Sorceress, midwife, poisoner: meet ‘La Voisin’

La Voisin was put on trial and two days later burned alive on the Place de Grève

Catherine Monvoisin fell into fortune-telling as a means to feed her family – but her career quickly took a dark turn. The Connexion examines her life and reveals how close she came to changing French history

Fortune-teller, abortionist, sorceress and poisoner Catherine Monvoisin was born in around 1640 and was burned at the stake in 1680. Hers is an extraordinary story, and illustrates how deeply people believed in witchcraft during the 17th century.

Her nickname ‘La Voisin’ came from from her married name ‘Monvoisin’. Had her life as the wife of a Parisian jeweller and silk merchant gone to plan, it would have been completely unremarkable, but when her husband’s business was ruined she set up as a midwife and fortune-teller.

She was so successful that she was able to support the entire family – husband, mother and three children.

Gradually, in addition to providing midwifery services she also carried out abortions (which were illegal at that time), and as her clients came to depend on her help and advice, she could not resist selling magical objects and mixing love potions.

A n image of the notorious French fortune-teller, sorceress, abortionist and poisoner Catherine Monvoisin, aka ‘La Voisin’

It was a hugely successful business; by 1660 her clientele included the richest and most powerful aristocrats in the land.

She was rich, famous and had multiple lovers – including an executioner, an alchemist, an architect, a magician and a number of counts and viscounts.

She had a house in Villeneuve-sur-Gravois, Paris, where she had her consulting room and gave evening garden parties with live ...

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