However, 13km (8 miles) away at Saulnières is another monument said to have been built by the fairies, La Table aux Fées (Table of the Fairies). Gathering the mistletoe was done with much ritual, it being said that it was cut down with a golden sickle by a druid clad in white and immediately followed by the sacrifice of two white bulls. The ghost of an otherwise unknown crippled man is also said to haunt the border of the castle’s moat. In its most basic form, a dolmen can consist of just three stone slabs; two set upright supporting a flatter slab that formed the roof of a burial chamber. Some of the marked variations of this tale say that the farmer can only hope for the curse to be lifted in the hundred and first year after his death; or that the cheated landowner alone could deliver him by personally indicating where the stone should be set. Enclosing live cats within the walls of buildings seems also to have once been regarded as a powerful talisman as cat bones have been discovered in many sites across Brittany, including the 14th century Château de Combourg; childhood home of François-René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848) one of Brittany’s most important authors. Similarly, a rooster crowing all around you was taken as a warning that your last hour was approaching. Region: Normandy Château de Brissac: legend says that Jacques de Brézé caught his wife, Charlotte, with another man, and in a fit of rage murdered them both. Each new moon was thought to possess its own characteristic effect on the land and a significant number of these traditional declarations have survived to this day as proverbs, such as: January’s rain fill the ditches with water into February but March can dry all in one night; When April is shaken, May will be warm and cloudy; Sow your wheat whenever you wish but on the full moon in July you will find it. The ship, carrying 245 passengers and crew, sank in less than 15 minutes just after 23:00hrs and it was not until 07:30 the following day that the first two survivors were found by a fisherman from Molène. Sometimes, specific dates were popularly associated with the weather: If it rains on Mardi-Gras more rain will follow; If the sun shines for Mardi-Gras, it will stay for Lent; Snow for Mardi-Gras, midges for Easter; Easter rain is a bread giver; On Palm Sunday tether your cows, On Easter Sunday bring-in your cows. Sometime later, the farmer prepared a massive bonfire and summoned all his strength to lift the book into the flames but instead of devouring the Agrippa, the flames moved away from it. Many magical powers were attributed to these women; their voices charmed nature so that they could dominate the elements, conjuring great storms; exciting or calming the winds and waves according to their whims. Alas, her suitor was not alone in the darkness; the gate was rushed by the Bretons who quickly overwhelmed the castle’s garrison. There are also people who are condemned to return to earth for a determined period of time to expiate their sins by a posthumous penance such as the farmer carrying the marker stone or the ghosts of priests begging for alms, condemned to wander the land until they have collected the money for masses for which they were once paid but did not say. Pointing directly at a rainbow was also avoided as it was considered to bring bad luck. In Brittany, a number of traditions once surrounded the three main stages of rural life: birth, marriage and death. Geoffroy IV of Châteaubriant, the lord of the Château in that era, departed for the crusade, leaving his wife Sybille behind. With such a richness of megalithic sites, it would be impossible to do justice to Brittany’s Neolithic heritage in a blog post, so, I shall simply highlight a few of the monuments that have impressed me here the most. Long afterwards, they would sit by the fireside trembling visibly at nothing and when asked about their very evident fears would only groan balefully. [5] Fourteen of its forty-six articles were concerned with censorship; its terms strictly regulated the press by prohibiting the sale, importation or printing of any book unapproved by the Faculty of Theology at the University of Paris, then or, now it was implied,[6] in the future. The traditional folk beliefs associated with the megaliths of Brittany are, as you might expect, numerous. The whole structure would originally have been covered by stones and earth forming a small mound and where such mantles survive they are called cairns or tumuli. Some believe that it shares some characteristics with the carnivorous plants of the sundew family, more sinisterly known as the Devil’s ear in eastern Brittany. One night, he walks to a desolate spot where five roads cross and there makes his deal with the Devil. Settled and content, the cat very soon starts disappearing at night, returning each morning with a purse full of gold coins. The Edict was one of an increasingly severe series of measures taken by Henry II against Protestants, whom he regarded as heretics. This late 14th century lady is reputed to have been desperately in love with a Breton knight and one night, at his behest, opened one of the doors to the fortress. When a wedding procession encountered a funeral cortege on the way to church, the sex of the deceased was thought to indicate who, of the husband and wife, would die first. Region: Nouvelle-Aquitaine These have been found in all the various layers of occupation between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago, making this one of the world’s oldest known examples of controlled fires. [3] The Edict contained quite detailed provisions: it called upon the civil and ecclesiastical courts to detect and punish all heretics, and placed severe restrictions on Protestants, including loss of one-third of property granted to informers, who were also granted immunity[4] and confiscations of property both moveable and immovable belonging to those who had fled to Geneva, with whom the king's subjects were forbidden to correspond or to send money. An old Breton superstition held that if your left ear tingled or your left nostril bled while undertaking a journey, you would meet with disaster. Its properties are numerous: it reveals treasures; whoever possesses it is never sick again; it allows the possessor to become invisible at will and increases a man’s strength tenfold. First, it was necessary to locate a stem of four leafed clover; traditionally held to be found on the spot where a mare had given birth to her first foal. Alas, his host considered them rightfully his and a long-running dispute ensued that was carried all the way to the Parliament of Brittany. For instance, in south eastern Brittany, it was said that a pregnant woman who stepped over or even touched the common rue with the bottom of her dress would induce an abortion. If someone in the house was sick with fever and demanded, despite their weakness, to change bed, they were not expected to live long. A rainbow was often regarded as a symbol of bad weather and its appearance in the evening was a sign that there would be rain or winds in the morning but a rainbow in the morning indicated a forthcoming strong wind that carried little rain. However, Geoffroy returned months later, causing his wife a great shock. The Virgin Mary and Saint Houarden were popularly invoked to calm the fury of a storm while Saint Budoc was called upon to change the direction of the wind. The hours of darkness belonged to the fairies and one night was thought all that was needed to raise a dolmen. The notion that the wind is actively fetching and carrying possibly implies that supernatural associations were once popularly attributed to these phenomena. Breton tales often like to portray a balance in nature and stories involving the black cat are no exception, for the animal brings not just wealth but also misfortune. He was dumbfounded as the animal looked up at him, saying: “Pass, my master, Yann Foucault”. Returning at night, one had to pick the clover using only one’s teeth while never allowing the clover to touch the ground. For this to be effective, it was necessary for the grass to be picked on a Friday from a field with three corners, lying as close as possible to the parish church. Similarly, young couples would visit the menhir at Moëlan-sur-Mer and rub themselves against it in the hope of children. The ghosts of the dead trod the byways and paths of Brittany; the sound of their passage or even their murmurings could be clearly heard, even if they could not always be seen.

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