Henriette Couedon

It is April 1896.  The weather is bright and sunny outside.  On the fourth floor of 40 rue de Paradis, Monsieur and Madame Couedon, who usually live a quiet life with their twenty-four year old daughter Henriette, have suddenly started receiving twenty to thirty people each day.  Henriette Couedon, a tall, dark-haired young lady with gentle eyes, is the medium through whom the Archangel Gabriel answers questions addressed to her.

[The Archangel Gabriel, unlike the other Archangels whose names we know, is considered to be oriented toward the feminine polarity, in the energetic sense.  Angels do not have reproductive sexes but, like everything else which exists, they have more positive (masculine) energy or negative (feminine) energy, according to the individual.  Gabriel is seen in all religions, except, curiously, christianism, as female.  So I shall refer to her as such.]

The number of daily visits gradually grows to one hundred.  The whole of Paris is talking about the clairvoyant of the Rue de Paradis.  Every day, she enters into ecstasy and prophetises.  She announces political events, railway catastrophes, the evolution of a case of smallpox or the birth of twins.  Henriette does not take payment for her work.  She considers that she has been chosen by Heaven and is accomplishing a mission.

Finally, journalists come to interview Henriette Couedon.  She explains to them in a joyful voice that she has been chosen by God to warn her contemporaries about the great events to come, and that she is inspired by Archangel Gabriel.

“When the Archangel speaks by my mouth, I hear nothing.  I don’t even hear the questions that she is asked and answers.  I am an instrument, nothing more.  At that moment, my personality disappears.  It is through my mother, and other witnesses, that I am informed of the diverse prophecies spoken through me, a lot of which have already come true.”

After these articles are printed, the Parisians literally rush to 40 rue de Paradis.  They squeeze into the minuscule entry to the Couedon’s residence;  they are on the landing, on the stairs, and overflow onto the footpath.  Small groups of them are introduced into a modest salon whose furniture has dust-covers and is decorated with a few statuettes and pious images.  They wait in silence, as if they are in church.  Some kneel on the rug.  Then, the young clairvoyant appears, smiling;  she greets the company with a few kind words and explains how things will happen:

“If you have questions to ask, address them to the Angel, not to me.  It is she who will answer you.  Do not be surprised if she uses [the familiar] “tu”. She doesn’t use “vous.  But you, out of respect, must not say “tu”…” 

[In French, the familiar second person singular is still used.  In English, it corresponds to “thee” and “thou”, etc. which has died out of everyday English, except in some country places in Great Britain, in certain religious communities in the United States, and of course, in church, where we still use rather elderly texts which include these words when we talk to God.  The French also use the familiar “tu” when talking to God, so Henriette’s recommendation seems a bit strange.]

After which, Mlle Couedon sits in an armchair and remains motionless.  Her hands grip the arms and, suddenly, her eyelids half-close, her irises disappear “as if her eyes turned to read inside herself”, as a witness puts it, and she speaks, or rather she chants rhythmed sentences of little, phonetically rhyming verses.  [I will translate without trying to make them rhyme]:

A cyclone will tremble,

It’s not far away.

Vesuvius will rise,

Then another nearby;

Volcanoes will explode,

I see some as if buried.

Then, after a short silence:

In a high house

Filled with rich people,

A little girl aged

Less than twelve

Will no longer have sore feet.

These sentences continue for a long time, in a monotonous voice.  When she has finished, the visitors ask questions and the Archangel Gabriel replies by the young girl’s mouth.  Sometimes, the Angel eliminates certain subjects.  For example, one day, a lady having asked if she will find her budgerigar, the Angel, very angry, declares that she will not answer such a frivolous question.

Soon, doctors, priests, scholars, politicians, and the famous Papus come to interrogate Mlle Couedon.  She announces to them the return of a king in France:

“He will be called Henri and will reign under the name of Henri V.”

All of the newspapers of course print this prediction and the whole country talks about it.  Then, we witness an extraordinary scene at 40 rue de Paradis:  Prince Henri d’Orleans, in person, comes to interrogate Henriette Couedon.  He mingles with the other visitors, waits an hour in the corridor, even opens the door to people who ring.  At last, he is received.  He wants to know if he is the one who will mount the French throne.  Gabriel, with angelic frankness replies “Not at all!” and the pretender to the throne leaves, with bowed head.

Two days later, it is a Naundorff, the brother of Henri de Bourbon, who presents himself at Mlle Couedon’s.  (The descendants of Naundorff took the name of Bourbon and created the branch known as “de la Survivance”.  They are pretenders to the French throne.)  He wants to know if his brother will be king.  The Angel replies:

I don’t see mounting

On the gilded throne

Your beloved brother;

The envied crown

Will not be his.

Naundorff goes away, very disappointed.

Then, France becomes passionately interested.  Edouard Drumont, Jules Claretie, Emile Zola get involved.  People want to know more about Mlle Couedon, and a journalist goes to visit a mysterious Mme O, clairvoyant herself, at whose home Mlle Couedon is supposed to have had her first ecstasy.  She says:

“Yes, it’s true, but you know that the Angel also speaks through my mouth every Wednesday.  Even better, Sir:  I see souls.  A person died the other day.  I knew, without leaving my home, the hour of his death – for I saw his soul pass…”

The reporter wants to know what a soul looks like.  He is told that it is like a little punch flame, flickering white and  blue…

This soul like a blue punch flame makes the journalists laugh.  Some think that Mlle Couedon, like Mme O., is crazy.

To be continued.