Take Santa, Christian Christmas and add pagan ritual

Wood with tree on left bearing clothing and moss-covered building to right
The bonne fontaine at Courbefy, Bussière-Galant, Haute-Vienne

Dr Tim Blakemore, a former senior law lecturer at the University of Northampton, finds some magic in the air and water of modern-day France where he now lives

There are some mysterious goings-on in France. In an article in July’s Connexion it was reported that the number of exorcisms in France has tripled over the past 10 years. The title to the piece (‘Booming number of exorcisms in France’) seems to suggest this is some sort of economic miracle rather than a religious issue, but a priest is quoted as expressing the concern of the Catholic church: “There’s a growing paganism so the Devil is more at home”.

Your acceptance of that explanation will depend upon your personal beliefs, but it is also possible that people are becoming more interested in such ancient mystical practices.

Certainly in rural France there seems to be a stock of traditions which at first sight appear to be in conflict with the entrenched Catholic Christianity, but with which the people themselves seem quite at ease. Perhaps it is offensive to describe these as “pagan”, but they certainly seem to be outside the framework of the established Christian church.

At this time of year, with Christmas approaching, this mix of beliefs becomes ...

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