Book Review: Phantom Armies of the Night by Claude Lecouteux

I reviewed this book as a guest reviewer for my good friend Lupa at her blog, Pagan Book Reviews, so instead of copying everything over to here, I would appreciate if you could go to her place instead to see what I think.

I’m happy to say that the book echoed most of my ideas regarding the Wild Hunt and similar themes, and I found a few interesting tidbits for my own practice. The main one was the mention of Lutzl, a “form” of Berchta that is found specifically in Burgenland, which is the region in Austria that is a known origin for my family. The best known one, actually, since records with my great-great-grandparent’s names are in Burgenland’s online resources.

“Burgenland, Austria, Lutzl (Lucy) passed at this time. She was the woman of the solstice, who roamed with veiled face. She was also armed with a kitchen spoon that she used to beat people in their houses and a knife for opening their bellies. Clad in black and white she was accompanied by monstrous figures and her trajectory was a quest in which she begged for the deceased foodstuffs, the “bread of all souls” p. 198

Given that my UPG associates a lamp and the moon with Berchta, the name “Luztl” (referring to light) fits well, and probably has associations with St. Lucia’s day, another day with many similar figures roaming throughout Europe.

There is also mention of another figure, of Alpine origin, that is apparently the demonic ancestor of the PETA organization.

“Kasermandl (Alps) a kind of demon that took possession of chalets after the livestock had been taken down to the lower valleys for the winter and that often bore the features of dead cowherds who were condemned to return, because they abused the livestock in their keeping.” p. 198

I found that interesting, since the demon isn’t so much a demon as it is a reinforcer of morals. In this case, it seems like the cultures in the Alps valued their animals and those who took care of them. I wish we had Kasermandl’s for today’s factory farms, but that’s a separate issue which is outside the scope of this blog.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Book Review: Phantom Armies of the Night by Claude Lecouteux

  1. I’ve never been disappointed by one of Lecouteux’s books. Very much looking forward to the new one coming out this year dealing with house-spirits.

    • I’ve enjoyed all of his works that I’ve read so far, though I do not consider this particular volume to be as good as past works. But all in all I do agree.

      I look forward to the new one as well, and will definitely review that one when I get the chance.

  2. Awa

    I read your review and agree with you for the most part. What I love about CL books is that they provide such a thorough collection of folklore. It helps me formulate my own theories rather than taking his on good faith.

    • Yes, his books are one of the few places I get to find relevant South Germanic information that are otherwise stuck in old, dusty tomes over in Europe. I don’t always enjoy the writing style, but I do appreciate the effort.

      • Awa

        This is kind of shallow, but I do wish his books had better cover art. It’s too new-agey, wiccan book aisle for my tastes.

      • Haha, well if that’s the most worrying aspect of his books then he’s doing well.

        It so happens that authors rarely get to choose their book covers unless they publish themselves. It wouldn’t surprised me if his publishers purposely made his covers that way so as to appeal to such an audience.

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