The Possession of Sister Jeanne des Anges
Type of Spiritual Experience
Jeanne des Anges, also known as Jeanne de Belcier (2 February 1602 – 29 January 1665), was a French Ursuline nun in Loudun, France. She became mother superior of the convent at a young age, but is chiefly remembered as a central figure in the case of the ‘possessed of Loudun’ in 1632, which led, after witch trials, to the burning at the stake of the priest Urbain Grandier two years later.
Jeanne de Belcier was born at Cozes in 1602, the daughter of Louis de Belcier, Baron de Cozes, and Charlotte de Goumard.
An accident during childhood left her permanently handicapped and she was put under the care of an aunt at the Benedictine abbey of Sainte-Marie-des-Dames. Finding the Benedictine life too hard, she returned home on the death of her aunt. In 1622 she entered the convent of Ursulines de Poitiers. She made her vows a year later taking the religious name of Jeanne des Anges.
In 1627, she transferred to the new Ursuline convent at Loudun, and soon afterwards became its mother superior.
Father Urbain Grandier was already the parish priest at Saint-Pierre du Marché in Loudun at that time. He was an important figure with powerful friends but had previously been involved in scandal and controversy.
Jeanne was sexually fascinated with him, writing in her autobiography,
"When I did not see him, I burned with love for him and when he presented himself to me … I lacked the faith to combat the impure thoughts and movements that I felt".
In 1632, Sister Jeanne stated that Grandier's spectral image had appeared to her, seduced her and taken from her
"that which she had vowed to keep for her heavenly husband Jesus Christ".
About the same time, other sisters began to complain of disturbed nights, and of seeing ghostly men, including Moussault and Grandier, moving about the building. At one time Sister Jeanne manifested the symptoms of false pregnancy.
Jeanne des Anges wrote an autobiographical account of her life.
A description of the experience
The Mind Possessed - Dr William Sargant
Sister Jeanne des Anges, one of the possessed nuns of Loudun, wrote her memoirs in the 1640s. Her account of what happened to her includes striking examples of the paradoxical and ultraparadoxical states of brain activity which resulted in her doing and feeling just the opposite of what she normally wanted to do:
Quoted in T K Oesterreich - Possession
My mind was often filled with blasphemies and sometimes I uttered them without being able to take any thought to stop myself. I felt for God a continual aversion and nothing inspired me with greater hatred than the spectacle of his goodness and the readiness with which he pardons repentant sinners. My thoughts were often bent on devising ways to displease him and to make others trespass against him. It is true that by the mercy of God I was not free in these sentiments, although at that time I did not know it, for the demon beclouded me in such a way that I hardly distinguished his desires from mine; he gave me, moreover, a strong aversion for my religious calling, so that sometimes when he was in my head I tore all my veils and such of my sisters' as I could lay hands on; I trampled them underfoot, I chewed them, cursing the hour when I took the vows. All this was done with great violence, I think that I was not free . . . As I went up for Communion the devil took possession of my hand, and when I had received the Sacred Host and had half moistened it, the devil flung it into the priest's face. I know full well that I did not do this action freely, but I am fully assured to my deep confusion that I gave the devil occasion to do it.
The source of the experienceUrsuline Nuns of Loudun, the
Concepts, symbols and science items
ConceptsCommunication with bodied souls
Communication with disembodied souls
Demons - types of demon