Legend – Berry, land of witchcraft

Do you believe in spell games?? Witchcraft has long fueled the tales and legends of Berry. The town of Rezay is also considered the “capital of wizards”. For the historian and president of the Center Academy, Jean-Pierre Surrault, witchcraft in Berry has always existed. But we are a long way from witches with hooked noses, flying broomsticks and magic potions. “The Berrichons believed in supernatural forces that influenced the world in a positive way, but also and above all in a malevolent way”, explains the historian. In Berry patois, sorcerers and witches are called birettes. In a rural Berry, witchcraft explains many evils: illnesses, deaths, bad harvests. A person could call on a witch to cast a spell and harm his neighbor.

Is witchcraft in Berry ancient?

Witch hunt

The Church has also played an important role in the fight against witchcraft. In a context of tensions between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century, the witch hunt became a form of distinction according to Jean-Pierre Surrault. “Between 1580 and 1730, the Church launched a period of persecution in Berry with more than twenty burnings. But that remains marginal compared to the hundreds of victims in Lorraine or Germany.

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Legend Berry land of witchcraftThese scary characters are called birettes. Photo: Bourges Agency

A bloody trial

Berry’s bewitching countryside owes its reputation to authors such as Jean-Louis Boncœur and George Sand. In his work The Devil’s Pond published in 1846, the writer paints a picture of a mysterious countryside with superstitious inhabitants. Very real events have also contributed to maintain the legend such as the trial of the carroi de Marlou between 1582 and 1583. Jehan Tabourdet, a laborer from Sancerrois is accused of taking part in satanic festivals at the carroi de Marlou, today called the Creux de Marloup, near Bué. These nocturnal assemblies called sabbats were intended to invoke the devil. Jehan Tabourdet will be sentenced to hang with four accomplices after a trial which will be transcribed.

“The Berry took a long time to evolve so the culture of witchcraft remained longer”

Jean-Pierre Surrault (Historian)

From the middle of the 17th century, the French population increasingly lived in towns. “For city dwellers, witchcraft no longer corresponds to their vision of the world”, describes the historian. Science then makes it possible to determine the origin of illnesses and to cure them. But for Jean-Pierre Surrault, “Berry took time to evolve, so the culture of witchcraft remained longer”. Doctors are deserting the countryside and villagers continue to turn to alternative medicine.

1653529122 140 Legend Berry land of witchcraftThis year, the Wizards’ Night in Bué will not take place due to the pandemic. Photo: Stephanie Para.

Berry folklore

The term witchcraft has disappeared today, but some people still call on healers, bonesetters or bandagers to relieve or “block” pain. “It remains a marginal culture that people use as a last resort,” explains the historian.

Witchcraft is also found in Berry folklore. Every year, the municipalities of Bonnu (Cuzion, Indre) and Bué (Cher) celebrate the festival of witchcraft. In Concressault, a museum, now closed, retraced the history of Berry witches. For Jean-Pierre Surrault, “this is a look at themselves by the Berrichons, a sort of nod to what has been said about them for a long time. »

1653529122 356 Legend Berry land of witchcraftThe witchcraft museum in Concressault closed its doors in 2016. Photo: Agence de Bourges

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Legend – Berry, land of witchcraft

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