Mairi Cowan, Associate Professor Teaching Stream, Historical Studies UTM
One night in October 1662, Marie Regnouard, the seigneuresse at an estate near Québec, freed her servant from a demon’s torments. At this point, priests and nuns had been trying to end the demonic infestation for many months; finally the efforts of a laywoman succeeded where others had failed. These efforts were described in sources from the time as a kind of “relief” and “deliverance.” Looking beyond such words to the actions themselves, we can see a conspicuous resemblance to something else: an exorcism. Marie’s actions reveal the complexities and precarities of New France as a colonial society. The ideals of the colony’s founders were receding from view, the French settlements were vulnerable to attack by enemies in Europe and North America, and disagreements simmered between civic and religious leaders about how to respond. Uncertain about the future of New France, the colonists grew anxious about demonic interference and thy sought help from both the living and the dead.