Domaine du Fan

I have just gotten back from a shamanic workshop at the Domaine du Fan in Haut-Vienne. Now, as things in these conservative times go, a shamanic workshop may seem kind of out there, but be not afraid. No drugs, at least not here, apologies to those of you who are seeking the ayahuasca experience at an affordable price. Instead you will find a lot of really nice adults with rattles, communing with nature and the spirits.

Shamanism has been around for eons but there is no question that the current iteration has a bit of a New Age vibe. I have yet to take a position on shamanism, except to say that it works for me. So you rattle or drum, or listen to a recording of someone drumming, at a specific tempo. This facilitates your slipping into a deep, meditative state, which in shamanism is called journeying. Scientists have studied the brain wave patterns of experienced shamanic practitioners and have found that they can within just a few minutes achieve a meditative state equal to that reached by experienced meditators — Zen monks and the like — after several hours. So you go into this with a predetermined question and you come out, I kid you not, with an answer. It happens fast, 15 minutes, tops. So there you go; it is also a lot faster than therapy.

So how does that work? Well you may ask. If you are journeying for yourself, it is easy to see this in psychological terms. Jungians would call it active imagination. Come to think of it, Jungian theory might already be kind of out there. Growing up in California kind of skews one’s frame of reference. Anyway, it is easy to attribute archetypal attributes to spirits you encounter and all. Where things get a little spooky is when you journey for others. You can get answers for them, too, ones that may not make sense to you but so far invariably have to the other person. No way can I explain that.

If this seems like your kind of thing, you might want to take a few classes. That’s what got me out to the wilds of Haut-Vienne this weekend. My first evening I was fortunate to have dinner with the woman who owns Domaine du Fan. She told a story similar to mine — she just fell in love with the place and had to make this happen — except that she has more buildings, bigger buildings and nearly 68 hectares of land. Well, plus she is in deep country, la France Profonde. She was accused of starting a cult, of being a witch, all sorts of things. Why she ever actually said she was doing a New Age thing is beyond me; I’d have said “wedding venue” and left it at that. She had to chase hunters off her property; if some poor soul were shot while hugging a tree, she’d be out of business immediately. It wasn’t easy, but it worked. The place is booked nearly every weekend.

This part of France has not been important for centuries. On the way home I found Gallo-Romanic ruins, as well as modern ones. Seriously, if you wanted to emulate Ruth Rendell, say, might you not choose the place below as the scene of your crime?

Of course if you are more like me — get the shot, shudder and move on — you might prefer oh, say, the place below. The Chateau of Bourg- Archimbault is privately owned and not open to the public. It was built in the 15th century, renovated once in the 19th and again in 2003. While the place above deserves a novel, the one below must have a real-life story that is absolutely fascinating. Whose money? Why choose this remote location? Inquiring minds…..

16 thoughts on “Domaine du Fan

  1. What a wonderful place to ‘go deep’. Have you encountered Stan Grof and his methods, where you use your breath to take you into another state. Very powerful – but not recommended for those with weak hearts.


    1. No, I haven’t explored Grof’s work at all. To judge by the little bit that I just saw on YouTube, it appears to take longer — 2 hours vs. maybe 30 minutes for an entire shamanic ritual. Also Grof is clearly using this for psychological development, while shamanic practice can have other goals. It looks interesting. Have you done it? I’m curious about what kinds of insights people bring back and how easily they put them to use.


      1. It’s rather trippy and you get a lot of insights into a variety of things – the way you place yourself in the world, how you feel about a relationship, that kind of thing. But you’re right, it does take time. Your shamanic work sounds great at 30mins. After a Grof session I was absolutely exhausted. Amazing what the body can do for the mind!


        1. I wonder whether they could be combined. The two groups have pretty similar objectives, after all. Christina Grof mentioned that they play music. What if they drummed instead? Could you do an effective Grof session in a shorter period of time? Would it improve the quality of a shamanic journey? Grof does refer often to shamanic trances. Or would it just be too weird?

          There must be someone in Paris or London who works with this stuff. I’ll have to look into it. Thank you.


  2. I imagine the place is quite popular because although it is reasonably profonde, Haute Vienne does have a lot of Brits and Dutch living in it at least in the Maison Secondaire sense. I’m with you though – I’d have called it a wedding venue. Quite a lady though. Good story. Shamanism? If it works for you, go for it. I’m happy to experiment but with my tendency to reclusive hermitism I balk at the idea of a workshop for anything at all. However, Jung has been my go-to since my teens and I do have heavy Buddhist overlays to my crackpot belief system. I have a friend in the Corrèze (next door to Haute Vienne) who would surely be interested – I’ll ping your post her way 🙂


    1. No, everybody else was French. Poor me: after thinking sure, I can handle a weekend in French, I was utterly dependent on the bilingual people in the class to get me through. It turned out the explanations required everything I still don’t get: reflexive verbs and all those ways that the French language doubles back on itself, slides in a letter that elides into inaudibility, the whole deal. It was humbling, I tell you, humbling.

      I’m to the point that I hate the workshops too, in any language. I’ll do one more in London next month. Then I think It’s going to be just me and the spirits. I like the people I meet but really, you meet them and move on. It’s too bad. My translator/saviors were two fascinating women but one lives in Toulouse and the other in Lyon. If they don’t subscribe to the blog I’ll probably never hear from them again.

      So, another Jung go-to with heavy Buddhist overtones. I got into this because I got tired of being a « patient » and couldn’t really figure out what to do for personal development. My analyst was learning shamanism with his daughter and my shaman had fled the politics of the local Jung Institute. So in a way I was joining the crowd.

      If your friend’s French is really excellent, she could do worse than to take a class with Laurent Huguelit. He and his wife do these together. It looks as though they do one every couple of weeks and the topics include an intro class. The space is barebones but clean and warm. The food is good, which it rarely is in these places. The prices are as low as you will find. The stories are excellent; have your friend ask about the time the hunters arrived at the door of this nice vegetarian lady’s door with an apology and a peace offering, leg of sanglier. Fortunately she had the good humor to laugh.

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      1. No. That friend has deplorable French – this is the problem with living in areas that heavy ex-pat bias. She’s a lovely soul but the language thing lights me up with fury …. to live in the French countryside you have to make the effort – but that is the issue with living in areas with a heavy ex-pat bias. In the Cantal it was sink or swim – I sank mostly but I was forced to improve and I am glad for it. Being in Grenoble has gotten me much further again – lots of different accents and much more opportunity outside conversing with the baker and the postman 😉. If one of the ladies is from Lyon you could make a real trip of it and see her and me (I’m less than an hour south of Lyon in Grenoble) …. I think you and I have much in common in terms of belief systems, philosophy, psychology etc etc. I always say the only good thing I got from my ex-husband was Buddhism and an incredible (now long deceased) artist called Catherine Yarrow who in turn nurtured my Jungian journey for a while. We all have different journeys – mine does not include workshops and suchlike but there was a time … there was. Enjoy London and visit Spencer House on a Sunday – it’s a hidden jewel … the only privately owned palace in London – I used to work there 🙂 PS: I do have a French friend who would adore the Laurent Huguelit experience and I think she is at a point in her life when she would benefit. My English friend took note of your post and was most complementary. She should be blogging. I keep telling her this – is renovating an interesting property in Uzerche and running flats via AirBnB (doesn’t the world and his dog do that? Sauf moi 😉) and is an all around lovely gal.


        1. Well, she has a few issues. One is that she probably does not have a good source for French lessons. Talking to the butcher and baker are fine but you need an actual course of study. Duolingo doesn’t go very far. Another is that she probably deals with a lot of people who are used to fractured French, speak a fair amount of English, etc. I have stopped formal French lessons but I got to a reasonable intermediate level first. Now Julien deals with my French enough, only lapsing briefly into English when I get too far from comprehensible and MM does actual corrections, bless his heart — I don’t make it easy. English is so pervasive. I agree you but I well understand her situation.

          Spencer House sounds great. I have a couple of free days. I’ll try to get there.

          As for Lyon, yikes, I can’t commit to anything right now. I’m booked through the end of the year. Send me an email. We’ll see what we can work out.


          1. Spencer House is only open on Sundays (the garden only one day a year). You are right about my friend but you do have to knuckle down and commit. I am studying for my DELF now and will then work towards DALF because I’m motivated by tangible challenge. I have suggested she find a French tandem learner in her community and that they meet X times a week and speak half the time in French half in English … it’s a good method and one which I can recommend from my time in Italy. If conversation is the goal then really it is one of the best ways. Speaking a language is daunting and having a fluent or native speaker at your side is double edged (My husband is near enough fluent and I have to stop him speaking for me when we are together though correcting is good… fine line!) I was tongue in cheek about Lyon but I will mail you 🙂

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  3. If rattling does it for you…good for you.

    I used to do the Tarot when in my twenties…and then felt that there was someone in there with me, someone not at all desirable, so stopped it.

    I know what standards I should be meeting…I know when I have fallen short. Apart from that I am incurious.

    The owner of the place seems to have fixed on a good source of much needed income – as anyone into restoration in France must be aware. Is she herself into rattling?

    Your conversation with Osyth on language skills interested me.
    Before moving to France I had had to come to terms with the law of the Common Market, as it then was, when the U.K. signed up to the infernal thing. I had ‘done’ French at school, but needed to study French admin law, on which common market law was broadly based. I could not find any help, so, like the little red hen, I did it myself.
    Fine…but not much help when I moved to France.
    A…all my neighbours spoke patois
    B…my French was that of the written word…and legal at that.

    I was lucky enough to be introduced to two ladies who remedied my lack in fine fashion. One was principal of a kindergarten…with a fine background in the language…the other had owned a bookshop on the left bank so had a wonderful grounding in literature.
    Between them they had me up and running in no time.

    And how did I meet these ladies?
    By going to the public library in the nearest town and asking what I could read to develop my French and acquire some knowledge of its literature. As always, librarians know everyone and everything…so Osyth’s friend could do worse than go to her local library and throw herself fon the mercy of its boss.

    With a bit of luck she will find that not only the language becomes open to her…but also the society of her new French friends.

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    1. I think the owner of Domaine du Fan must be into something rattle-related. The guy who taught our class has booked about half her weekends. This suggests to me that the purchase was not quite the leap of faith that it may appear to be. If she’s his mom or a former student or something, they may have made a deal of some sort. She is an impressively canny old bird and doesn’t seem at all the « follow your bliss » type. Just listening to her, I had the feeling that when she applied for her permit, she had some definite expectation. That would explain why she spilled the beans, telling them what she really had in mind, rather than calling it something anodyne like a wedding venue.

      The local librarian is a great idea. Our local library is heavily geared towards kids. It wouldn’t surprise me if the librarian herself, just from boredom, didn’t offer half an hour here and there — the better to pick up some good gossip. The locals are happy with what I have done with the house and happy that the other half is both French and tactful enough to stress his almost-local origins, « Parisian » being a dirty word in these parts. It’s pretty clear that they’d like to know more. I understand about 90% of what I hear and can respond well enough that my handyman and I do everything in French. However, I can certainly stand to do better and I often find that the devil is in that last 10%.


  4. Parisian was a dirty word in our neck of the woods too…a Parisian judge who had a holiday home nearby told me it was because Parisians are too canny to be caught in the snares offered by the locals hopeful of making a penny or two out of them

    I think you are right about that last 10%…it can be vital!


    1. I haven’t had people running scams but of course Julien and MM run interference for me. Around here it’s more that Parisians are likely to be the renters from hell. For 100 euros a night, guess what, the place won’t be worthy of a Relais & Chateaux, but they don’t seem to understand that or care. We are all about to stop renting to Parisians. Life is too short.

      It’s not too short to get that last bit of fluency wired and it is getting too frustrating to be without it. I have been worried that having MM correct my French every two minutes would damage the relationship; maybe it’s time to get over it. I’ll check the hours at the library, too.

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