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«Sorcerers and folkhealers: africans and the Inquisition in Portugal (1680-1800)1 Introduction What emerges is a picture of Inquisition This study is ...»

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INQUISIÇÃO EM ÁFRICA

Sorcerers and folkhealers:

africans and the Inquisition

in Portugal (1680-1800)1

Introduction

What emerges is a picture

of Inquisition

This study is based on a survey of twenty-seven Por-

jurisprudence being used

to reinforce both

tuguese Inquisition processos (trials) concluded against

the institution of slavery

Luso-Africans in continental Portugal between 1690 and and the idea of the social superiority of whites over 1784. All were mágicos — persons accused of magical free blacks. Further, these crimes. Some were superstitious folk healers (curandei- cases reveal ros or saludadores) while others were alleged to have com- the vulnerability mitted different magical infractions. Together, these of free blacks who, twenty-seven individuals account for just 6.13 percent of without the protection of their white masters, the total number of persons (four-hundred forty) tried fell outside the established for magical crimes by the Portuguese Holy Office be- social parameters tween 1679 and 1802. These cases represent the only the institution of slavery Luso-Africans found to have been tried for magical had created for persons crimes in Portugal during this period. 2 Of the twenty- of African ancestry.

Deprived of a place or seven Luso-Africans in this data set, twelve were slaves allies in white society, free blacks typically This article is a modified version of ‘Free Blacks, Slaves and the 1 received far more severe Inquisition in Early Modern Portugal: race as a factor in magical crimes trials’, published in the Bulletin of the Society for Spanish and penalties than did their Portuguese Historical Studies, XXV, 2, 2000: 5-19.

enslaved counterparts.

Dr. Didier Lahon, of the Portuguese Instituto de Investigação 2 Científica Tropical (IICT) in Lisbon

–  –  –

and fifteen were free blacks (most of whom were manumitted slaves rather than freeborn blacks). Of the fifteen free blacks or manumitted slaves, nine were female and six were male. The sub-group of twelve slaves consisted of an equal number of males and females.

The purpose of this study is not to be broadly comparative with other parts of the Atlantic world. Rather, it seeks to contribute to the historiography of the African diaspora in the Atlantic world by shedding light on one area — the condition of blacks living in eighteenth-century continental Portugal — that heretofore has received relatively little attention.

Overwhelmingly, the victims of all Portuguese Inquisition trials for magical crimes, black or white were of the lowest social status. True, some were relatively skilled laborers, but these were still mechanicals of very low social station who did piecework or collected wages; many were actually journeymen who hired themselves out by the day. Far more numerous were the general laborers, tenant farmers, itinerant beggars, free blacks and slaves whose cases (or those of their dependents) filled Inquisition court dockets.3 Of particular interest is this dynamic: while pursuing a genre of criminalized activity in which the overwhelming majority of perpetrators wer4e poor whites, the Portuguese Inquisition treated convicted slaves with the greatest leniency. Free blacks, meanwhile, received on average the most severe treatment when found guilty of the same type of transgressions.

In her study of prosecution patterns of the Portuguese Inquisition during the first half of the eighteenth century, Maria Luísa Braga observed that she encountered a larger percentage of slaves, freed slaves, Africans, and mulattos as defendants in cases for crimes involving magic than in trials for any other type of crime.4 Statistically, social outsiders — blacks, mulattos, and foreigners among them — stood a greater chance of being accused of witchcraft or other magical offenses. Approximately fiftytwo percent of those charged with magical crimes in late seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury Portugal can be classified as outsiders — persons marginal to their communities; nearly twelve percent of those were of African origin. Further, she noted that penalties in these cases tended to be heavier, but there her analysis stopped. The research conducted for this study confirms and expands on her findings.5

–  –  –

In 1754, Inês de Carmo was a recently-freed slave from Tavira, a fishing town and trading port on the southern coast of Portugal. She had gained her freedom when her Walker, Timothy D. ‘Doctors, Folk Medicine and the Inquisition: The Persecution of Popular Healers in Portugal during the Enlightenment Era’, unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, Boston University College of Arts and Sciences, Boston, 2000; see tables in Ch. VIII which detail the occupations of healers and nonhealers persecuted for magical crimes in Portugal.

Maria Luísa Braga, A Inquisição em Portugal; primeira metade do séc. XVIII: O Inquisidor Geral D. Nuno 4 da Cunha de Athayde e Mello (Lisbon: Instituto Nacional de Investigação Científica, 1992): 177; 200--207. Braga organized the Inquisition trials she examined into eight different criminal catagories; they are, in order of the frequency of their incidence: Sorcery, Bigamy, Blasphemy, Acts against the Functioning of the Holy Office, Perjury, Heresy, Visionary Prophesying and Sodomy.





Walker, ‘Doctors, Folk Medicine and the Inquisition...’ Ch. VIII: 40-46.

5

84 REVISTA LUSÓFONA DE CIÊNCIA DAS RELIGIÕES

SORCERERS AND FOLKHEALERS

owner, an Anglo-Portuguese sea captain named John Pires, died; the terms of his will provided for her manumission.6 Inês de Carmo was an illegitimate child but, because her mother had been a slave to the same master, Inês was probably the daughter of her owner. At the time of her arrest, she was forty-eight years old and married to a local mariner. Among her neighbors she was known as a Palita («the Toothpick») or a Viva («the Lively»).

Although the Portuguese Inquisition first arrested her in 1754, the earliest set of denunciations against Inês de Carmo had been collected in 1738. Over a period of fifteen years, the Évora tribunal of the Holy Office had collected testimony about her activities as a curandeira, or magical folk healer, from dozens of residents of Faro and Tavira. Among other things, Inês de Carmo was accused of pronouncing superstitious incantations; these she had employed in the curing of a neighbor’s child.7 Predictably, some denunciations had come from state-licensed medical professionals.8 João de Deos, a sangrador (phlebotomist) and barbeiro (barber) of Faro, gave evidence against Inês de Carmo in June, 1753. He was followed by João Baptista Marçal, licensed in the same professions but practicing in Tavira. That year the Inquisitorial commissioners interviewed twenty-eight people over nearly two months (30 May to 25 July, 1753), building a solid case against the accused folk healer.9 In late April of 1755, after sixteen months in the Holy Office prisons, Inês de Carmo learned that the Évora inquisitors had found her guilty of committing magical crimes. For a first-time offender, Inês de Carmo received a surprisingly severe sentence.

Besides being whipped through the public streets of Évora, she was banished for four years to Viseu, a cold, isolated mountain town nearly five hundred kilometers to the north of her home, and was forbidden to ever again enter Tavira or its environs.10 What accounts for this?

The death of Captain John Pires, Inês de Carmo’s master, had left her suddenly vulnerable. While the Holy Office had obviously been reluctant to prosecute and banish her while Pires was alive, hence denying an owner of a valuable slave, once he had died the inquisitors no longer felt any deterrent. With no master (who was also most likely her father) to protect her, Inês de Carmo’s position in her community, already weakened by years of accusations, became untenable. To both public and Holy Office authorities,

Versions of this paper were first presented at the following conferences: ‘Enslaving Connections:

6 Africa and Brazil During the Era of the Slave Trade’ (York University, Toronto, Canada; 12-15 October 2000), and ‘From Slavery to Freedom: ‘Manumissions in the Atlantic World’ (College of Charleston; 4-7 October 2000). The author is grateful to the Instituto Camões, the Fundação Luso-Americano para Desenvolvimento and the William J. Fulbright program for grants which funded my research.

Inquisition Tribunal of Évora: Processo no. 5940: 63(v)-65(v), Inquisitors’ final acordão (summary) 7 of the trial. Apparently, de Carmo attributed the youngster’s illness figuratively to invisible jumping fleas.

Given that illnesses at this time were frequently blamed on an invasion of foreign entities — either spiritual or physical, representing either a real or imagined type of creature — that Inês de Carmo would have singled out fleas to blame should not be considered unusual. See Maria Benedita Araújo, Magia, Demónio e Forca Mágica na Tradição Portuguesa (Séculos XVII e XVIII) (Lisbon: Edições Cosmos, 1994): 17-30. See also Francisco Bethencourt, O imagario da Magia: feiticeiras, saludadores e nigromantes no seculo XVI (Lisbon: Universidade Nova, 1987): 55-63.

Inquisition denunciations of superstitious illicit folk healers by licensed medical professionals were 9 quite common in eighteenth-century Portugal. See Timothy Walker, ‘Doctors, Folk Medicine and the Inquisition…’; Ch. I and VI.

Inquisition Tribunal of Évora: Processo no. 5940.

9 Ibid. Also, Atlas de Portugal, Selecções do Reader’s Digest com Cartas do Instituto Geográfico e 10 Cadastral, Lisbon, 1988: 16-17.

–  –  –

a newly-freed, master-less ex-slave constituted a different matter entirely from an enslaved, supervised laborer. Inês de Carmo, once freed, had become a greater threat.

However, because she lacked a patron, she represented a more manageable menace.

The curandeira Inês de Carmo, after being released from her bonds of servitude, presented a three-fold affront to the established social order. First, her presence in the community was a daily reminder to local enslaved blacks of the arbitrary nature of their condition. Second, her continued residence in Tavira constantly called to mind the precedent — inconvenient and certainly unpopular among whites — that John Pires had set by freeing her. Third, of course, she placed herself in jeopardy by conducting superstitious cures, a practice with which local state-licensed healers and the Holy Office would not abide. In 1754, therefore, local residents, medical professionals and Inquisition authorities combined to act decisively against Inês de Carmo, shackling her anew with the stigma of an Inquisition condemnation — and a sentence which guaranteed that she would cause their community no further trouble.

Inquisition records describe Cristovão Silva Marreiros as an homem pardo (a black or mulatto man); he was almost certainly either a free black or manumitted ex-slave.11 He lived in the Algarve, a region of southern Portugal which, at the time of his arrest in the late eighteenth century, had a substantial population — approaching ten percent in some areas, both slave and free — that was of African descent. 12 Such demographic circumstances were a cause of tension within the established social hierarchy in the Algarve, as well as in other parts of Portugal, because of the seeming paradox that free blacks and mulattos existed alongside those who remained enslaved. The series of Inquisition trials against Luso-Africans considered for this study offers one window into this world and allows for an assessment of the discomfort whites felt at the social contradiction they had created through legalized manumission. These cases also highlight the role of the Holy Office in addressing magical crimes perpetrated by non-whites.

What emerges is a picture of Inquisition jurisprudence being used to reinforce both the institution of slavery and the idea of the social superiority of whites over free blacks.

Further, these cases reveal the vulnerability of free blacks who, without the protection of their white masters, fell outside the established social parameters the institution of slavery had created for persons of African ancestry. Deprived of a place or allies in white society, free blacks typically received far more severe penalties than did their enslaved counterparts. Slaves, the evidence suggests, were too valuable to be banished or sent into exile. (Moreover, banishing a slave would have created other social problems. How, for example, would the Inquisition accommodate a slave who had been sent away from her or his master? For that matter, would a master have to be compensated for the loss of a slave? Or, conversely, could the master be held responsible for a slave’s behavior? No Holy Office policies outlined in the institution’s by-laws address these issues.) Cristovão Silva Marreiros’ case provides an example of the dynamic that kept free blacks in a state of oppression and enslaved Luso-Africans free, for the most part, of heavy penalties under Holy Office jurisdiction.

Folk healer Cristovão Silva Marreiros had been born in Lagos, but he lived in Figueiras, near the village of Monchique. Both communities are in the Algarve, but the

–  –  –

former is a coastal port while the latter is situated in a low chain of mountains, about twenty-five kilometers inland.13 He was married to a woman named Ana whose race and last name, like her husband’s age, are unknown. He was unemployed (sem ofício), but did earn some money to live on by performing cures among the local peasant population.14 The earliest denunciations of Cristovão Silva Marreiros came by letter. They were lodged by the Inquisition commissioner of the village of Tavira, António de Almeida Pereira de Macedo, on 10 August 1783. Shortly thereafter, the Évora tribunal desired to question Marreiros. The accused healer was very uncooperative at first, refusing to appear before the Inquisition to give an account of himself when summoned to Évora from his home near Monchique.15 Because his appearance implied a northward journey of more than three hundred kilometers, his reticence is understandable.16 There followed the establishment of a Holy Office commission to collect depositions from witnesses who could speak about the accused curandeiro’s alleged crimes.



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