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October 2018
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Best value MAPS of FRANCE, and keeping the children amused

The Devil

By Nick Inman

The Devil (aka Satan or Lucifer) is to be seen everywhere in France. He was the nightmare visitor of the middle ages, often felt or smelt but never seen, and he lingers on in Romanesque stone carvings and frescoes of the Last Judgement. He also pops up in some surprising places such as the holy water stoup at the entrance to Rennes-le-Chateau church.

He is easy to recognise in art by his familiar appearance – horns, tail, fangs, cloven hoof, trident and the smell of sulphur – but these are, of course, all the product of human imaginings and owe more to pagan rather than Christian iconography.

The devil is not all bad if we look at him psychologically and symbolically. He serves an important purpose. He personifies selfishness, vice, injustice, subterfuge and corruption giving us a clear way of thinking about the undesirable, “negative” aspects of human existence.

The devil is really the bringer of awareness with the danger that entails. He tempts but another word for temptation is choice or freewill: to ignore the word of God in the Bible as presented in the teachings of the church and do what you want for your own reasons. The devil could be said to be the voice of intuition rather than obedience; of dissent rather than orthodoxy. Lucifer means “the carrier of light” although this can be taken to mean the light of night that reveals hidden knowledge

Curiously, the devil is not always destructive; he is ingenious and he can do the impossible. In this he is almost to be admire. In particular, he is good at building bridges. There are thought to be around fifty “devil’s bridges” around France, even if they are officially called something else. Sometimes the reason for the name is obvious: the bridge looks as if defies gravity and only some supernatural charm could keep it in place.

Usually there is a legend attached to the building of the bridge following a standard narrative pattern. The devil agrees to build a bridge in a single night on condition that he can have the first soul to cross it. The people of the village, who have agreed to this pact, fool the devil out of his reward: either they make a cock crow before daybreak or they drive a mule across the bridge before any person crosses it.

Among the visually appealing “devil’s bridges” are Gensac in Haute-Garonne (south of Toulouse) which looks as if it defies gravity through supernatural charm – and Montolieu south of Foix in the Ariege.

Extract from Mystical France by Nick Inman – Travel guides to France & Spain

Published by Findhorn Press/Inner Traditions

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