Satanism and Witchcraft  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Satanism and Witchcraft, a Study in Medieval Superstition (La Sorcière) is a book on the history of witchcraft published in 1862 by Jules Michelet. According to Michelet, medieval witchcraft was an act of popular rebellion against the oppression of feudalism and the Roman Catholic Church. This rebellion took the form of a secret religion inspired by paganism and fairy beliefs, organized by a woman who became its leader. The participants in the secret religion met regularly at the witches' sabbath and the Black Mass. Michelet's account is openly sympathetic to the sufferings of peasants and women in the Middle Ages.

According to Michelet, in a note added to the end of the book:

The object of my book was purely to give, not a history of Sorcery, but a simple and impressive formula of the Sorceress's way of life, which my learned predecessors darken by the very elaboration of their scientific methods and the excess of detail. My strong point is to start, not from the devil, from an empty conception, but from a living reality, the Sorceress, a warm, breathing reality, rich in results and possibilities. (Michelet, p. 326)

The first part of the book is an imaginative reconstruction of the experience of a series of witches who lead the religion from its original form of social protest into decadence. The second part is a series of episodes in the European witch trials. Today the book is regarded as largely inaccurate. It is notable as one of the first sympathetic histories of witchcraft, and as such it may have had an indirect influence on Wicca.

In the 1970's, La Sorciére was made into an anime film, Kanashimi no Belladonna by Mushi Productions.


Jack Stevenson's book on Häxan confirms that director Christensen was influenced by Jules Michelet’s book. Georges Bataille said about Michelet that he was “one of those who spoke most humanely about evil”.

A 1911 edition of La Sorcière was illustrated by Martin van Maele.

See also

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