The Salazar Documents: Insquisitor Alonso de Salazar Fraias and Others on the Basque Witch Persecution

The Salazar Documents: Insquisitor Alonso de Salazar Fraias and Others on the Basque Witch Persecution

The Salazar Documents: Insquisitor Alonso de Salazar Fraias and Others on the Basque Witch Persecution

The Salazar Documents: Insquisitor Alonso de Salazar Fraias and Others on the Basque Witch Persecution

Synopsis

Early in the 17th century the Western Pyrenees were riven by one of the greatest witch panics in history. The mountain villages were in uproar when villagers children reported how they had been abducted during the night and taken to a witches sabbath. The abducters denounced by the child-witches" were subjected to violence and illegal torture to wrest confessions from them. A series of eye-witness reports written by a Jesuit, a Bishop, and a Spanish Inquisitor show a surprising lack of interest in the demonological theories of their time, and analyse the phenomenon from its psychological, sociological and anthropological angles. Part One discusses the anatomy of this collective nightmare or dream-epidemic, and provides an introduction to a bilingual edition of the reports in Part Two."

Excerpt

The reports of Alonso de Salazar Frías on the great Basque witch persecution of 1609–1614 are unique in the history of witchcraft. No other contemporary source has analysed the persecution of witches so thoroughly, and in no other trial have the proceedings been submitted to such scathing criticism by one of the trial judges. The first time I became aware of this material was when I read Geoffrey Parrinder's bookWitchcraft (1958). It immediately struck me that there was a leak here in the 'conspiracy' of the sources, which exclusively described the witch-hunt from the viewpoint of the persecutors and the believers in witchcraft, for this Spanish inquisitor had for once also allowed the witches to have their say.

During a three-year scholarship in Spain in the 1960s I began to look for Salazar's reports. I visited Julio Caro Baroja, who had published one of the reports after a manuscript in the Biblioteca Nacional (1933). The distinguished anthropologist and historian admitted that he had not seen the other reports, but he assumed that they were still in Simancas, the Spanish national archives near Valladolid, where Henry Charles Lea had found them at the beginning of the century and used them in his monumentalHistory of the Spanish Inquisition (1906–7). I went off to Simancas, but there I was told that all the Spanish Inquisition archives were now in theArchivo histórico Nacional in Madrid. Pleased and expectant, I returned to the national history archives in Madrid, but it now emerged that in connection with the transfer of the material in 1914 the several thousand Inquisition files had been re-catalogued. Lea's reference “Inq. de Logroño, Leg. 1, Procesos de fe, n. 8” was therefore outdated, and no one could tell me under which archive reference Salazar's reports were now hidden. Only after a systematic study of the disposition of the Inquisition archives in Simancas and in Madrid was I able to use the American historian's source references, and one day in December 1967 I opened an archive capsule weighing several kilos and rediscovered Salazar's reports, which had been lost to international scholarship for more than half a century. But besides these, the capsule contained a wealth of material of whose existence no one had any idea: reports and . . .

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