at the wellness fair, health rhymes with magic

A stand of healing stones, at the organic well-being and therapy fair, in Villefranche-sur-Saône (Rhône), which was held from September 16 to 18, 2022.

A visitor seems to abandon herself to her healer vis-à-vis: her hands in his, her eyes deeply closed, she lets herself be guided towards who knows what inner truth, while with a distracted eye, he watches the going. back and forth of the barges. A woman in full introspection, an exhibitor in full prospection: the scene offers a good summary of the organic well-being and therapies fair, which was held from September 16 to 18, in Villefranche-sur-Saône (Rhône), near Lyons.

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Vendors of original purifying water, masters of reiki (a Japanese energy art), herbalist-gatherers, hypnotherapists, a hemp stand, a Burgundian shaman, magical artisanal bracelets and even a 900-euro “vitality omnicooker” the first prize, payable in twenty instalments: you can find everything, apart from scientific medicine, in the Caladois exhibition centre. "Since 2018-2019 there has been a wave of resurgence of marginal beliefs, a wave that has been amplified by the confinements and the current anxiety-provoking context", explains Romy Sauvayre, sociologist of beliefs at the CNRS. “The clientele is changing, it has become much younger. We see a lot of new faces”confirms Patrice Marty, organizer of the show.

As soon as you cross the entrance, the roar of the commercial activity zone vanishes into the smells of incense and Buddhist cantatas, amid the decorations made of animal skins and large posters. new-age. The stalls of healing stones – lithotherapy, its pseudo-scholarly name – are the most popular with some 4,500 visitors, especially women. Amber agate, blue kyanite, tourmaline… Each has its reassuring promises, such as purifying the body, expressing the unspoken or even reducing stress. On the wall, a recurring poster: “The consumer does not benefit from a right of withdrawal for any purchase made on this stand. »

Pseudo-medicines but real pick-me-ups

Claudine, a pre-retiree, has just acquired a necklace. “I have to have carpal tunnel surgery, and as soon as I held it in my hand, I felt better. The saleswoman told me that I did not need an operation”, she says, amazed. Like many of the alternative medicines present in Villefranche, lithotherapy has no medically recognized efficacy, but self-persuasion has its powers that science ignores.

In the aisles, everyone defends the interest of alternative medicine. “In Switzerland, for example, everyone goes to see hypnotists”, assures Sandra, a childminder met in front of a reading stand of her cosmic “aura”. At the wellness fair, we come to find what traditional medicine does not offer. A natural alternative to drugs, first. "By dint of taking it, it no longer has an effect"sighs Laura, a sales assistant who suffers from anxiety.

A reassuring speech, too. On a kakemono, promises of inner peace: “anchoring - centering - letting go. Immediate benefits ». “It really does us good. We see the world less negatively, we have more optimism.shines Julie, a trained hairdresser who works at the factory.

Finally, visitors are looking for meaning. “Traditional medicine only takes the body into account. Alternative medicine makes it possible to apprehend the disease as a whole, with its message”, believes Virginie, a specialized educator versed in both lithotherapy and mediumship.


When science is summoned, it is to quote the controversial Christian Perronne, to denounce the financial interests of the drug industry, or to joke about a fraudulent article published in the prestigious scientific journal Lancetin May 2020.

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Antivax whispers are commonplace. "The vaccinated, we must help them", believes Jean-Paul Lafrancesca, magnetizer-bonesetter-dowser (he heals with a pendulum). In his "office", he claims to see lots of shingles in "injected". Conspiracy often exceeds homeopathic doses. At the entrance to the show, Pierre, an entrepreneur converted into esotericism, offers an introduction to "matrix shamanism", consisting, for 180 euros for three days, of “breaking out of the matrix of the coronacircus, created from scratch by the Deep State”.

Rationality sometimes completely disappears under esotericism new-age. "The vaccine is crap, the psychics told me so", gets carried away Joëlle, another childminder. She only consults clairvoyants “in direct contact with the Source” – sort of channel of divine truth.

Reconversions and drifts

For some, this spirituality has become a path to professional retraining. Claudine discovered her fire cutter gift three years ago. At first, she didn't charge him. “But since then I got a message from beyond telling me it couldn't be free. It's still a gift from the universe. » Reflecting this demand, many stands offer training, often express, in geomancy, hypnosis or even shamanism. “We are in an unregulated trade, with dangers of which visitors are unaware”deplores Pascale Duval, spokesperson for the National Union of Associations for the Defense of Families and Individual Victims of Sects.

No one is unaware of the presence of charlatans, but all swear to know how to detect them thanks to their intuition. There are, moreover, more skeptical visitors, like Magalie, a teacher, who accompanies her friend Virginie. “I am interested in stones, I do yoga, but it remains down to earth, does she understate. Stuff like “twin flames” [sorte d’âme sœur astrale], it seems unreal, it makes me smile. » At his side, Virginie, with a strained smile: " I believe it ". The coexistence of these beliefs is not trivial. “Each of these proposals is a call for tenders, alert Pascale Duval. It is a first step towards the irrational, with, at the very top, the risk of falling into sectarian aberration. »

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