Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages

Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages

Paperback

By (author) Claude Lecouteux

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  • Publisher: Inner Traditions Bear and Company
  • Format: Paperback | 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 226mm x 13mm | 318g
  • Publication date: 26 August 2003
  • Publication City/Country: Rochester, VT
  • ISBN 10: 0892810963
  • ISBN 13: 9780892810963
  • Edition: 1
  • Edition statement: Original ed.
  • Sales rank: 257,260

Product description

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.

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Author information

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.

Review quote

"Surprisingly, and despite the consistently scholarly tone, Lecouteux treats his subject with unmistakable sympathy and enthusiasm. He contrasts traditional beliefs about the soul with those imposed by Christianity and clearly favors the former."

Back cover copy

MYTHOLOGY Otherworldly beings--among them werewolves, witches, and fairies--have figured in our stories and dreams since the Middle Ages. But as Claude Lecouteux shows, their roots reach back to a much older Western European belief system that predates Christianity. Through his study of Germano-Scandinavian myths and legends, as well as those from other areas of Europe, he has uncovered the almost forgotten concept that every individual has three souls, and that one of these souls--the Double--can, in animal or human form, leave the physical body and journey where it chooses. While there were many people during the Middle Ages who experienced this phenomenon involuntarily, there were others--witches--who were able to provoke it at will, thus attracting the persecution of the Church. In a thorough study of the medieval soul, the author reveals eerie and surprising accounts of contact with the Double and otherworldly phenomena, such as second sight and psychic foreknowledge. He shows that far from being fantasy or vague superstition, fairies, witches, and werewolves all attest to an ancient and continuous vision of both our world and the world beyond. 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.