No Comment, Quotation — December 1, 2007, 8:52 am

Voltaire on the Modern Sorcery


Le conseiller Courtin lui demanda de quel charme elle s’était servie pour ensorceler la reine: Galigaï, indignée contre le conseiller, et un peu mécontente de Marie de Médicis, répondit: « Mon sortilège a été le pouvoir que les âmes fortes doivent avoir sur les esprits faibles. » Cette réponse ne la sauva pas; quelques juges eurent assez de lumières et d’équité pour ne pas opiner à la mort; mais le reste, entraîné par le préjugé public, par l’ignorance, et plus encore par ceux qui voulaient recueillir les dépouilles de ces infortunés, condamnèrent à la fois le mari déjà mort et la femme, comme convaincus de sortilège, de judaïsme et de malversations. La maréchale fut exécutée (1617), et son corps brûlé.

Counselor Courtin asked her what magic she had used to cast a spell upon the queen: Galigaï, outraged against the counselor and a bit miffed with Maria de Medici, answered: “My magic spell was the power that strong spirits may have upon the weak.” This response did not save her, several judges were intelligent and just enough not to support the penalty of death, but the rest, influenced by public prejudice, by ignorance and still more by those who sought to reap the plunder of those unfortunates, sentenced both the already deceased husband and his wife to death—for sorcery, Judaism and miscreancy. The maréchale was executed (1617) and her body burned.

–Jean-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations et sur les principaux faits de l’histoire, depuis Charlemagne jusqu’à Louis XIII, ch clxxiv, 7ème lettre (1756) in Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, vol. xii/3 (S.H. transl.)

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