Case of Loyse Maillat, a young French DemonIAC whose story of Possession led to a mass witch hunt in the Burgundy region of France, presided over by one of the most ruthless judges and witch hunters, Henri Boguet.
Eight-year-old Loyse Maillat was the daughter of Claude and Humberte Maillat, who lived in the village of Coyrières, Perche. On June 5, 1598, Loyse suddenly lost the use of her arms and legs and had to move about on all fours with her mouth twisted in a strange way. When the condition did not clear up, her parents assumed her to be possessed and took her on June 19 to the Church of Our Savior for Exorcism. Five Demons called Wolf, Cat, Dog, Jolly, and Griffon identified themselves. Asked by the priest who caused her problem, Maillat pointed to a woman, Françoise Secretain, who was among those in attendance. The Demons did not depart.
Back home, Loyse asked her parents to pray for her, to deliver her from the Demons. They complied, and after a period of praying, Loyse said that two of the Demons were dead, and the others would follow if they kept praying. The parents prayed all night.
In the morning, Loyse’s condition was worse. She foamed at the mouth and had seizures. She fell to the ground, and the devils emerged from her mouth in the form of fist-size balls. Four of them were red as fire, and Cat was black. Three issued forth with great violence, and the two that Loyse had said were dead emerged with less force. The Demons danced three or four times around the fire and departed, and, from then on, Loyse’s health improved.
Loyse and her parents told judges, including Boguet, how and why Loyse came to be possessed. For her young age, Loyse was quite convincing in her testimony. Her parents backed up her account. Secretain, a poor woman of good repute, had gone to the Maillat home on June 4 asking for lodging. Humberte was alone, and she refused at first, but Loyse persuaded her to change her mind. After Secretain was admitted, Humberte went out to tend to their cattle. Loyse and her two sisters sat by the fire. Secretain gave Loyse a crust of bread the color of dung and told her to eat it, and not speak of it to anyone, or Secretain would kill her and eat her. The next day, the child was possessed.
Secretain was imprisoned and for three days vehemently maintained her innocence. She prayed incessantly with a rosary, which Boguet said later was “defective,” and thus usable by a witch. Boguet observed that she shed no tears, a certain sign of witches, according to prevailing belief. He had her tortured. She was stripped naked and shaved of body hair to search for a Devil’S MARK, but none was found. When the inquisitors started to cut off the hair from her head, she broke down and began confessing. For days, she added to her confessions as the pressure continued. Her seven principal confessions were the following:
• She had sent five devils into Loyse Maillat.
• She had for a long time served the Devil, who appeared to her in the form of a black man.
• She had copulated with the Devil four or five times. Sometimes, he was in the form of a dog, a cat, or a fowl. His semen was very cold.
• She had attended Sabbats countless times at a place called Combes, near the water, and near Coyrières. She traveled to them through the air on a white staff she placed between her legs.
• She danced at the sabbats and beat water to cause hail.
• She and an accomplice, a man named Groz-Jacques Boquet, had murdered a woman, Loys Monneret, by making her eat a piece of bread dusted with a powder given to them by the Devil.
• She had caused several cows to die by touching them with her hand or a wand and uttering certain words.
Secretain named others, thus enabling Boguet to launch a mass witch hunt. She and many of the accused were sent to the stake to be burned alive. For Boguet, the Maillat case served his purpose to Demonstrate that witches had the ability to send Demons into the bodies of victims. In his book Discours des Sorciers (An Examen of Witches), he cites a long list of supporting cases in which people sent Demons into others. Even God and St. Paul had done this. In Psalm 78, God sent “evil angels” among people to punish them. St. Paul sent Satan into several heretics.
Boguet commented that God allowed such innocents to become possessed in order for his works and justice to shine more gloriously. The case, he said, “led to the discovery of countless witches who have been punished as the gravity of their crimes deserved.”
– Boguet, Henri. An Examen of Witches: Discours Excrable des Sourciers. London: John Rodker, 1929.
The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 2009 by Visionary Living, Inc.