The windswept moors and uncultivated lands of Brittany have long been linked with the ghostly activity of the dead. However, the beings that traditionally inhabit these areas in Breton folklore are the malevolent children of the night. For it is not only the dead who inhabit the gloom; dangerous and evil beings, who are not of the race of men, roam abroad during the hours of darkness and to encounter them could be fatal.
A handwritten book of spells set down in Brittany during the 18th century contains a varied collection of spells and enchantments to be used in order to gain good fortune, riches or love. These spells provide a fascinating insight into the popular mentality of the rural population of Brittany before the Revolution.
The black dog is a recurring image in folklore across the world. In Brittany, these sinister spectral beasts roamed the lonely places and, in many local legends, were closely associated with crossroads, springs and the old sunken pathways.
One of the most haunted regions of France; the windswept coastlines, bleak moors and uncultivated lands of Brittany have long been closely associated with the ghostly goings-on of the dead.
Brittany is a land of lore and legends, seeped in the supernatural. Said to be one of the most haunted regions of France, any journey around the castles of Brittany weaves a dark path between legend and rumour; fear and fright. Unsettling tales of lost innocence and tormented souls condemned to forever haunt the old stones so that we might not forget them.
Tales of ghosts and ghostly apparitions form a rich vein in the folklore of Brittany although, in the Breton tradition, there was once no significant separation between the living and the dead, both were seen as dwelling in two discrete worlds that were in perpetual relation with one another.
For yesterday’s Bretons, the world around them was swarming with signs that, if interpreted correctly, predicted the future. Being prepared for the unknown future and warding off misfortune were constant concerns for our ancestors. Natural phenomena, abnormal behaviour and other irregularities were carefully noted for the favourable or ill shadow they cast over daily life and often regularised as good omens or bad omens and omens of death.
Sometimes venerated, sometimes vilified; representing good luck or seen as an ill omen. The black cat has long enjoyed a turbulent relationship with humanity and features strongly in the world’s folklore. This is especially true here in Brittany.
In France, books of spells, conjurations and natural magic were known as grimoires and in Brittany the most infamous of such works was the Agrippa; a mysterious and massive book widely believed to have been used by priests to harness the elements, evoke demons and foretell the future.
The 12th century poet Marie de France remains a mystery to us but her writing had a strong and lasting influence on the development of medieval literature. Adapted from traditional Breton folktales, her tales or lais are a veritable treasure of European culture. This is her lai of the werewolf.