Witches, Werewolves and Fairies is a fascinating if tough to read account of the appearance throughout the Middle Ages of strange and often frightening creatures that represented the astral soul, or the “Double". The roots of this belief in a soul twin or “Double” that can manifest animal or fairy form and do things only a supposed witch could do, predates Christianity. Claude Lecouteux, the author and a professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne, documents the origins of these beliefs from their Germano-Scandinavian roots to their spread throughout the Western European landmass.
What is so fascinating about this book is the sheer amount of documentation and research Lecouteux has found on this subject, and this is a highly detailed book that may not appeal to someone looking for a more “fun” treatment of the world of witches and shapeshifters. This is serious research into a mysterious subject, and at times can get bogged down in history and descriptions of personal accounts of strange visions, eerie dreams and visitations on behalf of the many Middle Age unfortunates who experienced contact with these Doubles.
Chock-full of mythology, supernatural phenomenon and archetype symbolism, this is an intruiging book for anyone who espouses the idea of life ending at death and the physical body being all there is. After reading the author’s research and the many accounts of these creepy otherworldly beings, such beliefs go right out the window. Whether or not these accounts are true, they must amount to something, for the sheer volume of reports of astral projections, shapeshifting and appearances of Doubles in their many forms cannot be denied, or ignored.
Witches, Werewolves and Fairies is more a thorough study of the concept of souls in medieval times than it is a book about witches, werewolves and fairies, and as a scholarly study it succeeds. But if you are looking for a simple book full of creepy werewolf stories, this book will disappoint. Even though it delves into the possibility of that which is real yet beyond reality, it does so in a more serious, and ultimately scary, way than what the average reader might be prepared for. Still, once you read this, you will never think of yourself as truly being alone again. And maybe, as some of the accounts in this book suggest, that is not such a good thing after all.