When fate strikes. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, scores of men and women were sent to the stake for witchcraft on dubious, even far-fetched accusations. Apparently in modern times, witch hunts are rarer, except in the United States during the Cold War. However, even at the beginning of the 20th century, popular beliefs around witches still struggled, especially in rural France. A “stupidity” and a “stupidity” in which a mother and her daughter fell victim, in May 1930, to the faith of the crazy prophecies of a bonesetter from Pas-de-Calais.
To read the various press articles published at the time – and read in Retronews – on this matter, one feels all the contempt of journalists for those who spread rumours. The story takes place in the village of Cornet, in the town of Wittes, near Aire-sur-la-Lys, in the Pas-de-Calais. “A sexagenarian, Mrs. widow Wallart, and her daughter Marie, 30, are the subject of an accusation that is unlikely in our time: witchcraft”, said in its columns The Little Parisian dated May 8, 1930. “The ”witch”, the bonesetter and the farmer’s wife”, title for its part The Intransigent, released the next day. “Two women are victims of a stupid popular belief”, added The Echo of Algiers.
“In the village, the gossip crescendoed”
This story, “which takes us far, back to the time of foolish beliefs in witch spells”, writes The Echo of Lys, there he is. In April 1930, a farmer called on the services of a bonesetter after becoming the victim of an accident. The healer, who is also the local postman, is convinced that his client is the victim of a witchcraft. He then prophesied to the farmer’s wife that “the first woman who enters your house tomorrow will be the one to marry you”, narrated the flash west. Unfortunately, it fell to Hermance Wallart, an agricultural laborer who usually works twice a week for the bonesetter’s client. That day, he was fired from the area. “In the village, the rumor reached a crescendo, they were united in claiming that Mrs. Wallart was a witch”, wrote Little Parisian.
Always by pure chance, then to Marie, Hermance’s daughter, whose fate was unrelenting. Unable to treat another farmer’s sick cow, the same bonesetter made sure that “the culprit must be the first woman to stop coming”, can we read in The Echo of Lys. Marie used to go to this farm to draw water from the well. But, feeling that the farmer’s wife was looking down on him since telling his mother the story, he decided not to go there. “The second witch is born,” said the regional newspaper. Subsequently, the moment an animal died or the moment a critter had a crooked fart, we blamed the Wallarts.
“If there are no resources, because no one wants to use them”
Love can lend itself to laughter or laughter, which journalists of the time did not deny. “This funny story” for The Intransigent. Of the “phenomena of popular suggestion” that The Echo of Lys attributed to the “nonsense of some”. There are many superstitions that can cause great harm to Hermance Wallart and his daughter: “The two alleged witches […] just got sick, and are suffering, because no one wants to work with them anymore,” said the reporter from West Lightning. Except the press isn’t interested in the rest of the story.
Hervé Faucon, former mayor of the municipality of Wittes, shed light on the fate of the Wallarts. “This is not a family of prominent people, rather workers or employees. They are not very respectable, especially because the son, Victor, died in the battle in 14-18,” explained the former elected official . Respectable, but penniless, which explains why Hermance and Marie cannot bring to court those responsible for their disgrace. However, they did not die as a result of this affair: “No one from this family lives in the village anymore, their houses were destroyed, but I know one of the descendants, Hervé Faucon recalled. The story this of the witches ended up being arranged without going any further. »