Cannibal Basques

Magic, Cannibalism and Ethnography in the Works of Pierre de Lancre


  • Matteo Leta Sorbonne Université



De Lancre, Basques, Renaissance, witchcraft, sorcery, witches, New World, Jesuits, ethnography, renaissance literature


This article will show the importance of cannibalism in the description of the sabbath among the Basques, in the Tableau de l'inconstance des mauvais anges et démons, written by Pierre De Lancre. The Basques were often linked to magic and demons; however, this work constitutes surely the most completed document about such an association. In the Tableau there is a sort of ethnographic analysis of the Basques, who started to be compared to the savages of the New World. Witchcraft and cannibalism are the evidence of a demonic complot, aimed at fighting Christianity and, in some way, the central features of mankind. At any rate, such religious controversy is used also in a totally laical perspective: De Lancre is the representative of the King and his role consists in the affirmation of the French power throughout the region. The purpose of such stereotypes, applied also to other marginalized peoples in Renaissance Europe (such as the inhabitants of Southern Italy portrayed by the Jesuits missionaries), justifies implicitly the necessity to repress and integrate them within the civilization and the forthcoming capitalistic system.

Editors note (March 2021): Please see the Errata file, for minor typographic corrections to article as published.


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