“D’où vient le mal” : Divination et dévotion des fontaines en Limousin

Abstract : Jean-Pierre Cavaillé, “Where Does Evil Come From” : Divination and Devotion at Limousin’s Holy Wells. — In the southwest Occitan region of France in Limousin, there are women diviners called « recommenders » or recommandeuses of whom, it is said, the task is to « set apart » (mettre de part). A recommandeuse conducts a ritual using pieces of coal in order to determine, « from whence evil comes » and to which holy well one should go to be delivered from it, sometimes invoking the saint associated with the particular well. The present study concerns this female figure who devines and heals. It is based on exchanges between the author and Raymonde, a recommandeuse practicing today, as well as on documentation from the end of the eighteenth century, writings by folklorists and, since the 1960s, some ethnographic works, the first to be interested not only in the practices, but also in the discourse and representations of the recommandeuses. We thus analyze what these women tell us about the transmission, often from mother to daughter, of the secret and the « gift » while noting the radical ambivalence of the latter, as regards the indeterminate relationship uniting the gift, the fountain and the saint in the process of healing. Indeed, we examine the notion of service and the principle of gratuity (a « gift » and a counter-gift, but theoretically without any financial interest) and the absence of any form of doctrine or orthodoxy in favor of practices characterized by their plasticity and adaptability. Anchored in the present and the recent past, our reflection nonetheless embraces the perspective of historical anthropology and outlines conjectures over the long term.
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https://hal-univ-tlse2.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02089993
Contributor : Jean-Pierre Cavaillé <>
Submitted on : Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 12:55:30 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 11:34:03 AM

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Jean-Pierre Cavaillé. “D’où vient le mal” : Divination et dévotion des fontaines en Limousin. L'Homme - Revue française d'anthropologie, Éditions de l'EHESS 2018, pp.31-66. ⟨10.4000/lhomme.31543⟩. ⟨hal-02089993⟩

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