Night of the Witches

Halloween is not a traditional celebration in my country, but recently it has become very popular for young people and children. The night of 31st of October is now very usual to hear children knocking on the doors and saying “trick or treat” (truco o trato in Spanish). Many of them are dressed as witches. So this time I would like to talk about some real Andalusian witches.

The Spanish Inquisition was pretty indulgent with witches along its history, except for some important events in the Basque Country and Catalonia. Here in Andalusia we can find about 300 inquisitorial processes during all the centuries the Inquisition lasted. These women were normally widows, raped, prostitutes or slaves and it was said that the Devil seduced them with the promise they will never beg for charity again. For the inquisitors, witchcraft and magic was just a symptom of ignorance so witches deserved pity more than punishments. In this blog, for example, I have talked about witches from Soportujar.

A well-known witch is Camacha, from Montilla (Cordoba). In 1572 she was convicted to receive 200 lashings and to pay a high fine because of making a deal with the Devil and because of “joining and dividing hearts”. It seems she was a celebrity among witches.

The witch Cañizares talks about Camacha in a novel written by Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quijote. She says that Camacha was the most famous wizard in the world. She froze clouds to cover the sun, she made men come here from faraway lands, and she annulled marriages and married women when she wanted. On December her garden was full of roses and on January she cut the wheat. She transformed men into animals and it is said that she transformed a priest into a donkey.

Cañizares also tells about that she is the best at cooking poison and making unguent. “When we smear these potions on our bodies we can be roosters or crows and we fly to the place where our master and owner waits for us”.


The fly of the witch (Goya)

Cervantes was in Montilla around 1592 and he describes Cañizares as a very thin woman with broken teeth and disheveled hair. He also says she hides her look under an appearance of a devote woman. She takes care of poor people, and sometimes she steals from them. But many people think she is a saint.

In Seville it was not difficult to come across witches. They celebrated their witches’ Sabbath in the mountain Trago de Foncebadón (Leon), and after dancing with the Devil they flew on their broomsticks to Seville. The spell was “Over rivers, over bushes, over hills, with all the demons”, and the weeds used were jimson and mandrake.

In general, witches were just women who were not married and they had to survive with the knowledge they had about plants, weeds or medicine. They were healers who could practice abortions or relieve menstrual cramps. They could help women who were not virgins and they were getting married very soon. To fake virginity witches soaked cotton on dove blood and inserted them in the vagina. In conclusion, as Lisa Simpson says…


4 thoughts on “Night of the Witches

  1. What a wonderfully informative post! I think the term “witch” has probably been applied over the centuries to a lot of women whose only fault was to not conform to societal conventions (by not marrying, for example, or by taking an interest in herbs). I’m glad that at least the days of persecuting such women — or even killing them — are finally over. ¡Saludos y felíz Halloween!

    Liked by 1 person

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