If you’ve listened to the most recent episode of Lunatics Radio Hour, we talk all about the history of Black Masses. While researching this I came across a French Fortune Teller named Catherine Monvoisin, often called La Voisin. She was born in 1640 and though she lived a short life, she accomplished many strange things while alive.
La Voisin met with her very wealthy clientele at her home. In the fortune telling arena, she offered palm reading and face reading services. She went to great lengths to put on an air of importance and drama during her readings. La Voisin had an expensive crimson robe that was embroidered with gold eagles that she wore while with clients. But La Voisin was also a midwife and eventually she offered abortions to her clients in need. At that time in France, abortion was illegal.
La Voisin’s business expanded over the years. Eventually she also crafted magical potions, poisons and objects. And I found her history in my research because she conducted Black Masses for rich patrons. For anyone not familiar, a Black Mass is typically a ritual that is either used to mock the Church, invoke The Devil to fulfill a dark wish or both.
After her husband's business went bankrupt, La Voisin was able to support her family (including her mother) with her work. Voisin took many lovers, including the executioner Andre Guillaume.
On 12 March 1679, she was arrested after attending mass at Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle in Paris. She was held in prison and questioned, while authorities also captured the rest of her network of fortune tellers and accomplices. La Voisin’s arrest would have made many powerful and influential people nervous. Many leaders and politicians had used her services for evil or personal gain, and would have feared her giving their names to police. She did let a few names slip, and admitted to selling poison to several members of the Royal Court.
In February of 1680 she was tried and convicted of Witchcraft. There is some debate over whether or not she was exposed to torture to elicit a confession, but reguardless she was executed on February 22nd 1680. But she did not go quietly. She thrashed about, pushing both the priest and the hay at the site. However, she was burned at the stake in public.
In episode 116 of Lunatics Radio Hour we talk about La Voisin’s connection to The Marquis of Montespan, a mistress to King Louis XIV. Allegedly Montespan and Voisin conducted Black Masses together in an effort to keep Montespan in the favor of the King. Though Voisin did not name Montespan, after her execution Voisin’s daughter confirmed the connection.
We talk about this a lot on the podcast, but there is so much slander and political sabotage at this time. It’s incredibly difficult to pick apart the truth in any of these stories. Things get even stickier when we are talking about women accused of witchcraft, especially someone who had potentially pissed off a lot of powerful people (in addition to helping them). Not to mention providing illegal abortions. We may never know what exactly happened, but for now we will share what we find with the caveat of ‘allegedly.’