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.
Scattered throughout the folklore of Brittany are references to secret, magical plants possessing extraordinary properties. Grasses that allow you to understand the languages of beasts or to find hidden treasures; grasses that cut iron and those that take you to oblivion!
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.
Forecasting the weather has always been one of mankind’s most vital concerns. The observation of weather patterns and their effect on the cultivation of crops gave rise to many popular folk beliefs and superstitions in Brittany.
Popular belief in the power of witchcraft survived in Brittany, as elsewhere in France, deep into the last century but the spells and curses of the witch were often as benign as they were malignant.
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.
One of the world’s most infamous lost cities is said to lie beneath the waves off the west coast of Brittany.This magnificent city was damned and destroyed by the wrath of God and is now said to be home to the mermaids of the coast.