More on la Sorcière Isoline, ca. 1910

Last week my post was on the beautiful Isoline, who I described as “a real-life French Sorceress or Witch.” Lightdragon and Robin left feedback questioning whether Isoline is really a witch. Have a good look at the above image, because it will take a few paragraphs to answer this objection before we can get back to the postcards!

Obviously I have included on this blog a lot of images of women who are not really witches, in fact most of them are not really witches! But the French word for “witch” is “sorcière”—the French title for “I Married a Witch” is “Ma Femme est une Sorcière”—and this is the word Isoline uses to describe herself: “Porte-Bonheur de la Sorcière ‘Isoline’” [Talisman of the Witch "Isoline"].

In the past I have said that I define my terms—”sexy” and “witch”—reasonably loosely. So I include on this blog images that are clearly of witches, or images that are described as being of a witch, as long as they are not clearly intended to be images of hag-witches. Of course, my focus is on the obviously sexy witches, but I have included boarder-line cases before (such as some of the Easter Witch postcards).

I think the problem here is that I have included Isoline among “real” witches like Marina Baker and Fiona Horne. In answer to this I will only say that Isoline seems to have a great deal in common with Charles Leland’s Maddalena, that many witches would recognise her as a sister of the art, and that many purists would not consider Marina Baker or Fiona Horne witches either! In fact, if you look over the feedback to my many posts on “real witches” you will see that many people believe they have a monopoly on identifying “real” witches, and that every single person seems equally open to the charge that they are not “real” witches.

In the absence of any consensus on what constitutes a real witch I can only continue to use the method I have adopted thus far: if a figure has the traditional accoutrements of a witch (esp. a broom or a pointy hat) or is described as a “witch” (in any language) then the only question remaining for me is whether they can be considered a positive image in aesthetic terms. Are they not-hags: pretty, young etc? I obviously considered this question before buying the first of these cards, and I would not have bought the rest of them, and spent so much time looking for them, if I was not satisfied that Isoline was a “witch.”

So, having settled the first question—at least to my satisfaction—let us consider the second. Well, can I say open your eyes ladies and gentlemen because this is one saucy sorcière: look at that amazing waist! And the dress, and feather boa, the perfect “do” and the jewels: Isoline is one successful sorcière too!

As you can see, in these later cards, Isoline explains that “Partout où je pénètrerai, j’y apporterai le Bonheur et la Prosperite” [Everywhere where I go, I bring Happiness and Prosperity]. I am sure she did.

She also explains that “Pour recevoir votre horoscope graphologique, écrire à Isoline …” [to receive your graphological horoscope, write to Isoline…] and that she can tell you all about your “Destinée; Consils sur Héritages, Procès, Successions, Mariages, etc.” [destiny; Inheritance, Lawsuits, Successions, Marriages, etc].

As you can see, these last two cards are very similar to the previous two, but that in each image she seems to be getting a little bit older. I have seen a few cards in which Isoline is a little older again, but haven’t managed to get a hold of any.

How long she was at 42B on the Avenue de Suffren in Paris is not clear, but it must have been at least a decade. The postcards themselves are rarely postmarked (i.e. date-stamped). The few that are are dated 1905 and 1906, so I would guess she was there from about 1900 to the outbreak of WWI. But afterwards? Well I hope she led a “charmed life”!

BTW Jill Preston, you are a genius! If “Isoline” is a french opera of ca. 1888, featuring magical elements and curses, then “Isoline” would have been a perfect stage name for our sorcière. And, of course, the thing about a stage name—like a magical name—is that it hides your mundane identity. Drop it, and you vanish…

6 Responses to “More on la Sorcière Isoline, ca. 1910”

  1. Lightdragon Says:

    First I forgot that la sorcière in French meant witch. As sorceress in french is also sorcière. And i consider a sorceress different from a witch.

    Now from the play itself, I was able to get a synopisis of the play. bottom line Isoline and her lover Isolin were lovers that switched sexes by the magics of Oberon and Titania. So here is a possiblity that “Isoline” is actually a man in woman’s disguise. But since I could find no information on this person and this is the first time i heard of it. And this person rings drag queen to me. dunno why.

    And as far as her being like Maddalena, highly unlikely. The Strega (Itialian witches)at that time mainly staying in Italy or the USA and they maintained low key except for doing occasional tarot readings, or spell uses. The witches from England would never have come out as at that time there were laws against it. one of the reasons why Gerald Gardner came out in 1951 when the laws were changed.

    Marina Baker i know little about. Fiona Horne is a real witch and i know a lot of purists that will say so. However her level is on the lower levels but is still a witch. One thing about real witches is this: ask three witches a question and you will get four different answers.

    anyhow thanks for clarifying that up and whatever it’s worth this person could be classified as a”witch” for this blog.

  2. I’m putting together a list of links to blogs participating in this year’s Halloween Countdown, and wanted to know if you’d like to be included. Please let me know as soon as possible. Thanks.

  3. I thought immediately that this was a man in women’s clothing. I think it is a combination of the over-the-top dresses and the individual’s face, which is very mannish, especially in the second and fourth postcards.

    Cool blog!

  4. There have been and still are lot’s of people who are witches that do not fit the stereotype. Maybe she was, who knows? It doesn’t matter anymore. It is all just fun and games.

    We are taking ourselves far too seriously when we start judging people by dates and silly rules.

  5. I don’t consider it an insult or anything if Isoline was born a man. I consider if that was the case, then he was brave and went and lived the way he wanted to and for that should be admired. That said, I do believe that without pointing things like this out, it is all too easy for many to find “evidence” for their beliefs that the world is divided up very strictly into halves like male/female, black/white divisions, etc., i.e., stereotypes.

  6. Epic fail! Women from the early days of photgraphy (paintings are another story) often look like men because… male and female faces aren’t that different! Today we’re used to photos of women with an ammount of make up which was frowned upon then. Think of the saying: “Whores use rouge, ladies pinch their cheeks!”

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