontainein Le magnetiseur (May 15. no."June 20. For clerical scandals. Departmentof History. Dep."May 3. high-handed but Constans'suse of the armyto quell the mal andthe physician's Magnin'sdesire to defend attitudetowardthe clergy quickly souredrelations. see CarolineFord. 1864. they set on him inside the church. 74 above).87 however. taken up by Le monde (May 22. He was convinced that the mal was mental entreaties. "Lettrede Berard.a l'Eveque. pp. A French governmentappointee of Savoyard origin. on a local scale. the article in the Courrierdes Alpes (May 21. Arch. For background. and Alec Mellor. Histoire de l'anticle'ricalisme franVais (Tours."Arch. 1864. "Guerryvs. . 86 See "Lettre de Constans . Arch. 46 above).. in which Constans accuses the local clergy of superstitiousbelief. 1966). Dep.Magninhad soughtreconciliationwith the secularauthorities. these relations soured in 1859. Picpus: Religion.missionnairede Saint Frangoisde Sales .pp. pp. 9-10.between sixty and eighty were rolling aroundin the cemetery. 1864). this national shift in policy. 108-23. The afflicted sought ever more powerfulpriests and pinned greathopes on the pastoral visit of Monsignor Magnin in 1864. Dep. 87 Whereasthe Second Empirehad broughtcollaboration between churchand state. and Magnin'sangryreply of May 16. Arch. University of British Columbia). and had resisted the parishioners' but seven or eight women were When he arrived."89 On his refusal to exorcise her. and the articlein L'unionmedicale (July 2. he hasn'tthe power to cure the girl.The eclipse of the churchby the secularauthority in the later stages of the mal reflected. spitting in his face. For more on exorcism. 1861. "Rapport 85 84 . Maurice-enValais where twenty-sevenof them were exorcised.screaminginsults at him when he refused to exorcise one sufferer:"Wolfof a bishop.85 When these measures did not work. 1861. later.. he cannot rid the girl of the devil.. 88 "Rapport du Sous-Prefetau Prefet sur les eve'nements qui se sont passes le 30 avril et le ler mai-3 mai 1864."their powers underminedby weakness or sinfulness.
348. and the remedies they chose often dependedon the consolationsof the church. While religiouspreoccupations dominatedthe rantingsof the possessed. In journeying to him. impressedthem with his commanding personality (all contemporaryrecords attest to his charisma) and the occult qualityof his expertise. With this "enlightened" perspective. both for her and for five others. and we were merely with a sick person who moaned and twisted in convulsions which we were able to stop almost inHe finishedthe firsttreatment stantly.Possession on the Borders 473 Perhapsmore thanany other. nervous tremblings.and stomachaches. and Lafontainehimself acknowledged that his success did not terminatethe mal. suspended herself from the back of a chair "in a position and then jumped on all the furniture. 1866).L'art de magne'tiser. as well as their knowledge of the latest therapeuticfashions. despite the lack of priestly garb. He repeated this treatmentfor two weeks and claimed its complete efficacy. who lived in Geneva during these years. they demonstrated their willingness to try new remedies.he examinedthe case of VictoireVuillet. his approach was overtly physical.using props and ges90CharlesLafontaine. somnambulictrances."90 sought to calm her througha magnetictranceand the applicationof magnetic water. He did not use the sign of the cross.They probablyrecognizedan authority who. ou le magnetismeanimal considre' sous le point de vue the'orique.and he blamed Favrefor his exorcisms that. p.. 349. Charles Lafontaine. who demonstratedall the symptoms of the disorder:head.They chose most notably the prince of Europeanmagnetism.like the priests who exorcised.When she appearedin his consulting room she screamed.The waterwas magneticratherthan holy. feelings of suffocation in the epigastric region. We may doubt his claims. p. preferringinstead the movementsof greatpasses thatswooped aroundthe subjectandpersuaded her to enter a trance. His accountof his workgives little sense of how the Morzinoisesviewed his operations.Lafontaine impossible to describe.However.the afflictedeasily desertedits ranksto go in searchof secularhealers. seemingly possessed of physical qualitiesthat acted on the disturbedand "hysterical" organism. since the superstition thatreigned purported in the mountainskept it alive."9' by inducing a somnambulicstate and after thirty minutes released her into calm consciousness. had only intensifiedthe disorderby confirmingthe superstitiousfears of Satan.He placed a hand on her hand and the other on her stomach and "all these marvels suddenly stopped.and wild behavior. He saw the mal as the result of exalted religious feeling gone awry. he believed. . Both priest and magnetizertouched and exhorted.this eventtilted local powerawayfrom the bishop to Constans. pratique et the'rapeutique (Paris.bent her body in such a contortedmannerthat her head touched her feet. 91Ibid.
95Constans(n. chaps. Indeed. trans." in Professions and the FrenchState. for example. Gerald L. of the villagers in both eras was to fly to the hills and resist. as they were part of a particularepoch and its spiritualpredilections.the nuns of Loudun-educated women of high social standing-with the banal and brutalexclamationsof the peasant folk of Morzine.95 But he also made important distinctions. Both priest and magnetizerrehearsedtheirmoves accordingto a sexual script. . 1977). 1700-1900. Counter-Reformation officials often sought not to reconvert but to impose for the first time Christianpracticesand beliefs on a population innocent of church dogma and ritual. 106. see Jan Ellen Goldstein. in his view.as he showed the similaritiesbetween the physical convulsions manifested throughoutthat traditionand comparedthe isolationof conventsto the white seclusion of the highAlps. Constans brought the thoughtprocesses of modem positivism and administration and sought to impose them in an environment where neithertraditionnor reputationsanctioned his authority. 93 92 Mandrou(n. None of these expedients producedanythingbut temporaryrelief. pp. Working within an establishedpsychiatricgenre. 181-222. p. 3. Geison (Philadelphia. the afflicted may very well have appreciatedLafontaine'smethods because they reminded them of more familiarreligious rites.However. 96 Ibid. It was not. 2. pp. 94 For the history of the emergence of an influentialcadre of alienists. "'Moral Contagion':A Professional Ideology of Medicine and Psychiatryin Eighteenth-and Nineteenth-Century France.93In contrast. Like the magistratesand ecclesiastics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 3 above).he was also making a point about historical evolution. p. pts.ed. 80 above). See also her work that impinges on ideas of collective behaviorin early psychiatrictheory:Jan Goldstein. however.96 His disdain for the local poor was not mere disgust. 20 above). and Sin and Fear (n. and the crisis promptedthe administration in Paris to interveneon two separateoccasions. surprisingthat the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had a surfeit of such pathological manifestations. he saw Morzine as partof a tradition of pathologicalreligious experience. But here the similarities end.comparingthe diabolicalutterancesof. Jeremy Moiser (London.. See Jean Delumeau.474 Harris tures of remarkablesimilarity and resonance. 203-27. 2.Adolphe Constans arrivedendowed with the powers bestowed on 92 the reaction him by centralizingauthoritiesand with a brief to restoreorder. Console and Classify: The FrenchPsychiatric Profession in the Nineteenth Century(New York. 13..theirmasculineauthority contrastedwith the alternativelyraging or quiescentfemale presence ostensibly undertheircontrol. 1987). Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire.94 Constans confronted what he saw as a case of hystero-demonopathy and used retrospectivediagnosis to place the mal in a historicalcontext. 3. 1984).
97 ban environmentof factory workersin Rouen. He was of the nineteenth-century almosta caricature secularizingphysician.ed. intellectuelles et morales de maladives(Paris. while the afflicted groped towardexpressing nineteenth-century flicts throughreligious traditionshe despised. 1840-90. He saw the mal as a dangerousexampleof theiranachto ronistic survival. (New Brunswick.-A. Downbiggan.Possession on the Borders 475 ideas should persist in the he was visibly affrontedthat such "superstitious" mid-nineteenth century. however. Constansapplied similarprinciples to the mountains. pp.pointingto the qualityof the food. Both Constansand the afflicted thus made comparisionsbetween Morzine and the "modem"world. For 1'especehumaineet des causes quiproduisentces varie'tes workthat deals with the historyof the idea of degeneration.show a strangeinvillagers and the plenipotentiary. Nye. Law and Society in the Fin-de-Siecle (Oxford. 1:188-232. tersectionof belief. Indeed.Such an assessmentof local conditionswas not dissimilarto those "voiced"by the afflictedwho soughttemporary relief by fleeing theirpays. Traitedes dege`ne`rescences physiques. S. I. 1989).Constans's"solutions"could be dramaticallypunitive. which in his view was too harshfor a healthyphysiologicalequilibrium.andhe saw France'sannexationof Savoy as an opportunity impose his view of psychic and physical health.and the frigidity of the climate in general.9 in TheAnatomyof Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry.N.his therapeutic rationalewas perhapsharsherin its implicationsthan that proposedby the local clergy. 1857). 1985-88). 1982). "Degenerationand Hereditarianism cine. J. "Degeneration and the Medical Model of CulturalCrisis in the French Belle Epoque. . W F Bynum et al. Moreover. between the Such an approachshowed the yawning gap in understanding Otherattitudes. and my Murdersand Madness: Medicine. Morel. in using the theory of degeneration-fully elaboratedin 1857 by Auguste Morel-Constans sought an explanationof andhereditary characteristics could be transmitted how noxious environmental While Morel's work had concentratedon the urto succeeding generations.. Had it worked. demandingthe luxuries of urbanfoodstuffs and enjoying the fare providedby hospitals.however. I am hardlysuggesting thatexorcism had no physical or psycho97 B.Constansdemandedthe suppressionof the "demons"and insisted that they were an integralaspect of the maladyratherthana discreteforeign agent thatcould be spewed forth and thus ejected. 51-79. and both found the village lacking."in Political Symbolismin ModernEurope.see R. Drescheret al.Constanscondemnedtheirbelief in witchcraftand possession as arconchaic. (London. in French Mental Medi19-41. 3 vols.ed.representing thattraditionin its coercive ratherthanits tolerantguise. For example.. the coldness of the water. In contrast. With these common points their agreementended. pp. exorcism would have provided a means of expelling the "devils"both from the physical bodies of the women and from the contaminatedterritoryof the parish.
the women finally found a male figure who. The extent of the changes he wroughtcan be divined from the following: Constans'slettersto the prefect on September28. and October 11. He redrew Morzine'sboundariesand had an importantimperial road built that channeled movement in new directions. 100 Letterfrom Constansto the prefect. tre. 1865. and a librarywere introducedto soothe and enlighten.'0' New clergymen." July 26." September20. May 20. Arch Dep. Above all. Arch."98 In contrast. music societies.Constans'sanalysis of demonopathyand hysteriafocused on the illness's pervasive. Arch. whom Constans hoped would oppose the demonic and magical beliefs of the parishionersin the confessional. if not "good enough"to cure the mal. The afflicted of Morzine-impoverished. literally transformingthe territoryof the mal.99 With these physical changes came a shift in social welfare.while the soldiersbillettedin the village ultimatelytransformed the village economy by paying for their room and board and helping with the harvest. .476 Harris logical costs. 1864. arrivedin the village to unite administrativeand religious authority. but it might have broughtthe relief of blaming the "devils. "Women's Madness in Medjugorje:Between Devils and Pilgrims in a YugoslavDevotional CenStudies 1 (1992): 42-54.The afflicted 98 For a contemporaryexample of these preoccupations. physically exhausted. Dep. Constansgeneratedmore fear."Journalof Mediterranean 99See "Rapport du gendarmerie. In this missive. 1864.Here I would like to stress the difference between their powerful unconscious fantasies of aggression and the unsought consequences of their realization. enablingthemto keep the family economy going. 1864. CONCLUSION With Constans." Even he ultimatelyrecognized the need for a more subtle policy. 1861. See "Rapport de gendarmerie.see Mart Bax.inescapablequality and the individual's(and local society's) responsibilityfor it. he providedpensions for the needy'00and even subsidized the families whose womenfolk were hospitalized. 101 One way in which this help was given was by offering six months'leave to soldiers fromMorzinewho came from afflictedfamilies. Arch Dep. 1864. September28. and emotionally distraught-did not consciously invite Constans'sintervention.'02 Bals. as women fled across the mountains to escape the infantryor were forcibly detainedin nearbyhospitalsuntil they were "cured. he asks the prefect to arrangea pension for a soldier from Morzine who lost his sight while on leave ratherthan on duty. was certainlypowerful enough to transformit. 1864. 102 "Lettrede Constans'al'Eveque.knowing full well that they would need to go beyond the letter of the law to enable the injuredman to take up his place in the Invalides. and the confidentialreportto the sousprefect on October22. Dioc.
second.and often dangerouslyaggressiveemotionalprocess. Constans's"triumph" was not merely the installationof a new discursive "medico-administrative but was equally the fulfillment of an unapparatus" conscious.and Ford. the mal highlights the unarticulated distress and demonstratesthe very real limitations of even a sophisticated discursive approach. was destructivebehavior.Marpingen(n. The conflicts that these divergent desires arousedresulted in psychic misery and physical torment. the relativizationof village morality through greater mobility and openness to the outside world.and imposed the outside world withoutrespectingvillage mores. Creatingthe Nation in Provincial France (n. and they caused havoc by accusing men of witchcraftand inadequacy. The pychologicaldramaof the mal thus offers otherpossible interpretations of peasantdistressin the nineteenthcentury. all may have laid the groundworkfor forging new identities for women seeking to change their lives..Despite the insights it offers. and teachers.Possession on the Borders 477 were too absorbedby theirimmediatemiseryto considertheiraims dispassionI ately. the shepherd'scry. . and.deepenedthe process of emasculationthroughhis reformistmeasures. inchoate. 10 above). and in enragedaccusationsagainstmen unableto "fix"theirpain. witchcraftand possession showed the transformative potentialof religious belief and the interpretive power of peasantmentalities. It deepened and enduredabove 103 For the key role of intermediaries and relationsbetween the centerand periphery. the languageof the possessed enables us to listen to the mutedvoices thatrelativizedthe village's position vis-'a-visthe outside world. Blackbourn.both of which hastened ratherthan forestalled "modernity. the notion of an "antilanguage"cannot comprehendthe physical disruptionand psychological misery that were the cardinalfeaturesof the mal. The women of Morzinedesiredtwo irreconcilableaims: first.which not only intensified their suffering but also made it difficultto renegotiatevillage genderrelations. this complexpsychologicaldynamicis centralto questioning Understanding the Foucauldianorthodoxy which has hithertounderpinnedthe study of the mal.the woodsman's howls. In this expressive task.but also throughcollective culturalprocesses undergoneby people forced to confrontthe erosion of old patternsof life and the consequencesof permanenttransformation. g. see. hardlywish to suggest thattheirunderlyinggrievanceswere withoutjustificaI am arguingthatthe only availableoutlet for theirrage andhatred tion.in self-punishment for perceivedtransgressions. nuns. Constansmanipulated this instability. Rather. 33 above).'03 dimensions of rural On anotherlevel." Moreover.they demonstratethe extent to which such changes occur not merely throughthe impact of institutionsand mediatorssuch as male clergy. e. The hunter'sburlesque.On one level.the maintenanceand restitutionof the collective spiritualand social solidarityof the village.
and dangerously "primitive.478 Harris all because such distresscould not be expressedin language. incoherent. and often repudiated.I hope my analysis of the mal provides a different tone and emphasisby showing how such popularprotestcan be neithersentimentalized as the last gasp of a traditionalsociety nor regardedas the heroic incarnation of early feminism.I could be accused of unwittinglyreinforcingan older.traditionthat sees peasanteruptionsas illogical.by concentrating on this "irrationality. Finally.for there was no availableidiom to generatenarratives able to give such pain broadermeaning.In Morzine therewas an awarenessof the inevitabilityof change. the "irrational" Understanding aspects of collective hatredandviolence. .The pictureof culturalchange thatthe mal suggests was neither a self-conscious march towardmodernity nor a desperate clinging to tradition.Rather. therefore.physically violent." I hardly wish to usher in once again the old stereotypes of peasant savagery. demandsan imaginativesympathyfor varietiesof misery that cannotbe reducedto mere "discourse" and a focus on bodily and psychic experience in ways that episodes such as the mal permit. but the evolution was accomplished throughpainful lurches fueled equally by unarticulated fear of and hope for the future." by which I mean compulsive physical responses and unconscious psychological motivations.
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