Caution: This post contains sexually suggestive early twentieth century imagery.
Recently, I've discussed the way pagan beliefs were given a Satanic cast by Christians, who turned pagan worship ceremonies into Black Masses full of sodomy and blasphemy. In 1862, Jules Michelet tried to paint a more sympathetic (if inaccurate) portrait of medieval witches by describing their faith as a pagan-influenced feminist rebellion against Catholic patriarchy. His book, La Sorcière, is known in English as Satanism and Witchcraft, and of course the weird art used to illustrate the 1911 printing of the book is something to behold.
If you thought the images of women kissing Satan's or a goat's buttocks were bad, this little number puts them to shame. Behold the Black Mass as drawn by Martin van Maele, a French illustrator famed for his erotic art.
And a few more from the same volume:
This certainly says something about the tangled relationship between sex and religion in the early twentieth century. It also shows how little respect Michelet's sympathetic vision of a woman-centered religious tradition actually received. These illustrations are not exactly empowering women.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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