Claude Lecouteux,
Witches, Werewolves & Fairies:
Shapeshifters & Astral Doubles
in the Middle Ages

(Inner Traditions, 2003)

Witches, Werewolves & Fairies: Shapeshifters & Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages was originally published in France as Fees, sorcieres et loups-garous au Moyen Age. Clare Frock translated it into English for this American edition.

Lecouteux bases this book on the concept that each person has three souls. One of these souls is the "Double." It can appear in any animal or human form, can leave the body whenever it wants, and can travel wherever it wishes. Sometimes the Double left the body involuntarily, but there were persons that mastered the art of summoning the double and controlling it.

The author takes us back to the Middle Ages, before the Church squelched witchcraft, and examines the beliefs, while relating accounts of persons that experienced Double activity.

OK. All you werewolf fans need to order this book and turn directly to "Appendix 3: The Trial of the Werewolf." This actual transcript from a German trial will blow your mind. This book is also the first time that I have run across the anecdote of St. Patrick cursing the Irish to spend seven years in wolf form because they were a tad disruptive during one of his appearances.

For the rest of the readers, begin with the first page and read slowly, carefully digesting the wonders that will be revealed about the beliefs of earlier peoples and how they directly relate to the modern beliefs. This is a book that you can enjoy over and over, and it will serve as a valuable reference work for those with an interest in parascience.

Witches, Werewolves & Fairies is a fantastic read that I could not put down. I have always been a horror and folklore fan and I have a passionate interest in things medieval, but I learned many new things in this book. The author cites his sources, which allows the reader to verify the points and also provides you with unfamiliar titles. He often offers differing accounts of an incident or different versions of an anecdote. He then analyzes them and offers his own conclusions. This book has convinced me to seek English translations of his other books.

Lecouteux does not just deal with the more extreme forms of the Double, but includes the basic forms, such as the shadow. He has been meticulously thorough and composed an intriguing book that keeps your undivided attention from beginning to end.

Claude Lecouteux lives in Paris. He is a professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He has nine other books about medieval beliefs in the supernatural and the afterlife.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 12 February 2005

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