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On 30 October 1987 GUIDEPOST published “Witches” to commemorate what
in Spain is the Eve of All Saints Day. We’re reprinting it here to wish
you all the “witchiest” of Halloween! May all the
Black Magic Sorcerers descend upon you.
And may they all turn into good Fairy
Godmothers at the stroke
of midnight !
SPANISH WITCHES,THE MEADOW OF THE GOAT
By D.G. MacDonald Allen
“The poor devil whom everyone scorns is sometimes very useful”, wrote Goya in 1799, to describe his sketch of a witch and her feline familiar riding on a crippled devil. Well, Satan has never had a good press but with the variety of disguises open to His Satanic majesty, it is a matter of some wonder that he should choose to appear as a goat.
Not only appearing as a goat but as a goat-god. We have Baphomet, the goat-idol of the Templars and the deity of the sorcerars’ Sabbath. The goat-idol has female breasts, its sole human characteristics, signifying maternity and toil. The goat has also been described as the “emblem of sinful men on the Day of the Judgement”.
Spain has always enjoyed a special role in the history of magic and witchcraft, becoming, in the Middle Ages, a haven for sorcerers. This was probably as a result of the notoriety given to the discovery of Moorish alchemists. The heights of occultism among the Arab race was reached when the Moors [held sway] in the Spanish peninsula, employing astrology and other arts in their search for the Philosphers’ Stone and elixir vitae. Geber, whose true name was Abou Moussah Djafar, to which was added Al Sofi, or “the Wise”, wrote over 500 works on these themes and his Summa Perfectionis, an alchemical manual, has been often translated. There is a copy in the British Museum.
The tenets of Islam were held in lighter esteem in Arab Spain than in their original home, and the Moors followed the teachings of the Chaldeans without fear of reproof. The Inquisition, which took root quickly, reaped a rich harvest among the Jews, Moriscos and superstitious Christians. Alfonso de Spina, a Franciscan of Castille, in 1458 0r 1460 – when the Inquisition was not yet established – wrote a work directed against heretics and unbelievers, and his book contained denunciations of Xurgine (Jurgina) or bruxe. He recounts how in his time these brujas abounded in Dauphiny and Gascony, assembling in wild table land, worshipping Satan and carrying candles. Satan obligingly appeared in the form of a wild boar standing on the rock. Elborch de Biterne, and many of the worshippers, were taken by the Inquisition at Touluse and burned. From this time we find frequent references to the changes of witchcraft and sorcery in Spanish records too.
It was in Calahorra that the first auto-de-fé against sorcery appears to have been held, when, in 1507, thirty women were charged and burned. In 1527, a great number of women were charged in Navarre and two children, girls eleven and nine, confessed before the Royal council that they had been received into the sect of jurginas and promised, on the condition of being pardoned, to reveal the identities of all the women involved. From this time the attention of the Inquisition was thus drawn to the subject of sorcery, particularly in the superstitious Basque Provinces. Charles V, believing that education was the antidote, despatched preachers to instruct the unlettered peasantry. . . On the 20th July, 1592, Pope Adrian issued a bull against the crime of sorcery, placing it within the compass of the Inquisitors. As a result of this edict, the hounding of witches and sorcerers resurged with vigour.
During the next century, there were a number of cases, none more remarkable than the auto-de-fé at Logroño in November of 1610. . . at the foot of the Pyrennées on the French frontier. . . The whole village was described as sorceres, holding their Sabbaths at Zugarramundi . . . They held their conventions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. . . They danced, sang, ate, committed orgies, and met with Satan.
[But] the Spanish theologians. . . appeared to have been far more enlightened than their bretheren in other Western countries, believing that witchcraft was generally a delusion and that the confessions extracted were the result of imagination. Such beliefs were to be punished as a heresy, thus contrary to the doctrines of the Church. [The] ecclesiastic Pedro de Valentia. . . . address[ing] the Grand Inquisitor at Logroño in 1610, [said], he believe[d] that the confessions were made by ignorant people [who] . . . use[d] ointments and lotions. . . some of which produced dreams and fevered imaginings.
This generous view was not reflected by Pierre de Lancre in his Tableau of 1612, when he sought to convert “the vary many who deny the principles of witchcraft, believing it is nothing but a delusion, a dream, a self-deception”. As an Investigator in the Basque speaking Pays de Labourd, Béarn, southwest of Guinne, adjoining the Spanish frontier, de Lancre admitted that “questioning about what a suspect has done is merely a trap to trap him into confessing” and, being appointed by the King, few dared to challenge him. He excelled at extracting from young nubile girls minute details of their sexual congress with the Devil. Finally, after he had burned three priests, the Bishop of Bayonne, Bertrand d’Echaux, rescued five other clerics from jail and declared himself opposed to the witch-hunt. The Basque witches were out of business, even though de Lancre complained that a black mass had been celebrated in his bedroom.
In Spain. . . the full fury of the Inquisition [was] reserved for the sorcerers. [Yet] the Spanish Inquisition was independent of Rome and was nationalist in its character, enjoying greater authority than the commissions in France and Germany. It was perhaps as a result of mingling of cultures: . . . the Christians had stolen the pagan traditions of the Roman era; the Visigoths were superstitious; the Moors [were possessed of the] powers of divination and astrology; the Spanish Jews [dealt with] occult traditions. Even the universities offered courses in astrology and necromancy.
The bull of Pope Sixtus V, 1585 condemned all divinations, including astrology, incantations, control of demons, and all sorceries, magic and superstitions. The Suprema held back the circulation of this bull until the beginning of the [next] century but, three years previously, had attacked the University of Salamanca for teaching astrology. The subject was placed in the Index of Forbidden Books, the use of astrology in divination being thought heretical. As late as 1796 the Spanish Inquisition charged a lay brother with computing the position of planets and, in October, 1818, the Seville tribunal sentenced Ana Barbero, to 200 lashes and six years’ exile for superstition, blasphemy, and a pact with the Devil. . .
I wonder what the Inquisition would make of the advertisements appearing in TP, one of the national TV guides, with its horoscopes and free astrological readings. Why, there is [even] an advertisement for a Voodoo doll, nicely marked so that you know where to plunge the pin into your enemies.
And, doubtless, . . .there are [still] those who continue the age-old pagan obeisances in some mountain eyrie.
Featured image by Hans Splinter, CC BY-ND2.0
Cave by Jsanchezes. User: Porao via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA3.0
Baphomet by Eliphas Levi, 1856, PD
University of Salamanca by Portengaround via Flickr, CC BY-SA2.0
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.