Predator and Priest: The Fault of Father Thomas Boullé
The Witches Sabbath. The Faustian Pact. The Black Mass. This alleged dance with the Devil has gone by many monikers throughout the ages; yet, in 17th century France, the bells of blasphemy were tolling to a different tune. Viewed less as a deed-of-guaranteed-damnation and more as an act of protest and rebellion, the French deviated from magical masses of the past, such as the 6th century Gelasian Sacrament ( Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Ecclesiae) which invoked rites still used by the Catholic church today. The Black Mass was initially intended to pervert the sanctity of the sacrament. Where a priest of light would use the ritual of the Eucharist to call forth a miracle, so would the malcontent mages invert their meanings and symbols to produce a plague. Below is an excerpt regarding the Black Mass from occult researcher and clergyman Montague Summers, written in his History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926):
The mass is said upon a broken and desecrated altar in some ruined or deserted church where owls hoot and mop and bats flit through the crumbling windows, where toads spit their venom upon the sacred stone. The priest must make his way thither late, attended only by an acolyte of impure and evil life. At the first stroke of eleven, he begins; the liturgy of hell is mumbled backward, the canon said with a mow and a sneer; he ends just as midnight tolls.
The rather conservative disposition of Deacon Summers is molded by his marriage to the Malleus Maleficarum ( Hammer of Witches). Summer’s is credited with producing the first English translation of Heinirch Kramer’s 15th century treatise on sorcery. Calling for the torture of those accused of Witchcraft, the Malleus Maleficarum helped spark the witch hunts of the 15th and 16th centuries, while the invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century aided in the spread of Kramer’s baleful book. It is evident that Montague Summer’s belief in the occult was shaped by these out-of-date and out-of-touch tomes. His “priestly” views are not, however, reciprocated by the subject of our sinister spotlight. Father Thomas Boullè was no hunter of hags. The Abbot of Louvier was an accused Warlock and burned at the stake in the year 1647.
According to the testimony of “demoniac” Sister Madeline Bavent, eighteen nuns, including herself, were bewitched by Father Boullè and Mathurin Picard, the director of the nunnery who was deceased and long-buried during the diabolic deeds. Sister Bavent testified that the vicar and the voice-from-the-grave ushered the unsuspecting women to a witches sabbath in the night, where the Sisters were forced to commit acts of blasphemy upon a black altar. She states that infants were consumed after being strangled. In addition, two men that attended the ceremony as guest were disemboweled and crucified. The possessed were then forced into a covenant with the demon Dagon, where several of the nuns displayed afflictions such as contorting limbs and glossolalia, uttering in unknown tongues.
The Canaanite deity of fertility, Dagon, was widely worshiped during antiquity by the Philistine peoples. You may be familiar with the name Baal from our piece Sordid Sorcery: Child Sacrifice and the Epstein Enigma. Dagon is the father of Baal, who ultimately supplants his father in his role as God of fertility. Dagon is commonly depicted with the upper body of a man and the lower body of a fish. This depiction is debated amongst modern scholars. The Hebrew root dag, meaning “corn”, and Dagons role as a god of fertility and harvest does not line up with his purported portrayals. As with many ancient deities, Dagon was drafted and repackaged as a demon by early Christian writers.
Regardless if Sister Madaline Bavant were under the spell of Dagon or not, a writer that was present during the proceedings of the possessed noted that the woman “ran with movements so abrupt that it was difficult to stop her.” Outside of sexual acts the nuns were forced to perform, Satan himself is said to have appeared before the afflicted and coerced them down the heretical path with his silver tongue. Cloaking himself as an angel and using clever theological trickery, the Devil was able to lure the lost Sisters from the light. No longer did they believe in God or their purpose within the Convent of Louvier.
Similar to the Loudon Witch Trials of 1634 and the unfortunate happenings in Salem in 1692, the events of Louvier soon grew to be a public spectacle as the ire of the Inquisitors soon gripped the populace. No one was safe from the endless accusations and interrogations brought forth by the horrors conjured at Louvier. Ultimately, Sister Madaline Bavant was sentenced to rot in the church dungeon for taking part in the unholy sabbath. The body of the deceased Picard was exhumed, found guilty of witchery, and set aflame. As for Father Thomas Boullè, his screams could be heard echoing throughout the streets of Louvier, as the flames of the Inquisition purged him of his sins.
Read more within the Hall of Heresy on Monster’s Madness and Magic here: Michael Sendivogius: The Light of Alchemy